- Saturday, December 3 2005 -
North Carolina - 83 (Head Coach: Roy Williams) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 79 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 10th by AP and 10th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: North Carolina 44, Kentucky 32
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Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Familiar Flaws Exposed in Cats Loss
Missed free throws. Poor rebounding. No post presence. Shoddy halfcourt offense. All of Kentucky's weaknesses were exposed in front of a packed Rupp Arena and national television audience as North Carolina knocked off the Cats 83-79.
The babies in baby blue shot the basketball better than they had all year and never succumbed to the crowd, showing the poise and patience UK's more mature team did not. Like it did in a loss to Iowa, UK fell victim to familiar old bugaboos when it could least afford to.
The Cats were dominated on the backboard, allowing North Carolina 15 offensive rebounds, and made a series of careless turnovers every time they closed Carolina's lead in the second half.
"If you give a team like North Carolina second shots, nothing good can come of it," senior guard Ravi Moss said. "We've got to rebound the ball and we didn't do it. We have got to show more toughness. We've got to reach down and stop people (on defense). We got it to five a couple of times and then just made mental mistakes.
"We didn't protect our house. They came in here and smacked us. There is no reason for that. We are the University of Kentucky, we need to smack them back."
The book on North Carolina this season was the Tar Heels had loads of talent, but it was too young to handle a stage - and a crowd - like Rupp Arena's this early in the year. Carolina was also dubbed the team that couldn't shoot straight, having made just 18 three-pointers in its first four games at a 31 percent clip.
Neither of those scouting reports played true to form. The Heels buried seven three-pointers in the first half on their way to a 44-32 halftime lead and then answered every UK run after the break with clutch play and clutch play.
"Roy Williams had his team ready to play," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "They outplayed us. They outworked us. They shot the ball extremely well.
"We just had some careless mistakes when we made a run in the second half. We had our opportunities if we had not given the ball away. You can't make those kind of mistakes. You take yourself out of a run and give them momentum."
The Cats' issues were far from new ones. The 15 offensive rebounds Carolina hauled in - seven by David Noel - led to only 11 points, but it was the psychological affect those stops that turned into another possession had that killed UK. Late in the first half, Carolina grabbed four offensive boards in the final two minutes and converted those into a Noel tip-in and Tyler Hansbrough rebound dunk. The Heels repeated the putback drill on several crucial possessions in the second half as well.
"It's tough," Moss said. "There is nothing more demoralizing than letting a team get an offensive rebound and set their offense back up. That's something we did 15 times. You can't win like that."
The game didn't start all that poorly for UK, which jumped to a 16-10 lead just more than seven minutes in. But Carolina answered with a terrific shooting display, ripping off a 15-3 spurt to give it a lead that would never be relinquished.
Not that UK didn't try.
The Cats stormed out of the locker room with the first seven points of the second half before Carolina called a timeout to stop the bleeding. Rupp was rocking, which was supposed to be when Carolina's three freshman starters crumbled under the pressure. When Rekalin Sims swished a three-pointer from the top of the key to pull the Cats within 46-44, it seemed like UK was well on its way.
Not so fast. Carolina responded with two wide open looks on offensive, the second a three-pointer by freshman point guard Bobby Frasor to spark an 18-8 run during which Carolina made eight of its 10 field goal attempts. During the same span, UK turned the ball over twice, including an awful pass by Sheray Thomas that was picked off by Frasor and turned into a lay-up on the other end.
"We just seem to be playing too fast and in a hurry," Smith said. "Against a good team you have got to have more poise. We had careless turnovers. It reminded me of the Iowa game where we just threw it into their hands or to no one at all.
"I'm not happy. We regressed in some areas. We took a real step backwards."
UK's last chance was frittered away when Moss was called for hooking his man on the drive with the score 71-66. After a Carolina basket to end a scoring drought of 4:10, Rajon Rondo then threw the ball into the fat Cat seats on the sideline and Carolina sealed the deal with a Noel triple off two offensive rebounds.
"I thought we had their attention before," Smith said. "You hope you don't have to go through a loss at home on national television to get their attention. We've been searching. We've got to get some people to take charge."
In short, UK was embarrassed yet again.
"This is unacceptable," Moss said. "Unacceptable."
Ramel Bradley tries to sneak by UNC's Tyler Hansbrough
Rajon Rondo goes to the other side of the rim to score in front of UNC's Bobby Frasor.
UNC's David Noel with a monster dunk.