Previewing Kentucky

North Carolina and Kentucky square off in a regional final for the third time in NCAA Tournament history, and the Tar Heels are hoping to replicate those previous two victories over the Wildcats on Sunday. Tip-off in Newark is set for 5:05 p.m. on CBS.

North Carolina (29-7) vs. Kentucky (28-8)
Newark, N.J. -- Prudential Center
5:05pm -- CBS (Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg)


"They have size on the perimeter. You know 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 guys that can really slide their feet. Long arms who can stay in front of you, they can stop you from penetrating the ball to the basket. They can close-out on you, if I can use a football term there, that you think you have a gap and you are going to be able to get an open shot and they close on you so quickly." – UNC head coach Roy Williams on Kentucky's defense

"They get the ball up the court in a hurry and he'll throw it ahead. He'll snake his way to the rim if you space out. On his drives, he can find people next to the goal. He can find three-point shooters. So he makes the game easy for his teammates. That's what he does." – Kentucky head coach John Calipari on UNC guard Kendall Marshall


Season to Date: Kentucky enters Sunday's Elite Eight contest with a 28-8 (10-6 SEC) record. The Wildcats lost five of their first 10 SEC games before reeling off 11 wins in their last 12 games. Head coach John Calipari's squad picked up nonconference wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville while dropping games against UConn and North Carolina.

NCAA Tournament Results: The fourth-seeded Wildcats narrowly escaped No. 13 seed Princeton, 59-57, in the second round before defeating No. 5 seed West Virginia, 71-63, in the round of 32. Kentucky upset No. 1 seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16, 62-60, on a Brandon Knight 15-footer from the right wing with five seconds remaining.

Rookie Talent: Calipari knew he was going to have to rely on his freshman class after Patrick Patterson, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins bolted for the NBA last summer. Fortunately for the Wildcats, their rookie threesome lived up to their preseason billing and has played a critical role in moving Kentucky into the Elite Eight. Forward Terrence Jones (15.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and guard Brandon Knight (17.2 ppg, 3.8 apg) were tabbed Freshman All-Americas by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and guard Doron Lamb (12.4 ppg) earned distinction as the YahooSports! National Sixth Man of the Year.

All three of the freshmen have eclipsed the 30-point barrier at least once this season, but Knight has proven to be the team's closer. The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native is averaging 20.2 points per game in 10 games against teams ranked in the top-25 and he already hit game-winners against Princeton and Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament.

Out of the Blue: After seven double-digit scoring performances in the first 30 games of the season, senior center Josh Harrellson has exploded over his past six outings, averaging 13.0 points with five double-digit games. The St. Charles, Mo. native notched his third double-double in the postseason against Ohio State on Friday night, contributing 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Miller Time: Continuing the spreading the wealth mantra, junior wing Darius Miller elevated his game during the SEC Tournament and led Kentucky to the conference championship. The 6-foot-7, 228-pounder earned SEC Tournament MVP honors after averaging 13.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Miller connected on 57.1 percent of his field goal attempts, including a 45.5 percent mark (5-11) from long range.

Stat Breakdown: In SEC play, Kentucky ranked first in scoring margin (plus-7.8) second in scoring offense (73.4), second in field goal percentage defense (39.8), second in 3-point field goal percentage (38.5), fourth in field goal percentage (44.7) and fifth in rebounding margin (plus-1.2).

Taking Care of the Ball: The Wildcats have excelled all season long in protecting the basketball. Their 10.6 turnovers per game top the SEC and rank 12 nationally. Kentucky has had single-digit turnovers 12 times this season.

Last Meeting: UNC defeated Kentucky, 75-73, on Dec. 4, 2010, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Tyler Zeller led the Tar Heels with 27, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots and then hit all 10 of his free attempts in the second half. UNC leaned on a 34-14 advantage in points in the paint and a 43-37 rebounding edge.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 22-11. UNC has won six of the last seven meetings. The Tar Heels are 2-0 against the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament with a pair of wins in the Elite Eight ('77, ‘95).

Projected Starters:
12 Brandon Knight (6-3, 185, Fr.) - 17.2 ppg, 4.2 apg
20 Doron Lamb (6-4, 195, Fr.) - 12.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg
1 Darius Miller (6-7, 228, Jr.) - 11.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg
3 Terrence Jones (6-8, 244, Fr.) - 15.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg
55 Josh Harrellson (6-10, 275, Sr.) - 7.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Top Reserves:
34 DeAndre Liggins (6-6, 210, Jr.) - 8.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg
30 Eloy Vargas (6-11, 250, Jr.) - 1.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg

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