If one aspect of the game isn’t clicking for the Wildcats, another probably is.
The No. 21 Tar Heels became the first team to shoot better than 40 percent from the field against UK this season. They held a 31-24 rebounding advantage over one of the tallest teams in America with a spirited effort on the glass. And, ultimately, they lost 84-70 in an entertaining, up-tempo matchup at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky (11-0) overcame a subpar performance in areas it typically dominates by shooting 56 percent from the field and breaking out of a team-wide 3-point shooting slump with a 7-for-15 day against the Tar Heels. The Wildcats also forced an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers to offset North Carolina’s 45-percent effort from the field.
UK entered the game holding opponents to just 28.7 percent on the season.
Playing its first game without junior forward Alex Poythress, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in Thursday’s practice, Kentucky got 15 points from both junior center Willie Cauley-Stein and freshman guard Devin Booker, as well as 14 from sophomore guard Aaron Harrison. Booker and Harrison combined to hit six of their 10 shots from the 3-point arc.
Cauley-Stein also had six rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots in 28 minutes of action, drawing high praise from North Carolina coach Roy Williams: “He affected the game drastically and only took nine shots.”
"He was Willie good," UK coach Calipari joked.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:
WHAT WE LIKED: Kentucky's season mark of 28-percent shooting from long range has led to much hand-wringing around Big Blue Nation, but as Calipari has frequently stated, there's no reason to panic. The Cats have good shooters who generally take good shots. They're eventually going to start falling with consistency, as they did against the Tar Heels. Booker and Harrison have way too sweet of strokes to spend the whole season throwing up bricks.
KEY MOMENT: It's often said the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half are two of the most important segments of the game. UK was really good in both, pushing a single-digit lead to 49-34 at the break and extending it to 19 before the first media timeout of the second stanza.
STAT OF THE DAY: The Cats had 19 assists on their 27 field goals. Freshman point guard Tyler Ulis set a new career high with eight assists.
QUOTABLE: "You have to have special kids, I’d say is the first thing. They have to be concerned about the name on the front of the jersey. They have to be willing to give in... But the next thing that’s most impressive about John’s club to me is how unselfish they appear to be. That’s a pretty doggone good trait. When you add the size and athleticism, and add their willingness to work really hard defensively, now you’re painting a very complete picture. I think it’s the character of the kids.” – UNC coach Roy Williams on UK's John Calipari managing so much talent on his roster.
UP NEXT: Kentucky returns to action next Saturday in the CBS Sport Classic against UCLA at the United Center in Chicago. The Bruins (8-2) play No. 9 Gonzaga at 10 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN2.
UK Freshman Guard Devin Booker...