Cats closing in on perfection with Florida win


Center Karl-Anthony Towns of the Kentucky Wildcats tries to pump-up the crowd during the game against the Florida Gators at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky leads Florida 30-27 at the half. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Joshua Huff

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Not done.

Despite defeating Florida 67-50 on Saturday to cement itself in the history books, UK realizes that a perfect season is just the continuation of a journey that started back during the summer in the Bahamas.

The minute the horn sounded in Rupp Arena, the fans erupted as history unfolded in front of their eyes. It did not signify the end of a regular season, but the beginning.

“Not done” read the blue shirts the players donned on midcourt after the game.

It was not a surprise that Florida came into Rupp with one thought on its mind: altering history. During the first half, the Gators nearly turned that thought into reality. Down just three points at the half, Florida was hanging around from a barrage of threes.

“The reason the game was close,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “At least for a good portion of the game, was that we didn’t get crushed by the three-point line and we didn’t get killed on the backboard.” Our three-point shooting kept us close.”

Tied at 23, it was coincidentally the three-point shooting of freshman guard Devin Booker that saved UK. Though he had just six points, it was

Booker’s two threes that ended Florida’s hopes of an upset. Booker’s three put UK up 26-23 and marked the end of Florida’s leads in the game.

And when Florida pulled itself back to within three points in the second half, 44-41, it was Booker’s three that propelled UK to a 7-0 run and erased all doubts of a Gator win.

But it was the play of freshmen forwards Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns that gave UK its 31st -straight win.

“I keep on trying to explain to Karl,” UK coach John Calipari said. “‘You are so good you don’t have to do anything crazy, so why do you keep on trying to do crazy stuff. You’re too good a player.’”

The craziest thing Towns did on Saturday was reject shot after Florida shot. He finished with six blocks. Though he did finish with 13 points and nine rebounds, the scoring was left to Lyles, who found his sweet spot in the corner and dominated in the paint.

“Lyles is as good as anybody in the country,” Calipari said.

With his continued dominance, UK’s front court has become a platoon within a platoon. As junior forward Willie-Cauley Stein struggled with his turn-around game and sophomore center Dakari Johnson provided the hardnosed defense, it was up to Lyles and Towns to muscle around a smaller Florida team.

But if not for the solid leadership of sophomor guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison, the young guidance of freshman guard Tyler Ulis, the soft stroke of Booker and the energy of sophomore forward Marcus Lee, this UK team would not be heading into the SEC Tournament with an unprecedented 31-0 record.

But to the Cats, let them come, because they’re not done.