UNC revels in win over Kentucky
CHAPEL HILL — Julius Randle never quite looked like himself in Kentucky’s first true road game this season.
The star freshman had 11 points in the No. 11 Wildcats’ 82-77 loss at No. 18 North Carolina on Saturday, barely avoiding the first single-digit scoring performance of his brief career.
Randle, a 6-foot-9 forward, was leading the team in scoring (17.8) and rebounding (12) while shooting about 54 percent and getting to the free-throw line nearly nine times a game. But with UNC junior James Michael McAdoo leading the defensive effort, Randle went 3 for 9 from the floor, shot just six free throws and finished with five rebounds while being limited by foul trouble.
“We knew a lot of his tendencies, not to say we knew them all,” McAdoo said. “He’s a great player. But I feel like we were definitely able to take him out of his comfort zone and that’s really what you want to do going against a guy like that.”
When asked about Randle’s excitement for the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari cut the questioner off.
“Maybe too excited,” Calipari said. “Because McAdoo made a statement.”
For North Carolina, Marcus Paige scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half and McAdoo finished with 20 points.
J.P. Tokoto added 15 points for the Tar Heels (7-2), who grinded out yet another marquee nonconference victory in a first month of the season filled with wild swings. UNC shot 57 percent after halftime and scored 20 points off turnovers to finally wrestle control of a foul-filled game away from the Wildcats (8-3).
It wasn’t always pretty for the Tar Heels, from 19 missed free throws to seeing the Wildcats swat seven of their shots. Yet they managed to add another big name to their early wins against then-No. 1 Michigan State and then-No. 3 Louisville — all coming while top scorer P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald sit out due to NCAA eligibility concerns.
Aaron Harrison scored 20 for Kentucky, which shot 41 percent and committed 17 turnovers.
Paige managed just two points in the opening half, coming on free throws when referee Roger Ayers whistled Calipari for a technical foul with 1.9 seconds left. But Paige turned in a huge second-half performance, providing the steadying hand North Carolina desperately needed as Kentucky kept trying to push back in front.
He knocked down a contested 3 over Randle to give UNC a 60-54 lead with 8:17 left, and then came up with an even bigger shot when he lofted a floater over shot blocker Willie Cauley-Stein with the shot clock winding down for a 70-65 lead with 1:41 to go.
Paige added an alley-oop pass in transition to Brice Johnson for a dunk, and then closed his afternoon by knocking down two free throws with 6 seconds left to make it a two-possession game. He finished 6 for 8 from the field in the second half and made all 10 of his free throws for the game.
McAdoo was also active. He made just 4 of 6 shots but was aggressive in attacking the paint and got to the foul line 19 times, making 12.
Tokoto finished 7 for 10 from the field, including a breakaway dunk off a long inbounds pass in the foul-filled final minute.
Andrew Harrison scored 17 for Kentucky, while James Young added 16 before fouling out with 27 seconds left.