Prince, who scored 31 points on the night, was almost unstoppable out of the gate in putting up UK's first 15 points - all on three point baskets and the last one coming from almost 27 feet away from the basket.
"Tayshaun Prince, who I tried to recruit to Kansas, had a phenomenal night," Tar Heel head coach Matt Doherty said postgame. "I
don't know if I can remember a kid shooting the ball like he did. I think
their maturity and experience were certainly a factor, maybe the biggest
factor in the ball game."
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, were scoring relatively well at the outset on the strength of Kris Lang jumpers and hook shoots. However, trading twos for threes ultimately would not work and Prince's third basket gave the Wildcats a 12-10 lead with 16:30 remaining in the first half and would represent the last lead change of the evening.
Despite Lang's 14 first half points, the Wildcats opened up the two-point cushion which they held throughout the opening period. The Heels would occasionally cut into the lead, only to see the Cats push the margin back up to double digits.
Brian Morrison provided a spark with his two three pointers off the bench, but was pressured into four turnovers during his 10 minutes in the opening half. As the half ended, the Heels were within striking distance at 47-35, but the worst news of the evening was developing as Lang began to be hampered by severe nausea.
Lang spent most of the halftime period hampered by nausea and vomiting and was unable to start the second half. Lang's absence, coupled with UK's smothering defensive pressure, left the Carolina offense sputtering over the first ten minutes of the second stanza. During this time, UK widened their lead to 64-44 with 9:47 remaining as they capitalized on poor Tar Heel shooting and turnovers.
Over the last ten minutes of the game, the Heels never seemed to give up, but were never able to bring the margin any closer than 15.
"I was proud of our team for not quitting," Doherty said. "In the middle of the second half
we could have folded and it could have turned into a 30-35 point game. I
thought we hung tough and showed some character"
Lang finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Senior Jason Capel was the only other Tar Heel to reach double digits, hitting for a modest 11 points and 12 boards.
Rebounds were problematic for the Heels, who were outboarded 45-33, including 22 offensive rebounds from which the Cats produced 14 points.
The Heels' problems holding on to the ball also continued as they turned the ball over 19 times resulting in 25 Wildcat points.
"We turned the ball over too much, and then they got to score against an
unset defense and then we didn't box out real well," Doherty said. "Those are things we
talked about and worked on, but in this environment with a young team you're
going to have some breakdowns. I think this was a good experience for us to
prepare for games on the road in the ACC - at Maryland, at Duke, and places
While Carolina shot a respectable 48% in the first half, they allowed UK to open their lead shooting 56% during the same period, including 8-12 from behind the arc. The second half was a statistical dead heat, as both sides shot poorly with Carolina hitting on a woeful 25% and UK only slightly better at 29%. The Cats were able to extend their lead in the second half primarily from the charity stripe, as Carolina put them into the bonus with 12:24 remaining.
"I passed Tubby (Smith) in the hallway and he told me he thought that this
was their (UK) best defensive effort of the year," Doherty said. "I knew they would come out
and play hard, and they did. We really couldn't execute the things we wanted
to do against their defense and that was frustrating."
With this win, Kentucky (5-1) became the first basketball program to reach 1800 wins. Carolina (1-4) is not too far behind on this count with 1,782 and will begin trying to beat the Cats to 1900 victories next Sunday against Binghamton in Chapel Hill.