Rushed Reactions: #1 North Carolina 75, #2 Kentucky 73

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 26th, 2017

RTC is providing coverage from start to finish of the NCAA Tournament for the next three weeks.

Luke Maye capped a phenomenal individual weekend with one of the biggest shots of this, or any, NCAA Tournament (Photo: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

Key Takeaways.

  1. First half foul trouble and questionable officiating. Kentucky clawed its way back into this game in the second half, but early foul trouble and a tough first half whistle greatly imperiled the Wildcats’ bid to advance to another Final Four. De’Aaron Fox watched 75 percent of the first half from the sideline after picking up two early fouls, and backcourt mate Malik Monk joined him there later in the half after also picking up his second foul. There were also a number of questionable first half calls that seemed to go North Carolina’s way every time, including a Bam Adebayo tip-in that was ruled offensive goaltending. North Carolina emerges as a deserving victor, but Kentucky wasn’t helped at all by the first half whistle.
  2. Where was the offense? After the Tar Heels and Wildcats combined for 203 total regulation points in December, there was going to be an offensive come-down. However, few could have expected the drop-off in combined offensive efficiency to be so severe. The two teams combined to shoot just 44 percent from the floor, 29 percent from three-point range, and 67 percent from the free throw line. We have seen far uglier offensive games in this NCAA Tournament, for certain, but the early season wizardry in Las Vegas delivered by these teams allowed us to dream of a more explosive, uptempo battle than what played out.
  3. Justin Jackson and Malik Monk duel. The individual match-up between Monk and Justin Jackson was much discussed before action tipped, and with good reason. These two stars combined for 81 points in the first game, and each player has repeatedly showed the ability to single-handedly take over games. No such dominance was on display today, however, as Jackson harassed Monk into a quiet 12-point afternoon. The UNC star wasn’t at his best today, but his two-way effort (he had 19 points on the other end) gave him the edge in this decisive matchup.

Star of the Game. Luke Maye, North Carolina. Maye posted an unlikely but casual double-double on Friday (16 points, 12 rebounds), yet saved plenty of energy for a memorable encore. He made six of his nine field goal attempts en route to a 17-point night, including the game-winning jumper just before the final horn that won’t soon be forgotten by North Carolina fans. Maye played with swagger and energy all afternoon, and ultimately it was his contributions that pushed the Tar Heels into next weekend’s Final Four in Glendale.


  • “When that three went in and it tied the game, I probably should have called a timeout.” – John Calipari, reflecting on the game’s1 final sequence.
  • “It was a terrific game. I just wished we could have played the first half with a full roster.” – Calipari, on his team’s first half foul trouble.
  • “Just a little friendly banter.” – Justin Jackson, when asked about the bit of trash talk exchanged with Malik Monk.
  • “Same scenario, think about this: we missed a free throw, and Malik goes down and hits a big one.” – Roy Williams, on the similarities between the end of this game and the December match-up between these two teams.

Sights and Sounds. On Sunday afternoon, FedEx Forum was everything an NCAA Tournament atmosphere should be. Both programs brought hordes of fans, and the back-and-forth action on the floor was mimicked nicely in the stands by the rival fan bases. The second half in particular featured intermittent euphoria for both sides, but Maye’s game-winning jumper set off the loudest – and last – roar of a memorable afternoon.

What’s Next. North Carolina advances to the program’s 20th Final Four, where they will take on Midwest regional champion Oregon. Kentucky heads home two points short, and the Wildcats’ roster will surely look quite different by the time practice gets underway next fall. Seniors Willis and Hawkins’ eligibility expires, and it would be a surprise if Fox, Monk and Adebayo don’t all enter this June’s NBA Draft. More talent is of course on its way, but this group of players has played its last game together.

BHayes (244 Posts)

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