North Carolina dominates inside, beats UK 75-73 (with video)



CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina had a chance to make a statement win in playing No. 11 UK. To do that, someone had to have a statement game.

For the Tar Heels, that was the 7-foot junior center Tyler Zeller.

“Every big game, you have to have somebody that steps up,” Zeller said. “It’s not going to be me every time, but tonight was my night.”

It sure was. Zeller scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, both career highs, and his five blocks tied a career high, as North Carolina (5-3) defeated UK (5-2) 75-73.

“Tyler had a great game,” UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua said. “We allowed him to get the ball too close to the rim, and he got a bunch of easy shots.”

Zeller was joined by 6-foot-10 John Henson, who added 13 points and 12 rebounds. North Carolina pounded the ball inside, forcing UK’s post players to defend them.

They couldn’t.

The Tar Heels scored 34 points in the paint.

And yet the game’s outcome was never solidified until the very end. The largest lead of the second half was six – and that was in favor of UK. UK made 9-of-21 threes to stay in the game.

UK was led by freshman Doron Lamb, who scored 24 points in keeping the Cats close.

“We were happy we put ourselves in a position to win with things not going our way,” freshman Brandon Knight said. “But we feel like we should have won. We had a lead late.”

With under a minute to go, UK grabbed its last lead of the game when Josh Harrellson brought down an offensive rebound and scored on the putback to give the Cats a one-point lead.

He promptly fouled out on the ensuing defensive possession, Zeller hit his two free throws, and North Carolina would hang on to win.

North Carolina took advantage of being sent to the line so often, scoring 26 points from the line. The Tar Heels made 12 of their last 14 free throws in the final 3:38 of the game.

The last free throw, however, gave UK a chance to win. Dexter Strickland misses his second free throw with three seconds left. UK rebounded the ball, which ended up in Doron Lamb’s hands. Crossing midcourt, Lamb threw up a last-second shot.

It sailed wide left.

The late-game fouls – and North Carolina converting their free throw attempts – were a frequent occurrence.

Terrence Jones, Eloy Vargas and Brandon Knight all fouled out inside the last four minutes of the game in joining Harrellson on the bench. And even when they weren’t relegated to the bench, they couldn’t play like they needed to.

“Getting into foul trouble hurt us a lot,” Antigua said. “It handcuffed us and guys became passive.”

Jones, the first UK player to foul out, committed his last foul by reaching in while gambling for a steal.

“He had a couple of silly fouls, reaching in, slapping down,” Antigua said. “The types of things you can get away with in high school but can’t get away with at this level.”

Jones’ night, which cut off before the final buzzer with the foul, was not a good one. Hounded by Henson all night, he shot 3-of-17 from the floor in scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said he didn’t double Jones in the post when Henson was guarding him because of Henson’s length.

“I think Terrence initially came out a little timid, and I think their length might have surprised him,” Antigua said. “Today just wasn’t one of his best days.”

It wasn’t one of the best days for either team in terms of shooting. Neither team shot more than 42 percent for the game, and as the two notable coaches met on the floor after the game, they acknowledged it.

“Roy (Williams) said to me after, not real well played, but a good game,’” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I said, ‘well said, coach. Well said.’”



UK head coach John Calipari:

UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua:

UK forward Darius Miller:

UK guard Brandon Knight:

UK guard Brandon Knight, part 2:

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams: