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InsideCarolina: Heels, 'Cats At It Again

North Carolina hopes its level of play and the Smith Center's atmosphere is at the same high level versus Kentucky on Saturday.

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UNC/Reyshawn Terry
, InsideCarolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina hopes its level of play and the Smith Center’s atmosphere is at the same high level versus Kentucky on Saturday. The Tar Heels reasserted themselves among the nation’s elite with a complete game against Ohio State, now they’ll have to bring another solid performance with the unranked Wildcats in need of a win.

"We were very excited, but after a day you have to get you mind ready for the next game," Bobby Frasor said.

UNC’s ability to score in bunches and dominate inside have rarely been in question so far this season, but on Wednesday the perimeter shooting came around and the Tar Heels (5-1) defended well in the second half against one of the best group of guards they’ll face this year.

But the celebration is over with the college basketball’s all-time winningest program en route and hungry after a 4-2 start to the season. The Wildcats are coming off a 77-61 win over College of Charleston on Tuesday, but suffered back-to-back Maui Invitational losses to UCLA and Memphis prior to that.

"We are learning some things about our team," Roy Williams said. :I think we learned more in the Ohio State game than we did in the Gonzaga game even though we lost. Tomorrow is going to be a different kind of test.

"Defensively, [Kentucky] is always gong to be good. They guard you. They have balanced scoring. They can run they can press. They are a complete team with the coaching staff they have."

Frasor, whose three-point percentage is up to 47 percent from 31 last year, came off the bench to hit two rallying threes back-to-back and then got a steal on the next play which ended with a Tyler Hansbrough dunk. He finished with six points, three assists and zero turnovers in 18 minutes of action.

He said on Friday his foot was still sore and that not only is he unsure of how or when the injury occurred, but team doctors have been unable to provide him with a diagnosis of the injury other than it being a "sore foot."

“I’m being real careful with it, so hopefully it will be all right,” he said.

Reyshawn Terry led an early season Carolina resurgence last year with 25 points and seven rebounds in an 83-79 upset of the Wildcats in Lexington. However it’s Terry who is in need of a jump start as the Tar Heels prepare for this season’s match-up.

The senior is fourth on the team in scoring with 8.3 points per game, but it has been his overall play which is most puzzling, considering the proven skills he brings to UNC’s talent-laden offense.

This time Kentucky is the underdog and likely will try to try and slow down the Tar Heels by controlling tempo. Howver, head coach Tubby Smith said the strategy may be easier said than done.

“North Carolina does a great job of taking away passing lanes,” Smith said. “The way that they score in transition really limits how aggressive we can be on the offensive boards. They really get the ball out quick and push it up the floor.

“Let’s just hope we make some shots,” he said. “You can’t control the tempo if you don’t take care of the basketball and if you don’t execute. You want to really try and limit their possessions, with the number of possessions that you have. If you limit the possessions, you’ll probably have a better chance of controlling the tempo.”

The Wildcats are holding opponents to 42 percent shooting this season, while Carolina is converting field goals at a 52 percent clip. In a tempered pace, matching the Smith Center atmosphere after Wednesday’s thriller may be a challenge especially considering the noon start.

“I expect them to try and spread the floor a little bit, but I’ve always said we ought to be able to win a game in the 50s about as easily as we can win one in the 90s,” Williams said. “I hope the fans won’t be sitting back and relaxing.”

Kentucky and North Carolina rank 1-2 in both total wins and winning percentage. The Wildcats are 1,930-598-1 in 104 seasons, while the Tar Heels are 1,888-690 in 97 seasons. Kansas and Duke are the only other teams with at least 1,800 wins.

UNC is 18-10 all-time versus Kentucky and is seeking its third consecutive win in the series.

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