Off the cuff: It's debatable how helpful the game at UNC-Greensboro was for the Tar Heels.
Carolina certainly played well defensively, perhaps its best performance of the year overall, and got out to a big lead early to erase any chance for an upset early. And they did it on the court of the ACC tournament.
But the Tar Heels are still turning the ball over - 17 times in this one - and picking up a lot of fouls. UNC-G didn't really take advantage however - unlike Kentucky - as the Spartans didn't get much after the turnovers and managed to sink only 11 of 26 free throws.
North Carolina has a 23-14 all-time record against Kentucky but it might not have mattered how well the Tar Heels played in this one.
No. 1 Kentucky was hot and played physical and aggressively on the defensive end. Some believe the Wildcats will go undefeated this season - at least in the regular season.
Carolina took a lot of hits in this one - figuratively and literally - but kept coming back.
Marcus Paige hit four threes in the second half to help. The Tar Heels actually outrebounded the Wildcats and had an impressive 18 offensive rebounds.
But Kentucky scored 24 points off Carolina's 19 turnovers and scored 13 more points from the foul line.
UNC coach Roy Williams shouldn't be happy with a loss however, in light of how hard the Tar Heels played, I was surprised he was angry enough to cuss. We usually just hear the "dad gums" and such.
When asked to remember something he had said before the game about keys to the game, he said, "I'm too ticked off to think about any bullsh*t like that."
Maybe he was just joking around.
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North Carolina jumped out to a big lead, using a stingy defense and buckets around the baskets, and went on to an easy 79-56 over UNC-Greensboro at Greensboro Coliseum. (12/16)
"We played well early," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "We made too many turnovers (17)."
He praised the play of Carolina big men Kennedy Meeks, who went eight of nine for 18 points, and Joel James, who scored a career-tying 11 points.
On the other hand, UNC's top player Marcus Paige had a rough nice shooting, hitting just one of eight from the floor including zero of five from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Tar Heels managed to hit 49 percent from the floor and held the Spartans to just 34 percent, including just 28 percent in the first half. Carolina also owned the backboards - 51 rebounds (20 on the offensive end) to just 25 rebounds for UNC-G.
Carolina gave up only four points in the first 10 minutes and held a 40-19 lead at the half.
In the second half the Tar Heels got the lead over 30 when Theo Pinson sank a three from the left side and Meeks followed it up with a dunk off a nice pass from Nate Britt to make it 59-28.
The largest lead was 32 when Brice Johnson slammed home a follow to make it 65-33 with 8:30 left.
"There's not a lot to say," Coach Williams said during a fairly quick post-game news conference. "We scored more points than they did."
UNC-G, now 4-7, is coached by former Tar Heel player Wes Miller.
The Tar Heels, now 7-3, play at Chicago against highly ranked Ohio State Saturday at 1 p.m.
No. 1 Wildcats run by error-prone Heels
No. 1 Kentucky played its best game of the year and ran by a scrappy but error-prone North Carolina team 84-70 in Lexington. (12/13)
The Wildcats, who led by as many as 19 points, shot a season-high 56 percent from the floor and took advantage of 19 Tar Heel turnovers.
Carolina shot 45 percent and outrebounded Kentucky by seven but it wasn't enough.
"Their defense was far more superior to our offense," UNC coach Roy Williams said. He said the two big keys to the key were the number of Carolina turnovers and the fact that Carolina couldn't manage to play aggressively without fouling.
The Wildcats, now 11-0, went to the foul line 31 times, hitting 23 free throws.
Also, Kentucky had been averaging just four three point baskets per game but got three in the first five minutes to race out to a 19-8 lead.
A JP Tokoto three cut the margin to just three at 22-19 but the Wildcats worked the lead up to 15 at the half when they hit three more three pointers in the last three minutes of the first half to go up 49-34.
An 11-2 run by Carolina midway through the second half cut the deficit to nine at 66-57.
But Kentucky went on a 10-2 run of its own to push the lead back up to 18 at 80-62 and the Tar Heels never threatened again.
Brice Johnson, who had 12 at the half, led the Tar Heels in scoring with 15 points while Marcus Paige, who scored 12 in the second half on four threes, finished with 14 points. Kennedy Meeks was the only other Tar Heel in double figures with 10 points.
UNC, now 6-3, play at UNC-Greensboro Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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Heel Prints reviewed each UNC game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. At the request of readers, he has kept up his journal of each game ever since. He also has written about UNC baseball and wrote an analysis after each 2008 UNC football game.
Editor's Note: HeelPrints chronicled the UNC basketball, baseball and football seasons for 2008 and 2009. Since the vast majority of comments I get about the site relate to basketball and since this isn't a paying job for me, I decided to limit my coverage and analysis to basketball. Baseball and football will remain archived and if I have comments or opinions I want to make on those or any other sports at UNC, I will make them here on the front page and then archive them in the corresponding sports section. Thanks for all the positive comments I have received about the site. Should I get sponsorship in the future, I will reconsider adding baseball and football again. Ironically, my favorite sports to watch in person are baseball and football. But my first connections to UNC came from watching Dean Smith's basketball teams on TV or listening to them on the radio in the days before all the games were televised. It should come as no surprise that people pay more attention to the basketball coverage. Thanks for your interest in this site.