Tar Heels take down Kentucky

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 09:49 PM

Whether it was a 24-point loss to No. 1 Indiana, a 26-point loss to No. 8 Miami or a 16-point home loss to No. 3 Duke, last season’s North Carolina team fell flat against top competition.
Despite being shorthanded, this year’s UNC team has had completely different results against marquee opponents.
The Tar Heels completed their sweep over the top 3 teams in the AP preseason poll with an 82-77 win over Kentucky Saturday in the Smith Center.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige had 21 of his 23 points in the second half and junior forward James Michael McAdoo added 20 points, five rebounds and four assists as No. 18 UNC followed up on its wins over defending champion Louisville and then-No. 1 Michigan State with another big performance.
“Coming into the season, none of y’all probably through we’d beat all three of them – let’s be honest,” McAdoo said. “Last year we got killed in games like this… so this was really personal for a lot of us.”
The Tar Heels (7-2) continued to succeed without guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, who have been sidelined indefinitely because of NCAA eligibility issues. Once again, UNC didn’t get much perimeter scoring against No. 11 Kentucky (8-3) – going only 2 of 7 from behind the arc – but the Tar Heels committed only nine turnovers to the Wildcats’ 17 and pulled away in front of 21,750 at the Smith Center.
“This group does a good job of staying together through adversity better than last year’s group,” Paige said. “If a team makes a run, we don’t fold. We’ve done a great job of staying the course, whereas last year if a couple things went wrong we could be down 20. This team is a little bit more mentally tough.”
The Tar Heels overcame another poor night at the line (26 of 45, 57.8 percent) as well as Kentucky’s 44-32 edge in rebounding. Wildcats sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, who has more blocks than UNC’s entire team, has 12 rebounds and five blocks.
Paige was held to two points in the first half, but did a better job utilizing screens and being more aggressive after halftime. His floater over Cauley-Stein gave UNC a 70-65 lead with 1:41 left, and he made all 10 of his free throws to seal the win.
“Their length, athleticism, physicality – it’s surprising at the beginning of the game,” Paige said. “You talk about it, you watch it on film, but when you get out there and Willie Cauley-Stein is up at the rim, you’re like ‘Sheesh.’ So it’s a little bit of an adjustment period.”
McAdoo came in averaging just nine points in his previous five games, but he was aggressive from the outset against the Wildcats. The junior got to the line 19 times, making 12, and led the team in assists for the first time in his career.
“He’s been a little too unselfish, trying to help the team instead of trying to score,” UNC sophomore forward Brice Johnson said. “But you could tell tonight he was trying to go all out. He was going through people. I was trying to get out of the way a couple times because he was trying to run me over, too.”
“I thought McAdoo absolutely killed us,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
McAdoo and Johnson also helped contain Wildcats freshman Julius Randle, who came in averaging 17.8 points and 12.0 rebounds.
Playing mostly man-to-man – the Tar Heels only went to a zone for 8-9 possessions, according to coach Roy Williams – UNC held Randle to 11 points and five rebounds while forcing four turnovers.
Johnson said one key from the scouting report was that Randle likes to spin off defenders. When Johnson gave him space, Randle wound up traveling. Other times, it was just tough defense.
“You had a team that came at us physically,” Calipari said. “We couldn’t even get open on the wings. They fought us in the post. We couldn’t even throw post passes.”
The physical defense made for a lot of trips to the line. The teams combined for 56 fouls and 88 free throws – the Wildcats’ 43 free throws were the most for a UNC opponent in the Williams era – and eight players had at least four fouls.
“Fouls kind of messed up the flow for both teams,” Paige said. “Guys couldn’t really get into rhythm, and it became an ugly game because of that. But I don’t think that there’s any question that the effort level by both teams was at a very high level.”
Last season, the Tar Heels beat the teams they were supposed to beat but couldn't compete with the top teams. This year’s team lost to unranked Belmont and Alabama-Birmingham but has raised its game in the big moments, shooting 55.1 percent in the second halves of its three marquee wins.
“Like Coach (Williams) said, it was an ugly game,” McAdoo said. “I missed a bunch of box outs, missed a bunch of free throws. At the end of the day, you just have to realize that comes with the territory. In the huddle with three minutes to go, no matter what mistake we made prior to that, we still had a game to finish and we did that.”

 

 

No. 18 NORTH CAROLINA 82, No. 11 KENTUCKY 77

 

FG

FT

Reb

KENTUCKY

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Cauley-Stein

29

2-3

1-2

5-12

1

4

5

Randle

29

3-9

5-6

0-5

0

4

11

Young

29

3-10

8-10

1-5

1

5

16

Aa Harrison

24

8-12

3-3

2-3

0

2

20

An Harrison

37

3-11

10-17

2-6

7

4

17

Johnson

7

1-4

0-0

2-3

0

3

2

Hawkins

18

0-1

0-2

0-1

0

2

0

Poythress

24

2-4

2-3

5-8

0

5

6

Polson

2

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Willis

1

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Totals

200

22-54

29-43

17-44

9

30

77

Percentages: FG .407, FT .674.

3-Point Goals: 4-12, .333 (Young 2-6, Aa. Harrison 1-1, An. Harrison 1-4, Poythress 0-1).

Team Rebounds: 1.

Blocked Shots: 7 (Cauley-Stein 5, Randle, Poythress).

Turnovers: 17 (Randle 4, Cauley-Stein 4, An. Harrison 4, Hawkins, Johnson, Young, Poythress, Aa. Harrison).

Steals: 7 (Cauley-Stein 2, Young 2, Aa. Harrison 2, An. Harrison).

Technical Fouls: Bench.

 

FG

FT

Reb

NORTH CAROLINA

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Tokoto

26

7-10

0-2

0-1

2

4

15

McAdoo

37

4-6

12-19

0-5

4

3

20

James

13

2-4

1-2

2-5

0

2

5

Paige

37

6-13

10-10

0-2

2

3

23

Britt

28

3-6

2-3

0-1

1

5

8

Meeks

19

0-4

1-3

3-4

1

2

1

Johnson

24

4-10

0-2

2-7

0

4

8

Hubert

6

1-2

0-0

1-1

0

0

2

Hicks

2

0-1

0-0

0-1

0

0

0

Simmons

8

0-0

0-4

1-1

0

2

0

Davis

0

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Totals

200

27-56

26-45

12-32

10

26

82

Percentages: FG .482, FT .578.

3-Point Goals: 2-7, .286 (Tokoto 1-1, Paige 1-5, Britt 0-1).

Team Rebounds: 4.

Blocked Shots: 6 (Johnson 2, Meeks 2, Tokoto, McAdoo).

Turnovers: 9 (Paige 2, Tokoto 2, Meeks 2, Britt, McAdoo, Hubert).

Steals: 10 (Paige 3, McAdoo 2, Britt 2, Johnson, Tokoto, Simmons).

Technical Fouls: None.

Kentucky

30

47—77

North Carolina

33

49—82

A_21,750.

Officials_Roger Ayers, Mike Eades, Joe Lindsay.