|North Carolina's Dexter Strickland, left, looks for a teammate as Kentucky's Anthony Davis, right, and Marquis Teague defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/James Crisp)|
Henson blocked, No. 5 UNC falls to No. 1 Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky.—Kendall Marshall believed No. 5 North Carolina was on the cusp of a breakthrough win in the closing seconds. Freshman Anthony Davis turned those ideas away.
Davis blocked John Henson's shot in the final seconds as No. 1 Kentucky held on to beat the Tar Heels 73-72 on Saturday to extend the Wildcats' home winning streak to 39 games.
"I just knew we were going to win the game," Marshall said. "It took a couple of seconds to realize he blocked the shot."
Davis grabbed the rebound and Kentucky wasn't fouled as time expired.
"I do the same thing to other guys," Henson said. "He did it to me."
Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 17 points and 11 rebounds as a spark Kentucky (8-0) needed early before Doron Lamb took control on offense with 12 of his 14 points in the second half with more than two dozen NBA scouts and front office personnel watching one of the most heavily hyped matchups of the season.
This one came down to the final possession.
Reggie Bullock hit a 3-pointer for North Carolina (6-2) to cut the Wildcats' lead to 73-72 with 48 seconds left. After Marquis Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one, Davis blocked Henson's shot, grabbed the rebound and the Wildcats ran out the clock.
"Anthony came up with a crucial block and saved the game for us," Kentucky guard Darius Miller said. "I just knew if he got that shot off, it was going to go in."
Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes scored 14 points apiece for the Tar Heels, who led by as many as nine in the first half and held a six-point lead in the second before Kentucky rallied.
The Wildcats haven't lost at Rupp Arena since coach John Calipari took over, a span of 38 games after also winning their final one at home under Billy Gillispie.
Lamb converted a three-point play as part of a 7-0 run that gave Kentucky a 63-60 lead. After Zeller hit a jumper to cut it to one, Lamb hit a pair of 3s, the second that gave the Wildcats a 69-64 lead with 3:47 left.
After a 3-pointer by Barnes, North Carolina's 11th of the game, made it 69-67. Miller's basket made it 71-67 and Henson hit two free throws. Kidd-Gilchrist hit two free throws before Bullock's 3 set up the final sequence.
"Boxing out and rebounding," Barnes said. "That's what it came down to. You could see that both teams are good at moving the ball and getting good shots, but at the end of the day, second opportunities made the difference."
After Teague missed the front end of the one-and-one following a foul by Marshall with 21 seconds left, the Tar Heels had one more chance.
Marshall found Zeller and as Terrence Jones came to double team, he found Henson. Henson went up for a winner, but Davis used his 6-foot-10 frame and massive wingspan to block the ball. He grabbed the rebound as North Carolina never tried to foul as time expired.
"At the end, you just have to congratulate Davis," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "It was a big-time play on their part."
Jones finished with 14 points and Miller had 12 for the Wildcats. North Carolina's P.J. Hairston scored 11 and Henson finished with 10.
Kentucky last reached No. 1 under Calipari in 2009-10, but promptly lost their first game after receiving the ranking. The Wildcats beat St. John's 81-59 on Thursday night before this matchup -- the first between top five teams in Lexington in 13 years.
Last year, these two teams played a pair of memorable games with North Carolina winning 75-73 in Chapel Hill before Kentucky topped the Tar Heels 76-69 in the NCAA regional finals in March.
This one was equally as entertaining even though North Carolina slipped from the No. 1 spot last week when they lost to UNLV in Las Vegas to keep this from being the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the 35-year history of Rupp Arena.
This one will be remembered and could be a prelude to a bigger matchup in the postseason.
"Games like this get you ready for March," Henson said. "That's all that matters right now."