Freshman center/forward Karl-Anthony Towns became the first Wildcat to win the award this season after helping lead No. 1 UK to wins over Georgia and Florida to close out an undefeated regular season.
The New Jersey native had been named SEC Freshman of the Week three times, along with eight other weekly awards for UK’s freshmen, but never the league’s top honor.
Towns matched his career high with 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in UK’s come-from-behind win at Georgia. He scored 17 of his points against the Bulldogs in the second half. In the win over Florida, the 7-footer filled the stat sheet with 13 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots, three assists and a steal.
Kentucky (31-0, 18-0 SEC) opens postseason play on Friday at 1 p.m. ET in the SEC Tournament. The Cats’ first opponent in Nashville has yet to be determined as they’ll play the winner of the Alabama-Florida matchup.
CAULEY-STEIN A FINALIST FOR ABDUL-JABBAR AWARD:
In addition to Towns' honor, UK junior Willie Cauley-Stein was on Monday named one of five finalists for the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award honoring the nation's top center.
Cauley-Stein joins Bobby Portis of Arkansas, Jahlil Okafor from Duke, Rakeem Christmas of Syracuse and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky in the final five for the award, named after the UCLA legendary big man.
The Olathe, Kan., native helped lead the Wildcats to a 31-0 regular season, averaging 8.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 59 percent from the field. He also spearheads UK's top-ranked national defense with a team-high 44 steals and 49 blocked shots.
Earlier this season, Cauley-Stein became the first player in school history to collect 200 or more career blocks and 100 or more career steals. He’s also one of just eight players in program history with more than 500 rebounds, 100 blocks and 75 steals.