Archie Goodwin doesn't back down from contact. Alex Poythress is getting used to it.
And against Morehead State on Wednesday night, the much-hyped Kentucky freshmen clearly welcomed it.
Goodwin scored a career-high 28 points, and Poythress added 20, helping No. 8 Kentucky rally to beat stubborn Morehead State 81-70.
Their biggest contributions came at the foul line as Goodwin and Poythress combined to convert 20 of 25 free throws to help the Wildcats (3-1) fight back several times against the Eagles (3-2) before steadily pulling away in the second half.
"We expect everybody we play to be physical," said Poythress, who was 8 of 8 from the foul line and 6 of 12 from the field. "We just didn't want to lose and we wanted to pick everybody up."
Setting the example was Goodwin, the 6-foot-4 swingman. His quick, physical game helped him average 15.0 points coming in but he really found Morehead State's aggressive approach to his liking.
Not only did Goodwin draw contact and fouls, but he made the Eagles regret it by converting 12 of 17 free throws attempts.
"I'm not afraid of contact," said Goodwin, who also made 8 of 13 field goal attempts. "You have to want contact."
Though these two seemed more willing to mix it up inside than their teammates, the Wildcats got the message.
Julius Mays shot 6 of 7 from the line to finish with 11 points. Freshmen forward Nerlens Noel and Kyle Wiltjer each had nine. Noel also had 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Kentucky shot 51 percent and outrebounded Morehead State 37-35 but was beaten 16-8 on the offensive boards.
The Wildcats had other issues, such as having to rally past the relentless Eagles.
Morehead State answered Kentucky's 6-0 lead with a 16-0 run in the first half, then began the second with an 11-4 spurt to surge back ahead 42-36. That's when Goodwin and Poythress took over, going to the line to put Kentucky ahead for good.
The Eagles committed 32 fouls, while the Wildcats — 31 of 41 from the line — had 12.
Poythress ended up playing 38 minutes, Goodwin 36.
"I played Alex and Archie a lot of minutes, but I wanted to win," Wildcats coach John Calipari said.
Milton Chavis scored 23 points for Morehead State. Maurice Lewis-Briggs added 13 points, and Drew Kelly had 10.
"We gave them all we had, but we just couldn't hold on," said Morehead State coach Sean Woods, who played for Kentucky from 1990-92. "You've got to tip your hat to Kentucky for sustaining, taking our blows and finding a way to win."
The start offered a hint that it might be a defensive struggle.
Noel made it a block party in the first 5 minutes, violently swatting away three Eagles shots to the delight of 21,897 at Rupp Arena. His second block was one for the highlight reel, where he jumped several inches above the rim to redirect Jason Holmes' jumper.
Six-foot-3 guard Angelo Warner had no chance minutes later trying to drive inside on Noel, who easily smacked his attempt away.
Unfazed, Morehead State went on the 16-0 run. Consecutive 3-pointers from Lewis-Briggs and Jarrett Stokes capped the run, and Khalil Owens contributed a couple of baskets inside and Warner added a dunk.
Morehead State's lead grew to 11 at 25-14 as Chavis converted a lob pass before hitting a 3-pointer, while Kelly banked a shot. Pressure defense played a role in the Eagles' run as they denied the Wildcats passing lanes and disrupted their movement.
Calipari had warned his team that the Ohio Valley Conference school would do this and it took most of the first half for his players to adjust.
Morehead State paid a price for their aggression, 13-3 foul discrepancy resulting in a 14-2 free throw edge for Kentucky. That helped the Wildcats rally over the final 5 minutes of the first half for a 32-21 lead at intermission.
An 11-4 run over the first 2:48 of the second half put Morehead State back ahead, forcing Kentucky to rally again. And free throws made the difference as the Wildcats converted five straight before Mays added a 3-pointer and a drive to provide breathing room at 60-50.
Kentucky played again without sophomore guard Ryan Harrow, who left the team earlier in the day with his mother to tend to a family matter in Georgia. He had missed the previous two games with an undisclosed illness and is not expected to return before the weekend.