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UNC loss vs. Kentucky - Player of the Game: Justin Jackson

A tough loss shouldn’t distract from the fact that Justin Jackson was fantastic against Kentucky.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Kentucky Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If Carolina finds a way to win yesterday’s game, and if Malik Monk doesn’t hang nearly half of 100 on the Tar Heels, the 2016 UNC/Kentucky game might be known as the Justin Jackson game. Unfortunately, his amazing performance was overshadowed by the aforementioned factors. Still, it’s an easy decision to name him Player of the Game.

Just when it looked like UNC might not be able to keep up with the superhuman feats of Monk, Jackson would drill a huge shot to keep the Tar Heels right in the thick of things. He played 36 huge minutes and scored almost as many points (34). He hit four shots from behind the three-point line and grabbed five rebounds.

Jackson made it to the free throw line repeatedly, and sank ten of his 15 shots. Unfortunately, being the player that he is, Jackson lamented the five points he left at the line in his postgame comments, noting that they could have been the difference in the game. It’s understandable why Jackson would feel that way, but his performance (along with that of Joel Berry) was the reason the game was even as close as it was.

Putting up 34 points on one of KenPom’s best rated defenses is no easy task. What the Tar Heels were able to do yesterday in scoring 100 points against the Wildcats shouldn’t be overlooked in all the disappointment about the loss. The team played very well against one of the nation’s best teams, and Justin Jackson very nearly led them to victory.

If there was an honorable mention for Player of the Game (non-Joel Berry division), it might have to go to Luke Maye. Those two threes he hit were absolutely huge, and he managed to score 11 points total off the bench while playing 21 minutes. Maye is sometimes Tar Heel Twitter’s favorite punching bag, and he certainly has his moments of “Luke, no, why” but he stepped up in a big way yesterday. Credit goes out to him for that.