Early Foul Trouble is Too Much to Overcome as the Wildcats Fall to North Carolina 75-73

Today’s matchup between the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels is college basketball royalty at its best.  

The Wildcats are the all-time winningest program in major college basketball history with 2,205 wins, of course the Tar Heels are not too far behind in third place with 2,173.

Kentucky has the all-time best winning percentage at 76.4 percent, while North Carolina is in second at 73.7 percent.

When it comes to NCAA tournament play, Kentucky has the most NCAA tournament appearances with 55 and North Carolina has the second most with 47.

As you can see both these programs have been good for a long period of time, but as they get ready for tip-off today that won’t help either team.

Early in this game the Wildcats were a little tight and missed their first few shots as Carolina took a 6-0 lead.  North Carolina was playing physical and aggressive on defense and the lack of foul calls were throwing off the Cats.

Carolina went up by as many as nine at 31-22 with 6:54 to go in the first half as Kentucky’s fabulous freshmen trio of DeAaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo all sat out most of the first half with two fouls a piece.  The referee’s whistle heavily favored the Carolina Blue over Kentucky Blue in the first 20 minutes.

If not for Richmond, KY native, senior Dominique Hawkins and little used center Issac Humphries the halftime deficit of five (UNC 38-33), could have been worse.  Hawkins led the team in scoring in the first half with 10 points, and Humphries who had to play 12 minutes in the first half, had four points and a team leading four rebounds.

When the second half began the Wildcats were able to put their starting five of Fox, Monk, Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis back on the floor.  With the starters back in the game, Kentucky was able to take their first lead at 39-38.  

Foul trouble continued to plaque the Wildcats as Monk picked up his third and Willis went to the bench with four fouls at the 10:39 mark of the second half.  This helped Carolina regain a six point advantage (53-47).

Then Kentucky went on an incredible run to take a five point lead (64-59), as Issac Humphries made eight points during the stretch.  Just when it looked like the Wildcats might be able to put some space between themselves and the Tar Heels, the Wildcats missed a couple of shots and the Heels got a couple of friendly bounces to regain the lead at 65-64.  Kentucky just could not regain momentum and Carolina completed a 10-0 run to take a 71-64 advantage.

Kentucky finally made a rally on two Malik Monk three pointers to tie the game at 73, with only nine seconds to go in the game.  Carolina’s Theo Pinson then went the length of the court and passed off to Luke Maye who drained a basket with .3 seconds to go in the game to give Carolina a 75-73 lead.

The Wildcats had one last desperation try, but a Willis pass to Bam Adebayo sailed out-of-bounds and the game was over.  Carolina’s 75-73 win advances them to the Final Four where they will play the Oregon Ducks.

Fox and Adebayo finished the game with 13 points apiece to lead the Wildcats.  They were followed closely by Monk and Humphries who each had 12.  Adebayo, Willis and Humphries had 7, 6 and 5 rebounds respectively.  Isaiah Briscoe had 8 assists in the defeat.

Justin Jackson led North Carolina with 19 points.

Kentucky finishes the season with a 32-6 record.