UK completes unbeaten regular season

Published 9:37 pm Saturday, March 7, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Trey Lyles scored 14 points, Karl-Anthony Towns added 13 with nine rebounds and No. 1 Kentucky pulled away from Florida 67-50 on Saturday to complete the storied program’s first unbeaten regular season.

A blue-clad sellout crowd cheered loudly as the final seconds wound down on the eight-time NCAA champions’ milestone achievement. Players soon donned blue T-shirts with “31-0” in white and the phrase “not done yet.”

Towns, who missed last month’s matchup in Gainesville with strep throat, was essential in getting the Wildcats going toward history with 10 first-half points. He also grabbed six rebounds that were critical in helping Kentucky (31-0, 18-0 Southeastern Conference) slowly pull away.

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Kasey Hill scored 15 points and Dorian Finney-Smith had 12 for Florida (15-16, 8-10), which couldn’t keep up with the Wildcats’ depth in the final 10 minutes. The Gators were outscored 46-13 in bench points alone and shot just 43 percent.

Aaron Harrison added nine points while Willie Cauley-Stein and Andrew Harrison each had eight for Kentucky, which shot 47 percent and outrebounded the Gators 31-26. Cauley-Stein had seven rebounds, while Towns had six of the Wildcats’ eight blocks.

For 30 minutes this game resembled last month’s battle in Gainesville, when the Gators gave the Wildcats one of their biggest challenges this before Kentucky eventually took control in the second half.

Kentucky was in charge for the most part this time but finally found continuity after Devin Booker’s 3-pointer with 10:16 left made it 47-41.

Kentucky’s 20-9 run after that sealed its accomplishment.

The Wildcats entered with momentum from Tuesday’s late escape at Georgia, perhaps the second-toughest gut check they have faced this season. That was a good thing, because the Wildcats needed that resolve against a Florida squad trying to avoid being a footnote in Kentucky’s historic quest.

Florida trailed just 30-27 at halftime but led several times thanks to aggressive play on both ends. The Gators scored 10 points off seven Wildcats turnovers, outscored the Wildcats 11-2 on the break and forced the action inside, leading to an 18-16 advantage in the paint.

Michael Frazier II’s return from a seven-game absence because of an ankle injury meanwhile contributed to Florida’s perimeter game that was effective in offsetting Kentucky’s other strengths. His 3-pointer early in the first half provided a 19-17 lead as well as an option the Wildcats had to account for.

Kentucky eventually clamped down inside defensively and asserted itself on the other end for several key baskets and a lot of free throws. The Wildcats made 12 of 16 from the line to pull away and take their place in program history.



Kentucky seniors Tod Lanter, Brian Long and Sam Malone entered the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 49 games combined, yet still were honored as Wildcats heroes in a pregame ceremony. Long and Malone were part of the 2012 title team and last year’s runner-up squad that included Lanter, a Lexington native who transferred from junior college.

Coach John Calipari even started them to the surprise of many, though not for long as Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison and Lyles replaced the trio of walk-ons 90 seconds in. They re-entered in the final minute.


Florida: The Gators finished 5 of 11 from 3-point range but shot just seven free throws, making three.

Kentucky: The Wildcats’ bench dominated Florida 22-5 in the first half. … Lyles’ 10 first-half points were a career best for the first 20 minutes.


Florida: SEC Tournament, Nashville.

Kentucky: Plays Friday in SEC Tournament.