No. 21-ranked UK men blast North Carolina in CBS Classic

Wildcats dominant from start to finish over Tar Heels

LAS VEGAS (UK Athletics)  – Sahvir Wheeler scored 26 points and No. 21 Kentucky beat North Carolina 98-69 on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic.

Wheeler, who shot a season-best 80% (12 of 15) from the floor, was one of four Wildcats to score in double figures in Kentucky’s first victory away from Rupp Arena (click here for post-game interviews).

Oscar Tshiebwe added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (8-2), while Kellan Grady had 18 points and Keion Brooks Jr. had 10.

The Tar Heels (8-3) had kept five straight opponents below 64 points. They were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.

Armando Bacot led North Carolina with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while RJ Davis had 10 points.

The CBS Sports Classic was reshuffled days in advance due to COVID-19 to line up Kentucky against North Carolina for the second straight season.

Kentucky was previously scheduled to play Ohio State, but the game was canceled Thursday due to positive COVID-19 test results within the Buckeyes program. North Carolina was scheduled to play UCLA, but the Bruins have had ongoing COVID-19 issues.

North Carolina won last season’s matchup 75-63 in Cleveland, but the Wildcats had no trouble Saturday on Las Vegas Boulevard, winning for the sixth time in nine matchups overall in the BlueBlood series.

The Wildcats raced to their biggest lead of the first half, an 18-point advantage with 4:18 left behind a balanced scoring attack that saw nine players on the scoresheet.

Led by Wheeler, who had 14 points in the first half, the Wildcats were 15 of 37 (40.5%) from the floor, including 3 for 7 (42.9%) from 3-point range.

North Carolina, on the other hand, couldn’t find any sort of rhythm outside of Bacot, who scored 11 of the team’s first 13 points before sitting down with his second foul.

The Heels struggled during cold-shooting stretches of 0 for 7, 1 for 9 and 2 for 12.

Down 17 late in the half, Bacot scored six straight points to get North Carolina within 11.

The Tar Heels hit just 10 of 27 from the floor in the first 20 minutes, during which they didn’t get many second-chance opportunities with Kentucky dominating the paint by outrebounding North Carolina 26-14.

Kentucky took a 40-29 lead into halftime.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina dropped to 1-3 against ranked opponents this season.

Kentucky came into the game leading the country in rebound margin (plus-16.3) and outrebounded the Heels by 18 boards 44-26.

POLL PICTURE

North Carolina was receiving votes and sat 27th in the latest poll and will likely fall further back.

Kentucky could move upward considering the dominant performance in its lone game this week.

UP NEXT

North Carolina hosts Appalachian State in one last non-conference game on Tuesday.

Kentucky hosts in-state rival Louisville on Wednesday.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky improved to 8-2 this season with the victory Saturday. UK snapped a five-game North Carolina winning streak to drop the Tar Heels to 8-3 in 2021-22.
  • The Wildcats’ 29-point margin was the second largest margin in the series’ history. UK’s 39-point win on Jan. 9, 1950 is the largest. Kentucky won that game 83-44.
  • UK cut UNC’s series lead to 25-17 and 13-7 in games played at neutral sites.
    • Kentucky is 2-0 vs. the Tar Heels in games played in T-Mobile Arena.
    • UK has won six of the last nine matchups vs. UNC.
  • The Wildcats are now 4-4 in the CBS Sports Classic, including 3-1 vs. North Carolina.
    • The Tar Heels lead the four-team event with a 5-3 mark, but the Wildcats have handed the Tar Heels all three of their losses in the annual event.
    • UK was originally slated to play Ohio State and UNC was scheduled to face UCLA, but both teams had to withdraw from the event due to COVID-19 results within their respective programs.
      • The event’s current ledger: UNC is 5-2, Ohio State is 4-3, UK is 4-4 and UCLA is 2-5.
  • The Wildcats notched their first victory away from Rupp Arena this season in their third try.
    • They are 1-1 in neutral-site games this season.
  • Next up: Kentucky heads home to host archrival Louisville on Wednesday at Rupp Arena. That game will be televised by ESPN at 6 p.m. p.m. ET.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky led by as many as 35 points. UK is 294-12 in the John Calipari era when leading by at least 10 points at any time in the contest.
  • In a battle of two of the nation’s best rebounding teams, the Wildcats flexed their muscles by beating the bigger, taller Tar Heels 44-26.
    • UK is 8-1 this season when it outrebounds the opposition.
    • Kentucky entered the game No. 1 in the country with a plus-16.3 rebounding margin. UNC was ranked 13th coming into Saturday with a plus-10.7 edge per game.
    • The Wildcats grabbed 17 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points.
  • The Wildcats made 39 of 72 shots, the fourth time this season they have shot 50% or better.
    • They are 4-0 this season when making 50% or better from the floor and 8-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • UK also made 8 of 15 from 3-point range.
    • It’s the second time this season the Cats have hit at least 50% of their 3-point shots with victories in both of those games.
  • Kentucky dished out 20 assists with nine turnovers.
    • It’s the third time this season the Wildcats have dished out at least 20 assists with wins in both of those games.

 Player Notes 

  • Coming off a 0-for-5 shooting night against Notre Dame last week, Sahvir Wheeler responded to the adversity sensationally with a season-high 26 points, eight assists and a season-high four steals.
    • It was his sixth game in double-figure scoring this season but his first since Nov. 26 vs. North Florida, snapping a three-game single-digit scoring drought.
    • Wheeler was 12 of 15 from the floor, a career high for field goals made.
    • Ranked second national in assists per game entering Saturday with 7.7 per game, Wheeler notched his fifth game this season with at least eight assists.
  • Oscar Tshiebwe continued his early season All-America campaign with his eighth double-double in 10 games, posting 16 points to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds in 22 minutes.
    • Tshiebwe was 7 of 12 from the floor.
    • The nation’s leading rebounder entering the game notched his ninth double-figure rebounding game of the season.
  • With 18 points, Kellan Grady scored in double figures for the third time this season but the first time since Nov. 22 vs. UAlbany.
    • Five of Grady’s field goals were from 3, a season high.
    • He also added a season-high six rebounds.
  • Keion Brooks Jr. contributed 10 points, marking the sixth game he’s reached double figures this season.

 Coach Calipari

  • John Calipari is now 347-95 at UK.
  • Calipari now has a 792-235 all-time on-court record.
  • UK improved to 283-56 under Calipari in games vs. unranked Associated Press competition.
  • Calipari is now 8-4 in all-time meetings vs. North Carolina.
  • The Wildcats moved to 80-28 in neutral-site games under Calipari’s watch.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky started Sahvir Wheeler, TyTy Washington Jr., Kellan Grady, Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe for the ninth time this season and the fourth game in a row. UK is now 8-2 with that starting lineup.
  • Tshiebwe, who entered the game with three straight 20-point scoring performances, logged the first points for the Wildcats with a driving layup as he was fouled for an old-fashion 3-point play.
    • That jumpstarted UK on a 7-0 run to take an early 7-2 lead.
  • Wheeler asserted himself early and often in this one with six of Kentucky’s first 11 points, plus a steal, by the first media timeout (15:26).
  • Jacob Toppin and Davion Mintz were Kentucky’s first two subs, both entering at the 15:26 mark out of the timeout.
  • Tshiebwe, who had seven rebounds in the first seven-plus minutes, picked up his second foul at the 12:37 mark and headed to the bench for the rest of the first half.
  • UK opened up a 19-6 lead on the shoulders of back-to-back 3-pointers from Mintz and Grady, which was part of a 10-0 run.
    • The Wildcats held the Tar Heels without a point for 5:10 of game time.
  • The first half was best summed up with a fourth-chance bucket for UK to take a 31-15 lead. UK grabbed three straight offensive rebounds – two by Washington – to highlight a dominant offensive first half on the glass.
  • UK extended its leads all the way to 35-17 on a layup by Wheeler with 4:21 before halftime, but UNC would close the half with a 12-5 spurt. Kentucky went into the locker room with a 40-29 advantage.
    • The Wildcats are 8-1 when leading at the half this season.
  • Even with Tshiebwe limited to seven minutes in the first half because of two fouls, Kentucky was dominant on the glass and outrebounded the Tar Heels 26-14, including 11 to three on the offensive boards.
  • Wheeler was spectacular in the first half with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with three steals.
  • Washington added seven points and three rebounds.
  • UNC’s Armando Bacot kept the Tar Heels in the game with 17 first-half points.

 In the Second Half

  • Mintz got the start in the second half in place of Washington alongside Wheeler, Grady, Brooks and Tshiebwe.
  • UK picked up right where it left off in the first half with a 13-6 advantage in the first 3:43 of the second half for a 53-35 lead.
    • Wheeler kept attacking and had six of the points.
  • Making 15 of their first 20 shots, the Wildcats lead stretched to 78-48 after a Tshiebwe offensive rebound and thunderous one-hand slam with 8:56 left, putting an exclamation point on a 6-0 run.
  • Kentucky made a blistering 24 of 36 shots in the second half, 66.7%. It was the best shooting percentage in a half since the Wildcats connected on 14 of 21 shots (66.7%) at Florida on Jan. 9, 2021.
  • The Wildcats led by as many 35 points in a 98-63 lead with 1:20 to play.
  • Grady scored 15 of his points in the second half to lead all scorers. Tshiebwe had 13 and Wheeler added 12 as three players registered double-figure points in the second stanza.
  • Wheeler dished out seven of his eight assists in the half as the Wildcats posted 13 assists on 24 made field goals.

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