Towns, Aaron Harrison Help Kentucky Top Florida in SECT Quarters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Aaron Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns each scored 13 points and No. 1 Kentucky shut down Florida in the second half to pull away for a 64-49 victory in Friday's Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinal.
The meeting between the schools followed the same hard-fought pattern as the two previous matchups this season, with the Gators initially taking charge before Kentucky seized control in the second half with its size and depth.
The height advantage helped Kentucky (32-0) outrebound Florida 39-33, including a 16-11 edge offensively that created extra chances and earned frequent trips to the free-throw line. Towns also had 12 boards.
Kentucky hit 19 of 23 from the line, while Florida (16-17) was 3 of 5.
Willie Cauley-Stein added nine points for the Wildcats, who advance to Saturday's semifinal.
Jon Horford scored 15 points and Eli Carter 11 for the Gators, who made just two of their final 12 shots.
Florida shot 39 percent but got just four points from Dorian Finney-Smith one game after he scored 23 with 11 rebounds against Alabama.
Kentucky had a lot to do with that in starting the postseason sharply in its quest for a ninth national championship, a goal that players and coach John Calipari said trumps the issue of going unbeaten. The Wildcats insisted that losing in the conference tournament wasn't the worst thing if they still won the NCAA title, but they gave no ground to the Gators.
It wasn't the Wildcats' best offensive effort as they shot 38 percent, but that was offset with 15 points off 12 Gator turnovers and establishing a strong second-half tempo resulting in a second double-digit win over Florida in the past week.
That blue-clad Kentucky fans packed Bridgestone Arena as expected and cheered the Wildcats in their tournament opener.
Never mind that Kentucky faced a .500 Florida squad hoping to extend its season. Considering how competitive the previous two games were, it wasn't shocking that this game was initially tight and remained tense even after the Wildcats went up by double digits.