Kentucky 87, North Carolina 83

College Basketball

Associated Press

ATLANTA - Rob Dillingham scored 17 points, including two straight baskets to swing the momentum back to Kentucky, and the No. 14 Wildcats held on down the stretch to beat No. 9 North Carolina 87-83.

The Tar Heels squandered a chance to go for a tying 3-pointer when Elliot Cadeau, rushing the ball up the court, delivered a pass off the back of Cormac Ryan, who was looking the other way. RJ Davis scrambled to recover the loose ball but wound up dribbling across the center line for a backcourt violation.

Aaron Bradshaw was fouled and knocked down a free throw with 4.7 seconds left to seal the victory for Kentucky (8-2), which prevailed in the second game of the CBS Sports Classic at State Farm Arena. Ohio State beat UCLA 67-60 in the opening game of the made-for-TV doubleheader.

Davis scored 27 points and Ryan added 20 for the Tar Heels (7-3). The Wildcats were much more balanced, with eight players scoring at least seven points.

Coming off an 11-day break after an 87-76 loss at No. 5 UConn on Dec. 5, North Carolina trailed nearly the entire game. The Tar Heels finally grabbed their first lead, 72-71, on a pair of free throws by Armando Bacot with 5:15 remaining.

But Kentucky didn’t waver.

Aaron Bradshaw scored off a putback, and then Dillingham went to work. He pulled off a shifty move in the lane to lose his defender for a finger roll lay-in, and wound up with another easy one from a fast break after a Tar Heels miss.

Just like that, the Wildcats reclaimed a 77-72 edge.

Clinging to an 83-81 lead, Kentucky made another huge play off an inbounds play with just 3 seconds left on the shot clock. Tre Mitchell missed a hurried 3-pointer from the corner, but Bradshaw grabbed the rebound with Davis hanging on him, drawing a foul before the clock expired.

Bradshaw made both free throws with 46.3 seconds to go, and the Wildcats held on from there with a little a little help from the Tar Heels.

The Wildcats led 11 in the first half, thrilling their fans who journeyed to the city known as “Cat-lanta” for Kentucky’s dominance over the years when playing in the A-T-L.

But North Carolina seized the momentum just before halftime, scoring the final eight points — including 3-pointers by Ryan and Seth Trimble — to head to the locker room only down 40-38.

Ryan scored 12 points in the opening half, hitting 5 of 6 shots while the rest of the team shot a cumulative 8 of 25 from the field.

The Wildcats led at the break despite making only 14 of 41 (34.1%) shots.


North Carolina: The Tar Heels were dominated on the boards. Kentucky finished with a 43-32 edge that included 18 offensive rebounds.

Kentucky: The Wildcats pulled off their second win of the season against a Top 10 team, having also beaten then-No. 8 Miami in the ACC-SEC Challenge. This one felt especially after that inexplicable loss to another school from the Tar Heel State, an 80-73 loss at home to UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 2.

​December 16, 2023


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