Despite a fairly productive offensive afternoon against the nation's #1 defense, Kentucky's offensive firepower proved to be too much for UNC as the Heels fell 84-70 in Lexington.
The game basically boiled down two a pair of key stats. The first was Tar Heel turnovers. UNC, which came in giving up 16% of possessions on turnovers had a TO% of 27.6% today. J.P. Tokoto was the biggest culprit with six turnovers and some of those coming trying to feed big men in the post. Marcus Paige also had four turnovers. Ten of UNC's 19 came from two players primarily responsible for facilitating the offense.
The other stat that did the Tar Heels was Kentucky's shooting. The Wildcats shot 56% for the game and hit 7-15 from three. Kentucky had not been nearly that good in both regards coming into the game but for the first time this season, UNC's perimeter defense really struggled to defend the three point line. A combination of that and Wildcat players like Aaron Harrison hitting three 3-pointers despite being a 10-44 shooter entering the game from outside.
With these elements in play, UNC fell behind 16-6 early then recovered to make and trailed 24-21 midway through the first half riding strong play from Brice Johnson. The junior big man continued his play from Sunday against East Carolina with 12 points in the first half to keep the Heels fairly close. However Paige continued to struggle with his offense and the Heels only got spot contributions from other players to head into the half down 49-35.
The second half saw Kentucky open up with a burst over the opening five minutes to extend the lead to as much as 19. The Heels put up a fight with Paige sinking four threes after halftime to eventually whittle the Kentucky down to nine midway through the half. UNC simply wasn't able to muster enough offensive consistency in the face of Kentucky's defense nor put together enough stops. It was a clear case of a top ranked team taking care of business against a team that played well enough in spots but not enough to beat #1.
Johnson led the Heels with 15 points and four rebounds. Paige had 14 points, 12 of them in the second half to go along with six assists. Kennedy Meeks scored 10 points and had four rebounds. UNC ended the game with an offensive efficiency rating of 107.4 going against a defense that came in with a defensive efficiency of 83.3. The Tar Heels shot 45% from the floor, was 6-13 from three, 10-12 at the FT line and won the rebounding battle 31-19.
That kind of offensive effort wins most of the games on UNC's schedule. It would have won the game against Iowa by 20. Regardless of what happened today, UNC isn't a lost cause by any stretch of the imagination.