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UNC takes down Kentucky in Chapel Hill / December 16, 2013
No. 18 UNC will be poised to create forward movement in this week’s national polls after a hard-earned win over then no. 11 Kentucky Saturday.

The Tar Heels, now 7-2, added Kentucky to an impressive list of conquests this season with an 82-77 decision at the Smith Center. UNC has also beaten then no. 1 Michigan State and then no. 3 Louisville.

Carolina, which notched its third win in a row, got a sensational effort from point guard Marcus Paige, who led all scorers with 23 points. Paige also dished two assists, had three steals, pulled down two boards and confounded the Wildcats in 37 minutes. And on an evening when UNC really struggled at the foul line, finishing 23-for-45, Paige went a perfect 10-for-10 at the charity stripe.

Carolina is 3-0 against teams ranked in the top 11 of the AP poll.

And the Heels made this win work with a demanding, aggressive physical style, with UNC showing no backing down in a tough national matchup.

James Michael McAdoo also feasted on the Wildcats. McAdoo finished with 20 points, dished four assists, had a block, two steals and five rebounds in a stout supporting role. J.P. Tokoto, who continued his high profile improvement for Carolina, had 15 points, two assists, a block and a steal for UNC.

The Heels added more mid-season tension for the Kentucky team, which dropped to 8-3. Once seen as a near-lock for the Final Four, these inconsistent, sometimes unfocused Wildcats clearly have John Calipari exasperated after another winnable game slipped through the ‘Cats grasp.

Kentucky also dropped high-profile tests against Michigan State and Baylor, and Kentucky still as a pre-SEC test against no. 6 Lousiville on Dec. 28.

Kentucky clearly has the raw athletic talent to play with anyone, but the overall delivery of the product remains an issue. For instance, highly touted UK freshman forward Julius Randle, averaging 17.8 pps, 12 rebounds per contest and 30.7 minutes per game, had an extremely forgettable outing here. Randle went three-for-nine from the field, finishing with a sub-par 11 points and five boards in 29 minutes, while hampered with foul trouble.

The ‘Cats shot poorly, finishing at 40.7 percent, while ball security was a major issue. The ‘Cats had a terrible nine to 17 assist to turnover ratio, including ten in the first half.

Four UK players finished in double figures, led by 20 from Aaron Harrison. But Paige, consistently making valuable plays, had 21 in the second half alone.

Tokoto clearly has emerged as a prime time performer for the Heels. He is now 23-for-38 from the floor in the last four games (.605).

UNC simply did the job repelling any possible Wildcat comebacks. UNC cranked up its offensive efficiency and shot 56.7 percent from the floor in the second half. The UNC notebook also shows that Carolina shot 56.7 percent from the floor in the second half against Louisville and

51.7percent in the second half at Michigan State.

UNC finished at 48.2 percent from the field and had ten assists to nine turnovers. UNC now has the best field goal shooting performance of any UK opponent this season. The Heels’ point haul Saturday is the most allowed by the Wildcats this season.

Calipari grumbled, “”Here’s what you had. You had a team (UNC) that came at us physically. We couldn’t even get open on the wings. They fought us in the post. We couldn’t throw post passes. We ended up going down to a pick-and-roll trying to create and the only thing we were creating was a shot for the point guard and still had a chance. The rebounding, we missed two dunks, and then the rebounding at the end of the game where we just couldn’t come up with a ball that mattered. What we are right now is a not a good basketball team.

“We’re not a good team because everything, our emotion, is all based on our individual play instead of our team play. Like, ‘We just got a great stop, let’s all five-chest each other, and let’s go nuts.’ We’re not close to that right now. Our stuff is all based on ‘Did I miss a free throw? Did I get beat on the dribble? Did I miss a shot? Did I turn it over?’ We’ve got to get through this, but we had chances to let go of the rope, and we didn’t. We are what we are right now. We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

Kentucky clobbered UNC on the boards, 44-32, and the Wildcats had 17 offensive boards. UK had a 19-12 edge in points off offensive rebounds, but the Heels negated those numbers with a 20-10 advantage in points off turnovers and 14-4 in fast break points.

The bottom line: UNC appears solid enough, even without the still-suspended Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, to play with almost anyone in the country.

McAdoo has enjoyed a basketball revival.

“Just not forcing things, I think that’s the biggest thing. Looking back to the UAB game, I feel like I forced a lot of shots. Even when we got to the Louisville game, just taking shots that aren’t high-percentage shots. Everything I made to today was a shot that I’m capable of doing, something that I practice and they went down,” said McAdoo.

UNC also recorded win no. 2,097. The Heels, who meet Texas in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, need just three wins to become the third school with at least 2100 victories.

“Well there were a lot of young guys out there that fought pretty doggone hard on both teams. I didn’t think the most artistic game ever, but I thought both teams played really, really hard. I think Marcus Paige was just sensational for us in the second half, James Michael [McAdoo] was big, J.P. [Tokoto] was really big. He got in foul trouble because he was doing things so well. Steve [Kirschner] gave me a good stat when it was tied at 46 - our next five baskets were scored by five different guys. I love that balance. I always think that’s the most difficult thing to do but for us we feel extremely good to say the least. We shoot 57-percent in the second half and being able to overcome some more of the free throw woes,” said UNC coach Roy Williams.

The Heels are getting the job done, even with lineup adjustments.

“I think they’ve accepted it but I’m not sure they’ve figured it out yet. But I think they’ve accepted. I think J.P. [Tokoto] knows he’s going to spend some time at the two. James Michael [McAdoo] knows he’s going to spend some time at the three. We’re such a young group and sometimes an immature group. You don’t want to get them too fat and happy type of thing. Those games coming up are still pretty big, but I do think they understand what we want them to do. It’s not a natural position for either one of them, so I don’t think you can do that in nine games, but they do understand it more,” said Williams.

Paige, discussing the physicality of the game (56 personal fouls were called; UNC’s Nate Britt and Kentucky’s James Young fouled out), said, “We had to (get after them) because that’s part of the way they score and part of the way they’re successful is by beating up on other teams and using their size on the glass. So we had to match that, otherwise it was going to be ugly for us. We have some big guys too, so we were able to rough them up on the inside and just match their physicality, especially on the boards. Even though we lost the rebound battle, the fact that we competed, chased down loose balls, really helped us in the game.”

ACC/NATIONAL HOOPS GLANCE: Arizona remained no. 1 with a 72-70 win over Michigan Saturday. No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 Michigan State also won Saturday. Duke, ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll for an ACC-record 119 consecutive weeks, returns to action tonight with Gardner Webb coming to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke’s Jabari Parker leads all freshmen nationally in scoring, with 22.1 ppg. No. 2 Syracuse met St. John’s yesterday.

Virginia Tech and Maryland lead early league play at 1-0. Pitt and Syracuse were both unbeaten heading into yesterday, while Wake Forest appears to be better than expected, coming into the early stage of this season at 8-2. Virginia Tech is 7-3, with Virginia also 7-3.

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