Cats go for record 25th win in rematch with South Carolina


Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns takes a jump shot during the second half of the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball game versus University of Florida basketball game at O’Connell Center in Gainesville , Fl., on Saturday, February 7, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Krueger

By Kevin Erpenbeck

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After two straight road games that tested the Cats’ reserve, No. 1 UK (24-0) returns home to face South Carolina on Saturday.

The Cats survived upset bids from Florida and LSU in their last two games to remain perfect on the year.

On Sunday, UK trailed Florida 30-28 at halftime. It was the fifth time all season the Cats were behind at the break. But UK battled back, shooting for 50 percent in the second half and going 21-for-22 from the line to win 68-61 over the Gators.

On Tuesday, UK traveled to LSU to face a 17-6 Tigers team that is projected to make the NCAA Tournament in March. The Cats fell behind 10-2 in the first three minutes of the game, but rallied to lead 38-34 at the half. UK led by as many as 13 points in the second half, but watched LSU go on a 21-2 run to lead 66-60 with 7:38 to go in the game.

Refusing to see their undefeated streak come to an end, the Cats gritted it out with the Tigers, and freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns hit a hook-shot jumper in the final minute of the game to give his team the lead permanently. UK eked by LSU for the 71-69 win after the Tigers’ potential game-winning three-pointer clanked off the rim.

Saturday’s home match against South Carolina will be the second time this season the Cats face the Gamecocks. UK won the first match 58-43 on Jan. 24 to match the program’s best start to a season under head coach John Calipari. A win on Saturday would match UK’s best start, set during the 1953-54 season.

Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison leads the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 points per game. Harrison was a key factor in the Cats’ win over Florida, scoring 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.

Towns has been on a tear lately, scoring double-digit points in his last four games and recording two double-doubles in that span. The 6-foot-11 forward leads the team in rebounds, averaging 6.5 a game. Towns also leads all Cats in blocks with 57 on the year.

Tip-off for Saturday’s game is at 2 p.m.