It was a rematch that lived up to the hype as the Tar Heels survived a late-game onslaught by Kentucky to survive an advance to the Final Four. The hero for the Tar Heels was none other than Luke Maye, who also helped carry this team past Butler in the Sweet Sixteen.
Kentucky just wouldn’t go away despite not getting their usual production from guys like Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox. Credit goes out to Justin Jackson for holding Monk down for nearly the entire game.
Jackson led all Tar Heels in the scoring department with 19 points, but the game belongs to Luke Maye. He was crucial with Isaiah Hicks having a quiet game and Kennedy Meeks not having his best offensive game. None of his 17 points were more crucial than the two he scored in the final seconds to break the 73-73 tie.
Although the Tar Heels were able to contain Monk (12 points) and Fox (13 points), Isaac Humphries was a force off the bench, seemingly not being able to miss a shot. Some early foul trouble, thanks in part to minutes by Stilman White (!!!) helped control some of the Wildcats’ firepower.
Joel Berry II was able to return from spraining his other ankle early on for 11 points. On the glass, Meeks was an absolute monster. There was no answer for him down low on his way to an incredible 17 rebounds. Twelve of them came on the defensive glass. No one else in the entire game had more than seven.
Now the Tar Heels head to Phoenix for the Final Four to take on Oregon in the next phase of their redemption tour. Kentucky pushed them to the brink, but the Heels pushed right back. That kind of toughness is why they are here, and will continue to serve them well.