WIldcats hold off Heels

Published 4:55 pm Saturday, December 3, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky.  — Pushed and pressured all day, Anthony Davis finally went somewhere else no one could on the floor. Up.
The freshman soared to block John Henson’s shot in the final seconds and No. 1 Kentucky held on to beat No. 5 North Carolina 73-72 on Saturday to extend the Wildcats’ home winning streak to 39 games.
“I just jumped as high as I could with my arm up,” said Davis, who had seven points and nine rebounds. “I thought I probably would (block it). I have long hands.”
Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Kentucky (8-0) and Doron Lamb added 12 of his 14 points after halftime in the heavily hyped matchup.
“I didn’t realize, because I hadn’t been watching much TV, that this game was being played up like the end alls of end alls,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Davis sure ended it, all right.
Reggie Bullock hit a 3-pointer for North Carolina (6-2) to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 73-72 with 48 seconds left. After freshman Marquis Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one, Davis blocked Henson’s shot, grabbed the rebound and the Wildcats ran out the clock.
“If he doesn’t block the shot, we lose,” Calipari said. “Both teams gutted it out, just gutted it out. This is supposed to be March, not now. I’m exhausted.”
Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes scored 14 points apiece for the Tar Heels, who led by as many as nine in the first half and held a six-point lead in the second before Kentucky rallied.
The Wildcats haven’t lost at Rupp Arena since Calipari took over, a span of 38 games that includes winning their final one at home under Billy Gillispie.
Lamb converted a three-point play as part of a 7-0 run that gave Kentucky a 63-60 lead. After Zeller hit a jumper to cut it to one, Lamb hit a pair of 3s, the second in the corner that gave the Wildcats a 69-64 lead with 3:47 left.
“He had a couple of layups, a couple of threes and they were big shots, they were big shots. That one in the corner was a huge shot and he knocked it down,” Calipari said. “I’ve got good players. We’re young, we’re inexperienced, but I have really good players.”
After a 3-pointer by Barnes, North Carolina’s 11th of the game, made it 69-67. Darius Miller’s basket made it 71-67. Henson hit two free throws and Kidd-Gilchrist answered with two more before Bullock’s 3 set up the final sequence.
After Teague missed the front end of the one-and-one following a foul by Kendall Marshall with 21 seconds left, the Tar Heels had one more chance.
Marshall found Zeller and as Terrence Jones came to double team, he found Henson. Henson went up for a winner, but Davis used his 6-foot-10 frame and massive wingspan to block the ball. He grabbed the rebound as North Carolina never tried to foul as time expired.
“He came from the other side of the lane, it was a great play by him,” Henson said.
Jones finished with 14 points and Miller had 12 for the Wildcats. North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston scored 11 and Henson finished with 10.
Kentucky last reached No. 1 under Calipari in 2009-10, but promptly lost its first game after receiving the ranking. The Wildcats beat St. John’s 81-59 on Thursday night before this matchup — the first between top five teams in Lexington in 13 years.
Last year, these two teams played a pair of memorable games with North Carolina winning 75-73 in Chapel Hill before Kentucky topped the Tar Heels 76-69 in the NCAA regional finals in March.
This one was equally as entertaining even though North Carolina slipped from the No. 1 spot last week when they lost to UNLV in Las Vegas to keep this from being the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the 35-year history of Rupp Arena.
The Tar Heels committed five early turnovers, but Hairston, who had been questionable to play because of a sprained left wrist, hit a pair of 3-pointers upon entering to give North Carolina a 24-18 lead.
A jumper by Barnes extended it to 34-25, the biggest deficit the Wildcats faced this season and Kentucky trailed at the half for the first time this season, 43-38.
It’s the first time the two schools have met this highly ranked since Dec. 26, 1981 in East Rutherford, N.J., when Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins combined for 66 points in North Carolina’s 82-69 victory.
Kentucky standout Sam Bowie didn’t play in that game because of a stress fracture in his left leg, but that game still featured 18 draft picks — including five that went in the first two rounds. The NBA draft was 10 rounds through 1984.
This matchup had even more media anticipation and included more than two dozen NBA scouts and front office personnel. Kentucky’s young squad that starts three freshmen and two sophomores responded.
“We felt like this was a good test to see where we’re at against one of the best teams in the country,” Miller said. “We came out with a W. I think we’re all pretty happy about it.”