An amalgamation of No. 10 Kentucky and North Carolina would make for quite a team. It was, quite literally, the Wildcats' perimeter players against North Carolina bigs in the Tar Heels' 75-73 win over Kentucky in Chapel Hill.
Tyler Zeller was nearly unstoppable for UNC, fouling out Kentucky's only three legitimate post players en route to a career high 27 points and 11 rebounds. Kentucky was again led by a freshman, though this time it was neither Brandon Knight nor Terrence Jones. Doron Lamb led the young Wildcats with 24 points off 7-13 shooting. Jones had his worst game of the young season, scoring only 12 points on an abysmal 3-17 shooting day.
The game was close throughout, though Kentucky (5-2) did hold an early eight point advantage. Then, Harrison Barnes had a stretch that Carolina fans have been waiting for.
Barnes, a preseason All-American, has yet to live up to the mammoth expectations. An early Kentucky run, though, set up a chance for Barnes to have his superstar moment.
After back-to-back Lamb baskets stretched the Wildcat lead back to eight, it seemed that Barnes, finally, would make his presence felt. A fast break dunk. A three from the corner. Then, off a missed three from Drew, a high-flying follow up jam to give UNC the lead.
Barnes finished the first half with 12 points, but wouldn't score again.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the second half. Kentucky didn't make a field goal for over nine minutes before a Harrellson put back gave them a short-lived lead. Seconds later, Harrellson committed his fifth foul reaching over Zeller's back. North Carolina, for their part, didn't have a field goal over the final 6:46. A miss by Dexter Strickland with just over five seconds gave Kentucky hope, but Lamb's half-court heave didn't draw iron.
It was last year in Rupp Arena when Kentucky's batch of new freshmen had their coming out party against the Heels. It was not so for Barnes, but Zeller certainly made up for his absence.
North Carolina (5-3) got a much needed home victory, and they get two weeks to prepare for a visit from Texas. Kentucky will face Notre Dame in Louisville Wednesday before Indiana visits Rupp Arena Saturday.