Rushed Reactions: Kentucky vs. North CarolinaPosted by Brad Jenkins on December 14th, 2013
Three Key Takeaways.
- The Kentucky talented freshmen played like freshmen. This should not be a surprise since it was the first true road game in their Kentucky freshmen’s college careers, and it was against a quality opponent with an energized crowd behind it. It showed up mostly in how they reacted to the strong North Carolina defensive effort. Kentucky turned the ball over 17 times compared to North Carolina’s nine, while Julius Randle had the toughest performance of his young career, struggling with foul trouble and finding openings in the half-court, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting. The Harrison twins — Andrew and Aaron — have a reputation for sometimes displaying bad body language when things don’t go their way, and despite keeping their team in the game for much of the evening, that was true down the stretch of this game.
- North Carolina held its own in the paint. Before the game, this was an area where Kentucky looked to have the advantage. Kentucky led the nation in offensive rebounding, pulling down an impressive 46 percent of its misses. For the game the Wildcats pulled down 17 offensive rebounds and were right on their average, but the problem was that they turned those boards into only 19 points. On the other end of the floor the Wildcats came in as the second best team in the country in opponents’ two-point field goal percentage at 38 percent. North Carolina was able to smash through that number with 51 percent shooting on their two-point attempts and actually finished with a four-point edge in points in the paint.
- Both teams need to work on free throw shooting. Even though we knew this was the case beforehand, it was certainly on display in Chapel Hill tonight. Kentucky did better in the second half (77 percent compared to 53 percent in the first half) so perhaps they have hope in this area. But other than Marcus Paige, who made all 10 of his free throw attempts, the Tar Heels continue to be horrible from the charity stripe. If you take away Paige’s effort, the rest of the team made 16 out of 35 trips to the line. With the attacking inside styles of both Kentucky and North Carolina on full display in this game, this deficiency could be a nagging problem all year for both.
Star of the Game. Marcus Paige, North Carolina. After a quiet two-point effort in the first half, the sophomore guard responded with 21 second half points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with his perfect performance from the foul line. He made several big shots down the stretch — none bigger than a baseline floater that gave UNC a much more comfortable five-point lead — and ended as the game’s leading scorer. Paige also chipped in on the defensive end with three steals.
- “Marcus Paige was sensational.” – North Carolina coach Roy Williams, praising the second half performance of his sophomore guard.
- “We wanted to be aggressive AND patient.” – Williams, talking about how he wanted the Tar Heels to attack on offense.
- “We are not a good team. Our emotion is all based on individual play” – Calipari, talking about his Kentucky team right now.
- “We just lost focus.” – Kentucky wing James Young on how Kentucky competed today.
Sights and Sounds. After a week of final exams, the UNC student body stuck around campus to provide a great home-court atmosphere in the Smith Center. It was probably part of the reason for the lack of focus the young Kentucky team showed at times. And to their credit, the crowd maintained it’s energy despite all the stoppages in play – with 56 total fouls called during the contest.
What’s Next. North Carolina will close out the 2013 calendar year with four straight home games beginning with Texas on Wednesday (December 18) on ESPN2 at 7:00 PM EST. Next Saturday (December 21), Kentucky will host Belmont, the team that knocked off North Carolina in Chapel Hill on November 17. After that comes the rivalry game in Lexington with Louisville on Saturday (December 28) at 4:00 PM EST.