Previewing Kentucky

The two winningest programs in college basketball history square off Saturday as the Tar Heels take on No. 5 Kentucky. Tip-off at Rupp Arena is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised by CBS.

North Carolina (7-1) vs. Kentucky (7-0)
Lexington, Ky. - Rupp Arena (23,000)
12:30, CBS (Ian Eagle, Clark Kellogg)


"I am looking forward to it a lot. I think it is going to be a great game. It is going to be our first time really being challenged this year, but a great team that is coached by a great coach in Roy Williams. They have a great freshman class that came in and a lot of people that came back from last year." – UK guard and Raleigh, N.C. native John Wall

"We are going to defend how we defend. A lot of it is going to be matchups, and guys are being challenged. They have to play someone, and if they can't play them, I'll have to try someone else. They play fast and our transition defense better be good, because if it's not, they will shoot layups. They get it in quick, and they go on misses and makes. We are zeroed in on a couple of those things. The biggest thing is, will we go in and fight for rebounds?" – UK head coach John Calipari

"This is a start, but people are going to have their opinions regardless, win or lose. I think we are overrated. We do have some work to do still. A lot of the hype is just because of our recruiting class, but we have a lot of work to do." – UK forward DeMarcus Cousins of the importance of a win over UNC


Season to Date: No. 5 Kentucky enters Saturday's contest with a 7-0 record. The Wildcats spent the first month of the season throttling lesser opponents such as Campbellsville (74-38) and Clarion (117-52) before needing overtime to defeat its first major program in Stanford (73-65) to claim the Cancun Challenge on Nov. 25.

A Stout Freshman Class: While Kentucky fans may be getting a little ahead of themselves in anointing head coach John Calipari's first recruiting class as the best of all time, there's no doubt the bumper crop of rookies have made a significant impact in Lexington. Raleigh, N.C. native John Wall is leading the way with 18.5 points and 7.8 assists per game. Eric Bledsoe is Wall's sidekick in the backcourt, averaging 10.7 points and knocking down 52.2 percent (12-of-23) of his 3-point attempts. Forward DeMarcus Cousins (16.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg) serves as the third freshman in the Wildcats' starting lineup, but forward Daniel Orton (5.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is also contributing in the post in 14.7 minutes off the bench.

Wall-to-Wall Heroics: The hype surrounding John Wall's first – and likely only – season at Kentucky was inevitable, but the 6-foot-4 point guard fanned the flames with not just one clutch performance, but two. In his debut against Miami (Oh.) on Nov. 16, Wall took an inbounds pass and charged up the court with only seconds remaining in a tied ball game. He pulled up from 15 feet and buried a jumper for the win with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. Nine days later, Wall hit a jump shot with 30 seconds left to knot the score with Stanford and then knocked down two free throws with three seconds left to force overtime.

Stepping Up Against the Heels: Patrick Patterson elected to return for his junior season after earning first-team All-SEC honors during the ‘08-09 slate. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward is one of the few veterans playing this season in Lexington, and he's delivered thus far, averaging 16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per contest. Patterson has shined during his first two bouts with the Tar Heels, totaling 19 points and nine rebounds during his freshman year before posting 19 points and 11 rebounds last season.

Odd Fact of the Day: Calipari's 7-0 start is the best start by a Wildcats' head coach in his inaugural season since Adolph Rupp's 10-0 start to the 1931 campaign.

Last Meeting: North Carolina forced 28 turnovers and coasted to a 77-58 victory over Kentucky on Nov. 18, 2008 in Chapel Hill. Deon Thompson scored 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead UNC. Tyler Zeller was fouled on a breakaway dunk attempt with 1:26 left that resulted in his fractured left wrist that sidelined him for the majority of the season.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with Kentucky, 21-10. This is the 10th-straight season that these two programs have met, with UNC winning the last five meetings.

Projected Starters:
11 John Wall (6-4, 195, Fr.) - 18.5 ppg, 7.8 apg
24 Eric Bledsoe (6-1, 190, Fr.) – 10.7 ppg, 3.3 apg
1 Darius Miller (6-7, 223, So.) – 8.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg
54 Patrick Patterson (6-9, 235, Jr.) – 16.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg
15 DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 260, Fr.) – 16.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg

Top Reserves:
3 Darnell Dodson (6-7, 215, So.) – 9.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg
33 Daniel Orton (6-10, 255, Fr.) – 5.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
5 Ramon Harris (6-7, 218, Sr.) – 1.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg

UK Info
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Bledsoe ... Patterson

Cousins ... Wall

Miller ... Calipari

(Photos by Getty Images)

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