Prince reigns as Cats crush Carolina

Tayshaun Prince highlighted UK's 1,800th win in school history with a 31-point effort against North Carolina...

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Kentucky coach Tubby Smith called it "unbelievable."

North Carolina's Matt Doherty used both "phenomenal" and "ridiculous."

UNC coach Matt Doherty looked on in disbelief as Tayshaun Prince hit the third of five straight 3-pointers, this one with Jason Capel's hand in his face, to start Saturday's game. (AP Photo)

Gerald Fitch described it as "amazing."

J.P. Blevins' simple assessment: "awesome."

Adjectives and superlatives were on parade here Saturday after Kentucky's Tayshaun Prince put on an incredible shooting display in leading the Widlcats to a 79-59 rout of North Caroliina.

Prince lived up to his All-American status --- and more --- by hitting five consecutive 3-pointers in a two-minute span to score Kentucky's first 15 points and send a Rupp Arena crowd of 23,153 into an absolute frenzy.

The senior forward hit his first seven shots, including six from beyond the arc, and finished with 31 points to equal his career high. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, dished out four assists and recorded four steals in perhaps his finest performance in a Kentucky uniform.

"It was a remarkable feeling," said Prince, who also had 31 points in last year's NCAA tournament game against Iowa. "To hit four or five shots to get the team going in a game like this, against North Carolina, that's something as a little kid you dream about."

"I've never seen anything like that in all my days of basketball," Smith said. "He was just possessed. His radar and where he was shooting them from were just unbelievable."

Prince's first two 3s seemed rather ordinary -- routine shots from just beyond the top of the key. Number three got a bit deeper in the right corner as he was challenged by UNC's Jason Capel. The fourth was a step-back move off the dribble over Will Johnson in front of the Tar Heels' bench.

And then came No. 5, a 27-footer from the edge of the "UK" logo at center court that dismayed Capel and brought a deafening roar from the stands.

"My ears started ringing after the fourth one," Fitch said. "After the fifth, they were hurting."

Erik Daniels mixes it up inside. (AP Photo).

"I've always known that he was a good shooter," said Capel, "but he was shooting from the 'K' at half court today. Once he gets it going, all you can do is get your hand up. He was shooting right in my face and I have to congratulate him. He shot the ball great today."

"I know if I'm over on the North Carolina bench, I'm thinking 'What's going on?'" Smith said.

"I don't know if I've ever seen anyone shoot the ball like that," Doherty said.

Kentucky's Keith Bogans, who ironically had one of the worst shooting days in his UK career (1-for-9, 2 points), said Prince reminded him of the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan blistering Portland in the 1992 NBA Finals.

"I was waiting for him to do that thing with his shoulders and start shaking his head," Bogans said in reference to Jordan's famous gesture. "Tayshaun was in the zone just like that."

The Cats' Marquis Estill had a more ho-hum appraisal, albeit equally complimentary.

UNC's Kris Lang shoots over Marvin Stone. Lang had a team-high 18 points for the Heels. (AP Photo)

"It didn't surprise me at all," the junior center said. "He does that in practice all the time. Once he's feeling it, he'll pull up from anywhere."

The memorable effort highlighted win No. 1,800 in the storied tradition of Kentucky basketball and also helped the 11th-ranked Wildcats improve to 5-1 on season.

North Carolina, second to UK in all-time wins with 1,782, dropped to 1-4.

Prince's fourth trey gave Kentucky the lead for good at 12-10. The lead grew to 33-20 at the 9:17 mark after a putback by Jules Camara, a short hook by Prince and a jumper by Rashaad Carruth.

The Heels stayed close, though, thanks to the play of Kris Lang. The senior center scored 14 points in the first 13 minutes on an assortment of baseline jumpers and nearly indefensible sky-hooks.

Kentucky closed the first half with consective baskets by Marvin Stone and a 3-pointer by Carruth to take a 47-35 lead into the locker room.

Already in a tough spot, UNC's task got more difficult as Lang became ill during halftime. He did not start the second half, and the Cats took advantage with a 12-4 run to put the game away. Stone had four of his 11 points to key the spurt.

"Marvin's starting to come on," Smith said. "He did a fantastic job."

The Cats led by as much as 23 on a Blevins 3-pointer with 7:13 remaining.

Tayshaun Prince challenges a shot by UNC's Jason Capel (25). The Cats held the Heels to 36 percent shooting on the day. (AP Photo)

Kentucky shot 43 percent from the field and made nine of 23 treys thanks to Prince's 7-for-11 effort. The Cats also held a 45-33 rebounding advantage and scored 25 points off 19 UNC turnovers.

Lang scored 18 points to lead the Heels, who shot only 36 percent from the field.

"We stepped up our defensive intensity and didn't let up in the second half," Smith said. "...We cut back on a lot of our defensive mistakes. Today, I thought we played our best defensive game of the year."

"They played great defense and gave great effort," Doherty said of the Cats. "We couldn't execute what we wanted to do against their defense, and that was frustrating... I thought their maturity and experience were the biggest factors in the game."

Kentucky has a week off before returning to the court Dec. 15 against Kentucky State. The Cats then jump back into the toughest portion of their schedule with neutral-court matchups against Duke and Indiana leading up to a highly-anticipated clash with Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals on Dec. 29 at Rupp Arena.

"We're starting to improve," Smith said. "That's the main thing."

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