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Kentucky Edges Carolina, 103-100
Release: 12/17/2016

by MIKE CRANSTON, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Midway through the first half, a frustrated North Carolina fan stood and screamed at Malik Monk.

"You can miss!" she yelled, before pausing and changing tactics. "Please?" she added.

Monk rarely complied, setting a Kentucky freshman record with 47 points and hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left to lead the sixth-ranked Wildcats past No. 7 North Carolina 103-100 on Saturday.

"If you watched that game, if you never liked basketball, you're going to start liking basketball," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Like, wow."

North Carolina's Justin Jackson nearly outshined Monk with 34 points, and his basket with 45 seconds left put the Tar Heels (10-2) ahead after trailing much of the second half.

Monk responded with a right-wing 3 in transition to put Kentucky up 101-100 — going against Calipari's wishes.

"Coach told me to drive, but I was hot and I shot it," Monk said.

Good choice.

After Isaiah Hicks missed at the other end, Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left.

North Carolina got the ball in the front court with less than a second left. But Kenny Williams' desperation 3 at the buzzer got lodged between the rim and backboard.

"Heck of a college basketball game if you don't care who won," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "But I do care who wins. . Malik was off the charts."

Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 3-point attempts, scoring in various ways in an electric performance that was the most points in Division I this season. Only Duke's Dick Groat (48 points) in 1952 has scored more against the Tar Heels.

And Kentucky needed Monk's huge effort to offset Jackson's four 3s and 10 free throws in a game played at a furious pace.

"Those are games you live for," Fox said.

Fox added 24 points for Kentucky (10-1), which shot 54 percent from the field. North Carolina shot 53 percent. They combined for 37 assists and just 19 turnovers.

The Tar Heels fell to 52-2 when they score 100 points under Williams and 180-4 when they shoot better than 50 percent.

Joel Berry II returned from injury to score 23 points for the Tar Heels, but was slowed by foul trouble in the second half.

The enthusiastic crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena just off the Las Vegas Strip made it feel like an Elite Eight game. The quality of play in the CBS Sports Classic matchup gave it more of a Final Four feel.

With two of the highest-scoring and fastest teams squaring off, Calipari joked earlier in the week he and Williams would be constantly yelling, "Get back!" on defense.

In the 38th meeting between the schools, Monk dominated early and Kentucky raced to a 12-point lead. Jackson and Berry, who returned from a two-game absence due to a sprained left ankle, kept scoring off the dribble as North Carolina closed to 56-51 at halftime.

There was hardly time to catch a breath. Kentucky took a 10-point lead in the second half. The Tar Heels rallied to tie it on Tony Bradley's two free throws with 2:51 left and went ahead on Jackson's 3 with 1:33 remaining.

 

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Monk couldn't have put on a better display in a bigger setting, solidifying his star status and putting fear into Southeastern Conference opponents.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels never slowed the pace and was happy playing uptempo for 40 minutes. But foul trouble and the inability to contain Monk and others off the dribble cost them a chance at a big pre-conference victory.

RECORD GREAT

Jamal Murray (last season) and Terrence Jones (2011) held the previous Kentucky record for points in a game by a freshman with 35.

TECHNICALLY UPSET

Livid with the third foul against Isaiah Hicks midway through the first half, Williams took off his jacket and fired it into the bench, earning a technical foul from referee Roger Ayers.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It marked the 13th time both teams entered the matchup in the Top 10. A game played with this pace and skill had to impress the rest of college basketball.

UP NEXT

It gets no easier for Kentucky, which travels to rival No. 11 Louisville on Wednesday.

North Carolina hosts Northern Iowa on Wednesday and Monmouth on Dec. 28 before the ACC opener Dec. 31 at Georgia Tech.


UNC North Carolina Men's Basketball


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