Rajon Rondo says he is ready for the North Carolina guards on Saturday. "Last year, I was a freshman playing in something like my fifth game in college," Rondo said, "the atmosphere is something I couldn't even describe. It was so loud there. I couldn't hear anything. It was something else to go down there so early in my career and be part of that."
The Tar Heels came out firing last year and buried the Cats early, taking a 47-32 lead into the half. But the Wildcats tried to come back, scoring the first 9 points of the second half to pull the Cats to within just six points at 47-41. Rondo scored 7 points and had 5 assists in 25 minutes of play before fouling out. "It was a good learning experience," Rondo said, "going up against their great veteran guards (Raymond Felton and Rashard McCants). I am looking forward to playing them this year."
This Saturday, the shoe is on a different foot. Rondo and Sparks will be the veteran guards playing at home going up against talented but young freshmen guards from North Carolina.
Marcus Ginyard is a 6-foot-5 freshman guard from Alexandria, Virgina. The freshman has struggled a little in the early season. But on Tuesday night he scored 14 points and added 4 steals as the Tar Heel fell just short of upsetting 12-ranked Illinois. His back court mate, Bobby Frasor, is also a freshman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Blue Island, Il. He had just 7 points against Illinois last night, and just 8 points in a blowout win over Cleveland State. His best night thus far has been against UC Santa Barbara, when he scored 12 points and dished 6 assists in 25 minutes.
Rondo says he is not holding a grudge however, "I just want to go out and win every time I play. It doesn't matter if it's North Carolina or an SEC school. I don't really care if they beat us last year or we beat them. I still want to go out and win.
The irony of the young Carolina guards coming into Rupp to face 24,000 screaming fans did not escape Rajon, however.
"On Saturday they are going to go through a little of what I went through last year," Rondo said, "Turnabout is fair play."
- Despite the North Carolina win over Kentucky last season, UK has won 4 of the last 5 meetings against the Tarheels.
- The last time North Carolina came into Rupp unranked was on December 8, 2001, when the Cats destroyed the Heels 79-59 behind Tayshaun Prince's 31 points.
- Did you know that Kentucky and North Carolina were actually in the same conference at one time? Here is an excerpt from Jon Scott's terrific UK site. Some may not know that both UK and UNC were at one time part of the mega-agglomeration known as the Southern Conference. While the Southern Conference still remains today, it looks nothing like it did at one point in the 1920's. At that time, the league members spanned from Maryland to Louisiana and included nearly all of the major southern schools, many which today make up the ACC and the SEC conferences. Thirty-three schools were members of the SIAA at one point. The league was so large that the teams didn't necessarily play each other in the regular conference schedule. It was especially difficult, in those days before air travel was commonplace, to traverse the mountains between the Atlantic Coast and places like Lexington Kentucky. The coastal teams tended to compete with each other, while teams like Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee honed their own rivalries and the teams of the deep south stayed in that region (and with the exception of some places like Alabama and LSU, largely ignored the sport).
- North Carolina has never beaten Kentucky in Rupp Arena. The last time the Heels beat the Cats in Lexington was on December 7, 1968 when the 2nd ranked Heels beat the 3rd ranked Wildcats 87-77 despite 26 points by Mike Casey.
- The Heels have beaten the Cats in the state of Kentucky more recently, however, jus not in Lexington. In Rick Pitino's first season as head coach, the unranked Cats (who would finish 14-14 for the season) lost a wild game by the score of 121-110 in Louisville.