After beginning the season as college basketball's No. 1 team, the young Wildcats are now winless in each of their three matchups against ranked opponents. Already saddled with losses to Michigan State and Baylor, the latest setback came Saturday at No. 18 North Carolina.
Sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto added 15 points as each North Carolina starter topped his season scoring average on a night when the Heels shot 48 percent (27 of 56) against UK.
No. 11 Kentucky (8-3) fell into early foul trouble and hurt itself with 17 turnovers that led to 22 points for the Heels. The Cats also struggled at the foul line yet again, converting only 29 of their 43 attemtps.
"What we are right now, we're not a good basketball team," UK coach John Calipari said. "And we're not a very good team because all our emotion is based on individual play instead of our team play.
"We've got to get through this... We've got a long way to go."
Unlike UK, North Carolina has risen to the occasion in marquee matchups. Roy Williams' squad has now defeated the teams ranked 1-3 – Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville – in the preseason polls.
"You've got to give them credit," Calipari said. "They're shorthanded, but you had this environment, and Roy had them ready to play… They just kept fighting."
The game featured eight ties and six lead changes. North Carolina broke open a 46-46 tie with a 10-4 run that featured five baskets from five different players: Paige, Nate Britt, Tokoto, Desmond Hubert and McAdoo.
Kentucky drew within three on three different occasions during the final 9:56, but could not get over the proverbial hump.
"You had a team that came at us physically, and we couldn't even get open on the wings," Calipari said. "They fought us in the post. We couldn't even throw post passes. We ended up going down to a pick-and-roll, trying to create, but the only thing we could create was a shot for the point guard."
Freshman wing James Young followed with 16 points, but the Cats got a poor performance from freshman forward Julius Randle, who finished with 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting, five rebounds and four turnovers. He failed to record a rebound in the second half, although UK still won the battle of the boards 44-32.
Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein led UK with 12 rebounds to go along with his five points and five blocked shots.
* Kentucky was playing its first road game of the season. The Cats had previously played seven games at Rupp Arena and three at neutral sites.
* UNC outscored UK 38-34 in the paint. The Cats are 0-3 in games they lose points in the paint this season.
* Andrew Harrison dished out a career-high seven assists and shot a career-high 17 free throws, making 10.
* John Calipari received his first technical foul of the season, picking one up with 1.9 seconds left in the first half. The official, Roger Ayers, has called a technical foul on Calipari in three of the last five UK games he has worked. UK has a 7-6 record in games that he works, including three losses at North Carolina.