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Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress don't want to hear 'soft' talk

"We’re really trying to show that we’re tough enough to be great," said Lee after the win over EKU.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Kentucky Wildcats made it a point to get more physical after getting outmuscled by UCLA last week.

Mission accomplished...well, at least when it came to Alex Poythress' play in an 88-67 win over EKU. The senior forward exploded for arguably his best collegiate game with 21 points and 13 boards.

"Coming off a loss, we tried to make a statement in this game and I tried to start early on in the game," Poythress said after the win. "We can bounce back from a loss."

Poythress was a force on both ends of the floor and was as aggressive offensively as he's ever been. A big reason why was he had the mentality that no one was stopping him on this night.

"When you step on the court, you have to have the mentality saying, ‘None of these guys can guard me. I’m better than anybody out here,'" Poythress said.

Alex also looked as confident as he has since tearing his ACL last season.

"I’m just trying to play hard every time I’m out there and give 100 percent as well as bring energy out there and play the best I can. I’ve been through everything. I’ve been through a rough year, an ACL injury and a lot of things don’t phase me. I’m just trying to get through adversity and keep on pushing."

Junior forward Marcus Lee loved what he saw from his teammate as he knows as much as anyone how hard Alex has worked to get back to his old self.

"We’re forgetting he’s still coming off an injury," Lee said. "He still a little hesitant. He knows he can do great things and once he gets over the barrier of his mindset of him being great all the time, he’ll be fine. It’s all on Alex when that comes, but it’s going to be really quick."

While it's clear Alex is now close to being all the way back, he had some extra fuel to his fire on this night after many questioned the Cats' toughness following their loss to UCLA.

"It’s challenging our manhood," Poythress said. "So we gotta correct the persona of us and just show people that we are tough guys, that we’re not soft or anything like that. If you want to call us soft, then come and play us."

Lee loves and shares that mentality while knowing that's what it takes to play and succeed at Kentucky.

"I love that attitude," Lee said. "Being at Kentucky, everybody’s coming for your throat. They’ll do whatever it takes to display that they should’ve been here. So they don’t mind pushing you to the floor, and you have to be stronger. We’re really trying to show that we’re tough enough to be great."