Previewing Kentucky

The Tar Heel road trip continues Saturday, as UNC travels to Lexington to face a Kentucky team its beaten three years in a row. Tip-off at Rupp Arena is set for 2 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.

North Carolina (6-0) vs. Kentucky (4-1)
Lexington, Ky. - Rupp Arena
2 p.m., ESPN2


"I've been looking forward to playing UNC since the schedule came out last summer. ... People say you rise to the occasion, you rise to the competition. That team is stacked and loaded. I look forward to see how we'll all come together and compete. And I think we can compete." -- UK freshman Patrick Patterson

"I think Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Patrick Patterson -- those three guys have been doing a great deal of scoring. That gives them a guy that shoots it well, a guy that's a mid-range guy who takes it to the basket and Patrick -- a kid we tried to recruit a little bit -- he's a physical man. He is a presence." -- UNC head coach Roy Williams


Season to Date: Kentucky enters Saturday's game with a 4-1 record, and without having played any high-major opponents. The Wildcats suffered an embarrassing, much-publicized 84-68 loss to Gardner-Webb on Nov. 7th. Their four wins have come against Texas Southern (83-35), Liberty (80-54), Central Arkansas (67-40) and Stony Brook (62-52). Against Stony Brook -- an 0-6 squad -- UK committed 23 turnovers.

Offensive Weapons: The Wildcats have relied on the inside-outside combo of senior wing Joe Crawford and freshman post player Patrick Patterson in the early going – that duo has combined to average 33.6 points per game (nearly half of the team's offensive output). Crawford's been struggling from beyond the arc but has been effective as a mid-range shooter and slasher, while Patterson is shooting 67 percent from the field and also averaging 8.8 rebounds per game.

Hot Hand: Senior guard Ramel Bradley has connected on 11 of his 23 three-points this season – good for 47.8 percent. The rest of the team? 27.3 percent.

Injury Report: The Wildcats will be without two important backcourt contributors on Saturday. Wing Jodie Meeks (7.0 ppg) is sidelined with what has been termed "a stress fracture in his pelvic region," while big point guard Derrick Jasper (2.7 apg in '06-07) hasn't played yet this season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee during the summer.

Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated Kentucky at the Smith Center, 75-63, last season. The Tar Heels shot just 37.3 percent from the floor, marking the first time since March 11, 2005 that UNC had won a game while shooting under 40 percent. Carolina is 3-9 under Roy Williams when shooting less than 40 percent from the field. The Tar Heels forced 22 turnovers while being outrebounded, 42-36. Wayne Ellington led the Tar Heels with 17 points, while Reyshawn Terry and Brandan Wright each added 16 points.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 19-10, including wins in each of the last three seasons. Saturday's game marks the eighth season in a row in which the two schools have met. Carolina is 5-5 vs. Kentucky in Lexington, including an 83-79 win in Rupp Arena in the teams' last meeting there on Dec. 3, 2005. That win was UNC's first victory at Kentucky since Dec. 7, 1968, and its first-ever win over the Wildcats in Rupp Arena. It also marked just the fourth time since the start of ACC play in 1953-54 that an unranked North Carolina team beat a Top-10 team on its home court.

Numbers Game: Kentucky leads all NCAA Division I schools with 1,952 all-time wins. North Carolina ranks second with 1,920.

New Sheriff In Town: Billy Gillispie was announced as Kentucky's new head coach on Apr. 6, 2007, following Tubby Smith's departure to Minnesota. The 48-year-old had posted a 100-58 record in his five seasons prior to taking the Kentucky job, and won the Big 12 Coach of the Year Award each of his three seasons at Texas A&M. Gillispie's first team at UTEP posted a 6-24 record in '02-03 and rebounded with a 24-8 mark the following, while his first Aggie squad finished 8-8 in conference play after going 0-16 in the year prior to his arrival. This meeting marks Gillispie's first time coaching against North Carolina.

Rupp Arena: North Carolina owns a 3-2 record against the Wildcats in their current home, but the arena has not been kind to the Tar Heels in postseason play. UNC has played in two NCAA Tournaments in Rupp Arena – both ending in losses. In 1989, Carolina lost to eventual national champion Michigan, 92-87, in the Southeast Regional semifinal. In 1992, the Tar Heels were ousted by Ohio State, 80-73, in another Southeast Regional semifinal.

Projected Starters:
 3 Ramel Bradley (6-2, 191, Sr.) – 13.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
 1 Alex Legion (6-4, 196, Fr.) – 6.6 ppg
32 Joe Crawford (6-5, 207, Sr.) - 17.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
21 Perry Stevenson (6-9, 201, So.) - 5.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg
54 Patrick Patterson (6-8, 232, Fr.) – 15.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Key Reserves:
15 A.J. Stewart (6-8, 207, Fr.) – 5.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
34 Ramon Harris (6-6, 213, So.) – 4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
42 Mark Coury (6-8, 238, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg
13 Michael Porter (6-2, 190, So.) – 1.4 ppg, 2.0 apg

UK Info
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Crawford ... Patterson

Bradley ... Legion

Stevenson ... Coury

(Photos courtesy Getty Images)

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