Entering the 2014 season, the linebackers had big shoes to fill after standout Avery Williamson finished his senior season and left for the NFL’s drafted enroute to the Tennessee Titans.
With incumbent Jojo Kemp coming off a freshman season in which he rushed for 482 yards on 100 carries, and the additions of Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard, true freshmen Stanley “Boom” Williams and Mikel Horton, the expectations of the backfield far exceeded that of any other position on the offense.
Behind Towles, UK started the season off in torrid fashion outscoring its opponents in its first six games 235-106. Towles was masterful in his first start against UT-Martin, going 20-29 for 377 yards and one touchdown. He fell back down to earth against Ohio but bounced back against Florida where he put up 369 yards and three touchdowns despite a heartbreaking loss in overtime.
He was thrust into the national spotlight against South Carolina when UK downed the Gamecocks behind his efficient 20-29 for 208 yards game.
Unfortunately for Towles, his fall from grace began after the Louisiana-Monroe game when the Cats bore the brunt of a tough SEC slate. UK never recovered from the 41-3 thumping from LSU, losing five straight games and played themselves out of contention for a bowl game.
The 5-foot-7 junior from Chicago led her Cats team from the brink of defeat against a significantly taller and stronger Louisville squad that dominated for 35 minutes in the 77-68 UK victory.
“Janee Thompson,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said, “I thought her quickness was something we have not seen. Janee is the one that really hurt us off the dribble the entire night.”
The Battle of the Bluegrass is the rivalry UK is most familiar with, and it’s one that has gone the same in the recent contests: Louisville goes up by double digits, only to watch UK comeback and win.
That formula of playing one half of superior basketball has also become familiar for the Cats this year, as they used it to overcome a 16-point deficit and win 77-68 for their fourth straight victory over the Cardinals.
Sunday, as a mostly-silent blue-clad crowd watched the Cats dispatch of Eastern Kentucky, UK went into the second half without a made 3-pointer for the third consecutive game.
Devin Booker knew that the streak was on the line, said freshman forward Trey Lyles. “He let us know, and so we started to shoot a little more (toward the end of the game).”
Riding a dominant game by Karl-Anthony Towns, the Cats cruised to an 84-49 victory over their in-state foe.
“I did come out with a different mentality today,” said Towns, who made his first three of the season against EKU. “I don’t always use all the tools in my tool box. Today I tried to use a new one.”