LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns got off to a quick start and No. 1 Kentucky shot a season-best 59 percent to stay unbeaten, topping Alabama 70-55 Saturday night and completing a season sweep.
Two weeks after romping 70-48 in Tuscaloosa, the Wildcats (21-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) made 24 of 41 from the field to surpass their previous best of 58 percent against Boston University in November.
Kentucky also committed just five turnovers while forcing Alabama (13-8, 3-5) into 13 mistakes that resulted in 20 points.
Towns scored all 12 of his points in the first half to put Kentucky ahead. Willie Cauley-Stein snapped out of a mini-slump with 12 points and four rebounds, Devin Booker added 11 points with three 3-pointers and Aaron Harrison had 10.
Shannon Hale’s 13 points led the Crimson Tide, who shot 46 percent but fell behind as Towns made all four shots to get Kentucky started. But that was the highlight for the 6-foot-11 freshman, who fouled out with just one rebound.
Kentucky blocked just one shot for the second consecutive game but had five steals.
Levi Randolph added 12 points and Retin Obasohan 11 for Alabama, which played without No. 2 scorer Ricky Tarrant because of a leg injury.
While Tarrant’s presence probably wouldn’t have helped Alabama avenge a 22-point loss to Kentucky two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, his absence certainly didn’t help. That left it to leading scorer Randolph (14.7 points per game coming in) to carry the Crimson Tide, and he did his part by making 5 of 10 from the field with three rebounds.
But his scoring was a mere footnote as Kentucky quickly rolled to a double-digit lead and positioned itself to blow out Alabama before settling for a 37-24 advantage at the break.
Towns played a big role in getting the Wildcats started with two quick baskets symbolizing his hustle on the offensive end. The 6-11 freshman offset a lack of rebounds and blocks with a steal ending with Tyler Ulis’ 3-pointer for a 20-7 lead, contributions that symbolized Kentucky’s effort on both ends.
The Wildcats forced 10 turnovers leading to 17 points, shot 57 percent from the field and led by as many as 18. Kentucky was outrebounded 14-10 in the first half, but that deficit didn’t matter because it was so effective in other areas.
Booker soon joined the fun with three 3-pointers after halftime to keep Kentucky safely in its first weekend home game since mid-December. The Wildcats shot 61 percent after halftime.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide outrebounded Kentucky 26-21. … Alabama has lost 13 of its last 15 games in Lexington, including six in a row.
Kentucky: The Wildcats’ turnover total was just one off their season low against Columbia in November. … They are just two wins away from the program’s second-best start of 23-0 in 1965-66.
Alabama: Hosts Missouri on Wednesday.
Kentucky: Hosts Georgia on Tuesday.
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