- Saturday, December 2 2006 -
Kentucky - 63 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
North Carolina - 75 (Head Coach: Roy Williams) - [Ranked 7th by AP and 6th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: North Carolina 31, Kentucky 24
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Coll. of Charleston 77 - 61|||||Tenn-Chattanooga 79 - 63|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Tar Heel blue shines brightest
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The bluest of college basketball bluebloods renewed acquaintances again on a glorious early December afternoon amongst the Carolina pines, but for Kentucky it was just another dark day against top-flight competition.
The Cats hung around longer than some expected against No. 7 North Carolina, but ultimately made too many mistakes and not enough shots in a 75-63 loss to the Tar Heels. The defeat dropped the Cats to 4-3 on the year and marked the third consecutive loss to a Carolina program that shares the same historically elite status as UK.
Not that history mattered much on this day. Even when UK executed much of its game plan to perfection there were still critical areas where it failed miserably, leading to a third loss in as many outings this year versus top 15 squads.
"I wouldn't say (we're) angry, I would say (we're) extremely disappointed that we fell short like we did," UK junior center Randolph Morris said. "And it seems to be a trend that we can't pull it out."
The script seemed to play out exactly as Kentucky wanted -- and needed -- it to. The Cats shot better than North Carolina, received a monster game from Morris, shut down Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough and hauled in more rebounds than the Heels. Yet, UK never led in the game and got no closer than three points in the second half, which came in the first two minutes into the half.
North Carolina, which was averaging 92 points per game, was held 17 below it average and 14 percent under what it had been shooting (37.3 percent) on the year but still had more than enough to pull away from a UK team that was in the holiday giving spirit.
"That was the game plan, to control the tempo," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "In order to do that you just have to keep possession of the ball. We defended well inside. Take away some of their dunks and us make a few more shots and it might be a different story.
"We got it to three in the second half and then kept taking ourselves out of it with turnovers and careless fouls. We have to be more disciplined."
Whatever shot UK had to avoid another disappointing loss to an elite team was washed away in a sea of 22 turnovers, seven of which came from guard Joe Crawford. The total was the fourth straight game the Cats gave the ball away more than it had the previous outing.
"We have to play smart," Morris said. "As soon as we play a little smarter it'll take care of itself. We have to stop the turnovers on offense. That's been typical of what we do."
Morris was about the only Cat who played up to snuff, putting on a Christian Laettner-like performance in an arena the former Duke standout was more than a little familiar with. Morris scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and added seven rebounds. His only miss came with 26 seconds remaining and the outcome long-since decided.
"He was a beast," UK senior forward Sheray Thomas said. "He was making everything. As soon as I got him the ball I knew it was going in. He always seems motivated but he was really ready to play. I could tell the first few possessions he was ready."
It showed on the defensive end as well, with Morris stifling Hansbrough throughout the game. The sophomore who spurned UK in favor of Carolina came into the game averaging 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game but was held to just seven points (on 2-of-10 shooting) and three rebounds in 30 minutes.
"Tyler was having to beat three and four guys," Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
The attention UK paid to Hansbrough paid off for other Tar Heels, especially senior forward Reshawn Terry, who had his second straight impressive performance against the Cats. Terry, who had a career-high 25 points in Rupp Arena last year, added 16 more and nine rebounds this go around and hit four three-pointers, one more than his season total to date.
"Tyler Hansbrough never plays well against Kentucky but Reshawn Terry always does," Morris said. "That's the weird thing."
Even with all the turnovers and missed opportunities UK still had a chance to put the heat on Carolina late in the game. The Tar Heels converted two loose ball putbacks and a three-pointer by Wayne Ellington at the shot clock buzzer on three consecutive possessions inside the final three minutes that thwarted any chance of the Cats pulling a miracle comeback.
"It seemed like things went their way all day," Thomas said.
For UK, it seems as if that's the case every time it takes the floor against a worthy foe these days.
Reyshawn Terry tries to get a shot off against Jared Carter (#43)
Brandan Wright shoots over Randolph Morris (#33)
Ramel Bradley fouls UNC's Wayne Ellington