- Saturday, December 4 2004 -
Kentucky - 78 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP and 8th by ESPN/USA Today]
North Carolina - 91 (Head Coach: Roy Williams) - [Ranked 9th by AP]
Halftime Score: North Carolina 47, Kentucky 32
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Tennessee Tech 92 - 63|||||Morehead 71 - 40|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Darrell Bird; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats stumble out of gate, fall to Tar Heels
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Roy Williams' first North Carolina team was embarrassed by Kentucky 61-56 last year at Rupp Arena in Lexington. But one year later, the Tar Heels had come full circle by whipping the Wildcats 91-78 before a raucous capacity crowd Saturday at the Dean Smith Center.
"I was really ticked off last year," Williams said. "That was the least competitive, least focused, least energized team going into a big environment of any team I've ever coached."
This year, however, North Carolina was focused from the outset as demonstrated by a 24-6 outburst to start the game. The Tar Heels roared ahead 8-0 and never looked back.
"We talked about being tested. Well, we failed this test," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, whose team dropped to 4-1 with its first loss.
"We allowed them to control the tempo from the start," Smith recounted. "One of the biggest things we concentrated on this week was transition defense, and yet they got lay up after lay up. And rebounding, I've never had a team get outrebounded by 21."
Sean May was the main culprit with 19 rebounds as Carolina dominated the glass 51-30. As for scoring, Rashad McCants, who was dreadful in last year's loss in Lexington, scored 20 of his 28 in the first half to set the tone.
Kentucky, however, could never get untracked. The Cats were 0-for-4 with two turnovers by the time Carolina jumped ahead 8-0. The numbers didn't improve at 2-for-10 with four turnovers when the Heels were ahead 24-6. Even worse, senior leader Chuck Hayes had just exited with two fouls, playing only six minutes in the first half.
"I had hoped we would play with more poise," Smith said. "But North Carolina was on top of its game today."
Despite being out of sync throughout an otherwise glorious Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, Kentucky did manage to fight back to within contention. Not once, but three times.
After trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half, Kelenna Azubuike opened the second half with five of his team-best 24 points to help pull UK to within six points at 47-41. Carolina promptly pushed back out by 10.
Trailing by 11 at 57-46, UK again cut it to six at 57-51 on baskets by Hayes and Azubuike. Carolina pushed back out to 14.
Finally, trailing by 13 at 79-66, UK made one last gasp to trim the margin to seven points at 79-72 on back-to-back three-pointers by Ravi Moss and Bobby Perry. Only 3:44 remained. But Carolina answered with a 6-0 run to go up by a dozen.
"We never gave up," Smith said. "But when we cut the lead a couple of times, we had a couple of ill-advised shots that didn't come out of our offense. The leadership that we needed at that point and time to set it up just wasn't there.
"You think you're making a run, and you can feel the momentum start to shift. That's the time that you have to have leadership," Smith said. "But we called plays that we didn't run. We ran something else. That's a sign of a team that's not quite poised."
Kentucky returns to action Wednesday to face Kyle Macy's Morehead State team at Rupp Arena before heading to Louisville for a neutral court battle with rival Indiana on Saturday. North Carolina defeated Indiana 70-63 three days before manhandling UK.
"I'm not happy about losing," Smith said. "But we learned a lot. This team will help prepare us for future games."
Joe Crawford fights UNC's David Noel for the ball
North Carolina's Sean May controlled the paint
Rashad McCants flies in for a dunk ahead of Randolph Morris.