(18) Kentucky 98

(4-1, 2-0 away)

(12) North Carolina 81

(5-2, 3-1 home)

    2:00 PM ET, December 7, 2002

    Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    1 2 T
    #18UK 40 5898
    #12UNC 43 3881

    Kentucky uses 18-2 run to thwart UNC

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- There still appears to be a wide gap between the two winningest programs in college basketball.

    Gerald Fitch

    Kentucky's Gerald Fitch drives for two of his career-high 25 points on Saturday.

    Gerald Fitch and Marquis Estill scored all of Kentucky's points during an 18-2 run to start the second half as the 18th-ranked Wildcats defeated North Carolina 98-81 Saturday.

    Kentucky beat the Tar Heels (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) -- two programs that have combined for 3,615 wins -- for the third straight season by 17, 20 and 17 points.

    "They have a couple of things we don't have,'' said North Carolina coach Matt Doherty, who fell to 0-3 against the Wildcats. "They have talented big guys who can score.''

    Fitch finished with a career-high 25 points, while Estill and Keith Bogans added 20 each for the Wildcats (4-1), who made 10 of 16 from 3-point range to beat the young Tar Heels.

    "We take pride in this, especially when you beat North Carolina in North Carolina -- that's huge,'' said Fitch, who was 7-for-10 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line.

    "In the second half we went down low and they lost their confidence,'' Fitch added. "When we took the lead they weren't attacking as much and they weren't as aggressive.''

    North Carolina (5-2) lost its second straight since jumping into the Top 25. The Tar Heels, who won just eight games last season, lost to Illinois by 27 points on Tuesday night.

    "It's better to learn from a win than a loss, but these two games helped us,'' said freshman Sean May, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. "We've just got to keep fighting. I can't wait to play Vermont. It's going to be hard sitting on a loss for 12 days.''

    Rashad McCants, who hurt his left ankle in the final seconds, scored 22 to lead the Tar Heels, who were step for step with the Wildcats until point guard Raymond Felton and May got into foul trouble.

    Once that happened, Kentucky pounced on North Carolina's zone, using the big run over the first four minutes to take control. Fitch scored 10 points and Estill had eight during the burst.

    "We had basic fundamental breakdowns, and we can't accept that,'' Doherty said. "Yes, we're a young team and all of that, but we've got to play 40 minutes against teams like Kentucky. We've got to play 40 minutes -- I don't care who we're playing.''

    Estill didn't score in the first 20 minutes, but made four straight shots out of the gate in the second period, while Fitch sank two mid-range jumpers and two 3-pointers for a 58-45 lead.

    Felton picked up his fourth foul on Estill's last basket of the run, and he missed 5½ minutes as North Carolina's defense fell apart.

    The Tar Heels pulled within eight on two straight 3-pointers by Jackie Manuel, but Bogans countered with two shots behind the arc and Estill added a layup as the Wildcats went up by 18 with 9:38 remaining.

    "Keith has matured a lot,'' coach Tubby Smith said of his senior guard. "He showed some All-American heart and toughness today. He got hit in the face, turned his ankle and he pretty much got beat, but he showed why he's an All-American.''

    The Wildcats made 22 of their 33 second-half shots. They started the second half going 12-for-15, at one point making nine straight shots to dispatch the upstart Tar Heels.

    Fitch's previous career high was 18 points in Kentucky's win over High Point earlier this week.

    "Fitch controlled the whole game,'' Doherty said.

    The last time UNC allowed a team to shoot 60 percent was Wake Forest in 1993.

    "We have been bragging about our defense, there has been a lot of talk about our defense, but we certainly didn't play defense in this game,'' Doherty said. "Our defense was nonexistent.''

    "We wanted to make a statement, but we have to earn it,'' added Kentucky senior center Jules Camara said. "The way we can earn it is by going out and playing hard against good teams like this. Maybe we sent a message to other teams that you've got to take us seriously.''

    North Carolina got off to a shaky start, missing its first six shots and turning it over three times to fall into an early eight-point hole.

    The Tar Heels tied it at 20 midway through the half and neither team led by more than three the rest of the period.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2002-03 Season

    » Dec 7, 2002 UK 98, @UNC 81Recap