LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - John Calipari's rebuilding project at
Kentucky is ahead of schedule.
Freshman star John Wall shook off a leg injury to finish with 16
points, including the clinching free throws with 4 seconds
remaining, and the fifth-ranked Wildcats held off No. 10 North
Carolina 68-66 on Saturday.
Patrick Patterson added 19 points and seven rebounds for
Kentucky (8-0), which snapped a five-game losing streak to the Tar
Heels (7-2) and inched closer to becoming the first program to
reach 2,000 victories. The Wildcats have 1,996, while North
Carolina has 1,991.
Kentucky is off to its best start since the 1992-93 season, when
it started 11-0.
Deon Thompson led North Carolina with 14 points and Will Graves
added 13, but the Tar Heels' second-half rally stalled in the final
Wall and fellow freshman Eric Bledsoe made sure of it, making 5
of 6 free throws in the last 30 seconds after North Carolina had
trimmed a 19-point deficit to two.
Bledsoe shook off a couple off costly late-game turnovers to
knock down a pair of foul shots, and after Graves missed a
3-pointer and the rebound bounced out off bounds, Bledsoe made one
of two to put Kentucky ahead 66-61.
After a tip-in by Thompson pulled Carolina to 66-63, Wall
finished his breakout performance by calmly sinking two free throws
with 4.3 seconds left.
Graves hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer, and by then
the Wildcats bench had poured out onto the floor to celebrate the
biggest victory in years.
Calipari said before the game he was anxious to see how the
Wildcats responded after getting "punched in the mouth."
The answer proved to be easy: Get the ball into the hands of
Wall, who dazzled the NBA scouts in attendance with the kind of
playmaking ability that will likely make him a lottery pick next
spring if he chooses to leave. Wall finished with seven assists,
five rebounds and a handful of spectacular plays.
It almost wasn't enough to hold off the defending national
champions. North Carolina trailed by 15 at the break but slowly got
back in it by slowing the tempo.
It helped that Wall was off the floor. He slowly walked to the
locker room early in the second half with a leg injury, sending an
uneasy buzz through the record crowd of 24,468 who packed Rupp
Wall missed seven long minutes, but Kentucky managed to retain
the lead thanks to some shaky shooting by the Tar Heels. North
Carolina was 39 percent from the floor and missed several bunnies
in the lane during Wall's absence.
He returned with Kentucky up 54-42, but the Wildcats looked
dazed at times as the game slowed to a crawl. Still, after North
Carolina pulled within one possession, Wall delivered.
The win provided redemption of sorts for the Raleigh, N.C.,
native, who dreamed about playing for the Tar Heels. Though North
Carolina pursued him throughout high school, his relationship with
coach Roy Williams cooled during his senior year.
Wall said Williams called him before last spring's NCAA
tournament, saying the two would talk when the tournament was over.
Williams never called back, and Wall opted for Kentucky.
He did his best to show Williams what the Tar Heels are missing.
North Carolina built an early 9-2 lead which the Wildcats
quickly erased behind their freshman star. Wall started with a
dunk, then followed it up moments later with a ridiculous reverse
layup. The two plays seemed to settle his teammates, sparking a
By the time Patterson capped it with a pair of free throws, the
Wildcats led 30-11.
The run looked awfully familiar to the Tar Heels, who were
buried by Syracuse last month in the finals of the 2K Sports
Classic after the Orange opened the second half with a 22-1 burst.
North Carolina bounced back with three straight wins, including
an 89-82 victory over No. 9 Michigan State on Tuesday, giving
Williams hope that his young team had matured.
The Tar Heels hardly looked it during the first half, turning it
over 11 times, allowing Wall to go to work in transition.
North Carolina simply had no answer for the speedy point guard,
and Kentucky roared into the half with a 43-28 lead and appeared
well on its way to posting the first signature victory of
Calipari's tenure before holding on in the end.
No. 5 KENTUCKY 68, No. 10 NORTH CAROLINA 66
NORTH CAROLINA (7-2)
Graves 4-10 1-2 13, Thompson 6-13 2-3 14, Davis 3-6 3-5 9,
Ginyard 2-7 0-0 5, Drew II 3-9 0-0 6, Strickland 2-5 0-0 5,
McDonald 0-0 0-0 0, Watts 0-0 0-0 0, Henson 0-3 1-2 1, D.Wear 1-1
0-0 3, T.Wear 0-3 0-0 0, Zeller 5-10 0-1 10. Totals 26-67 7-13 66.
Cousins 2-7 1-5 5, Patterson 8-12 2-2 19, Miller 3-7 0-0 8, Wall
5-10 5-7 16, Bledsoe 2-7 5-6 9, Dodson 3-7 1-2 9, Harris 1-2 0-0 2,
Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0, Orton 0-2 0-0 0, Harrellson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals
24-54 14-22 68.
Halftime-Kentucky 43-28. 3-Point Goals-North Carolina 7-20
(Graves 4-7, Strickland 1-1, D.Wear 1-1, Ginyard 1-4, Henson 0-1,
T.Wear 0-1, Zeller 0-1, Drew II 0-4), Kentucky 6-16 (Miller 2-5,
Dodson 2-6, Patterson 1-1, Wall 1-2, Bledsoe 0-2). Fouled
Out-Ginyard. Rebounds-North Carolina 37 (Davis 10), Kentucky 39
(Patterson 7). Assists-North Carolina 11 (Drew II 6), Kentucky 13
(Wall 7). Total Fouls-North Carolina 18, Kentucky 17. A-24,468. d
Team Records and Series Notes
With the win Kentucky improves to 8-0, and with the loss, North Carolina falls to 7-2.
Off to an 8-0 start, UK has jumped out to the best start to a season since the 1992-93 campaign when UK opened 11-0.
UK owns an 11-21 all-time record against North Carolina with a 6-6 mark against the Tar Heels in Lexington.
The Wildcats have a 122-61 record against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
UK has a 43-31 all-time record against teams from the state of North Carolina.
UK will return to action, facing Connecticut in the DirectTV Big East/SEC Invitational, at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. The game will be televised by ESPN, with a tipoff on Dec. 9 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Kentucky used the starting lineup of John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Darius Miller, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins for the seventh consecutive game. UK owns a 7-0 record with this lineup.
UK and Cousins won the tip for the seventh time in eight games.
UNC’s Will Graves opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the corner, putting UNC up 3-0 early.
Cousins’ put-back under the basket put the Wildcats on the board with 19:04 left in the half.
At the 15:28 mark of the first period, North Carolina held a 9-6 lead, with UK getting four points from Wall in transition.
Ramon Harris and Daniel Orton were the first UK players to check in off the bench, coming in with 16:46 left in the half. That is the team-best fifth time Orton has been the first sub and the third time Harris has checked in off the bench first.
Patterson’s jumper in the paint gave UK its first lead, a 10-9 advantage with just under 14 minutes left in the half.
Miller’s three-pointer with 12:36 remaining in the half extended UK’s streak to 719 consecutive games with a three-pointer made. UK’s 719 consecutive games with a three-pointer ranks third in the NCAA.
At the 12:36 mark of the first half, UK was in the midst of a 16-0 run to take an 18-9 lead.
Cousins’ two points gave UK its first double-digit lead of the game, a 22-11 advantage with 10:52 remaining in the half.
With just under nine minutes in the first half, UK was in the midst of a 28-2 run, owning a 30-11 lead with 8:25 remaining in the first period.
After UNC hit a three to cut the lead to 30-14, Darnell Dodson drilled his second trifecta of the half to put UK up 33-14 with 8:05 left.
Wall connected on 1-of-2 free throws with 3:06 left in the half, with UK holding a 40-23 lead.
At the end of the half, UK held a 43-28 lead, with the Wildcats shooting 57-percent (16-for-28) from the field and 67-percent (6-for-9) from behind the arc.
North Carolina won the battle of the boards, totaling 17 rebounds to UK’s 16. UK had nine assists and nine turnovers in the first half.
UK’s 43 points in the first half are the fourth-most points for the Wildcats in the first half this year. Kentucky’s 53 points against Sam Houston State is the most in the first stanza this season.
Wall led the Wildcats with 13 points, three rebounds, five assists and two steals in 19 minutes. Patterson totaled 11 points, five rebounds, a block and a steal in 17 minutes.
UK started the lineup of Wall, Miller, Bledsoe, Patterson and Orton in the second half. This is the second time this season that UK opened with this lineup in the second period.
Wall found Harris for a dunk with 19:15 left in the game, getting UK’s first points of the half and putting the Wildcats up 45-28.
With a three-point play, North Carolina cut the UK lead to single digits, with UK holding a 45-36 lead with just under 17 minutes left in the game.
Eric Bledsoe’s two points in transition advanced UK’s lead back to 49-38 with 15:17 left in the contest.
Patterson netted four consecutive points to give the home team a 53-40 edge with 13:25 remaining.
Crossing the 10 minute mark in the game, UK held an eight-point lead, 54-46.
UNC freshman forward Travis Wear sank a three-pointer from the corner with 9:25 left in the game to cut the UK lead to 54-49.
At the under-eight timeout (7:29 left in the game), UK held a 56-49 advantage, with Wall totaling 13 points and Patterson registering 19 points.
Graves hit a free throw for UNC, cutting the UK lead to 59-54 with 5:26 remaining.
At the under four-minute timeout, UK was holding a 59-56 lead with 3:34 left in the game.
Two free throws from Bledsoe extended UK’s lead to 61-56 and then he connected on an up-and-under layup to make it 63-56 with 1:52 remaining.
UNC immediately countered with a three-pointer from Graves, cutting it to 63-59 with 1:45 left.
Deon Thompson sliced the UK lead to 63-61 with a basket with 32.4 seconds remaining.
Bledsoe was fouled with 30.5 seconds remaining and connected on both free throws to extend the lead to 65-61.
Bledsoe was fouled with 16.5 seconds left and made the first of two free throws, making it 66-61. His miss on the second free throw snapped 11 consecutive made free throws by Bledsoe.
Kentucky is the NCAA’s all-time wins leader with 1,996 wins. UK needs just four more victories to become the first team to eclipse 2,000 wins in college basketball history. North Carolina sits in second place all-time with 1,991 total wins.
A crowd of 24,468 fans filled Rupp Arena for the game, setting a new Kentucky record. The attendance surpassed the previous record of 24,465 fans on Feb. 10, 2007, a 64-61 loss against Florida.
The Wildcats have out-rebounded their opponent in all eight games this season, besting UNC by just a two-point margin at 39-37.
UK finished the game shooting 44-percent from the field and 38-percent from behind the arc. UK has shot over 44-percent in each game this season.
Kentucky held North Carolina to 39-percent shooting from the field and 35-percent from three-point land. UK has held each of its opponents to under 50-percent shooting from the field.
UK won the points in the paint, 30-28, also getting 18 points in fast break situations, with UNC totaling eight fast-break points.
After forcing North Carolina into 16 turnovers, the Wildcats have now forced each opponent into at least 11 turnovers in each game this year.
Patterson totaled a game-high 19 points in 37 minutes, adding a club-best seven rebounds.
Patterson has now scored in double figures in seven of eight games this season.
He added one blocked shot, giving him one block in each game this year.
After connecting on his lone three-point attempt, Patterson has made a three-point shot in six of eight games.
In three career meetings with the Tar Heels, Patterson has totaled 19 points in each game. Patterson is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds in his career against North Carolina.
Wall charted 16 points, adding five rebounds, seven assists and three steals in 32 minutes of action.
Wall has scored in double figures in each game of his UK career.
After setting the UK freshman record with 14 assists in the win over UNC Asheville Monday, his seven assists now give him at least five assists in each game this year.
Wall’s five rebounds are one shy of his career high, when he snagged six in a win over Rider.
With three steals, Wall has swiped three or more steals in four games.
Miller blocked a season-high two shots, adding eight points, four rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.
Has made a three-pointer in seven straight games after a 2-for-5 outing from behind the arc in today’s contest.
Cousins had five points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.
Cousins has now totaled four or more rebounds in each game this season and has at least one block in each game.
Bledsoe finished with nine points and two assists in 17 minutes.
Bledsoe made 5-of-6 free throw attempts until missing the back-end of a two-shot foul. Previously he had made 10 consecutive from the charity stripe.
Dodson came off the bench to score nine points and grab a career-high five rebounds.
In five games this year, Dodson has scored nine or more points in four games.