UNC takes down another ranked team

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina has been tough enough in games against elite opponents this season.

Guard Marcus Paige heated up by scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half and forward James Michael McAdoo scored 20 points as the No. 18 Tar Heels defeated 11th-ranked Kentucky 82-77 on Saturday at Dean Smith Center.

"It was crazy," said Paige, a sophomore who was 10-for-10 on free throws. "That was the most intense (this building) has been since I've been here."

The outcome gave North Carolina (7-2) three victories against nationally ranked opponents. Kentucky (8-3) is 0-3 against ranked teams.

Paige said he was confident the Tar Heels could navigate the rugged early schedule. This was the first of the high-profile games on their court.

"It's the first time I've experienced this," freshman guard Nate Britt said. "I had fun. ... Things have been up and down -- the two losses and the three big wins."

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he liked the way his team competed coming out of final exams. He said his team's toughness might be difficult to define.

"I don't want a street fight with anybody," he said, knowing his team had a tough time rebounding at times.

There were enough fluid moments to make Williams happy. Paige's assist to forward Brice Johnson for a dunk in transition pushed the Tar Heels to a 72-65 lead with 1:15 left.

The Tar Heels, who own victories against previously No. 3 Louisville and No. 1 Michigan State and losses to Belmont and Alabama-Birmingham, benefited from 18 Kentucky turnovers.

North Carolina forward J.P. Tokoto tacked on 15 points.

Kentucky guards Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison scored 20 and 17 points, respectively, and guard James Young added 16.

The Wildcats, though, didn't match North Carolina's grit in clutch situations.

"At some points in the game, but not the whole game," Aaron Harrison said. "You have to be tough down the stretch and be strong."

The Tar Heels broke a 46-46 tie when back-to-back turnovers led to North Carolina baskets, setting the tone for a series of fast-break scores.

North Carolina held a 66-58 edge, but Kentucky scored the next five points. The Wildcats failed to pull closer because of a missed layup.

North Carolina made 26 of 45 free throws, and that's an area that Williams said needs to be addressed.

"We made enough (this game)," he said.

North Carolina was charged with six fouls in the opening five minutes of the second half, putting Kentucky in free-throw shooting situations. The Wildcats made 29 of 43 free throws.

"It's tough, but it's the next guy up," Paige said. "Guys decided we had to dig in and play defense."

Kentucky, which lost its previous two games against ranked opponents (Michigan State and Baylor) this season, didn't take advantage of a 44-32 rebounding advantage.

"When we hit those spots (in the game), we're just not there right now," Kentucky coach John Calipari said of late-game execution.

North Carolina led 33-30 at halftime, making three free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining in the half after the third foul on forward Willie Cauley-Stein and a technical foul on Calipari.

Tokoto scored 11 of North Carolina's first 26 points. But he had his fourth foul with 11:34 left and Johnson was assessed his fourth foul less than a minute later.

Kentucky's 19-12 lead disappeared on the strength of North Carolina's 18-6 run, all coming without a point from Paige, the team scoring leader whose only scoring in the first half came on free throws courtesy of Calipari's technical foul.

Kentucky led for most of the first half until Joel James' putback gave the Tar Heels their first lead at 24-23 with less than six minutes left in the first half.

Foul trouble altered Kentucky's lineup. In the opening 16 minutes, four Wildcats starters picked up two fouls apiece and reserve center Dakari Johnson had three.

NOTES: North Carolina G P.J. Hairston and G Leslie McDonald remained out of action as the school waits to hear from the NCAA regarding their eligibility. They participated in the fan's "white-out," wearing T-shirts as they sat on the bench. ... These programs are two of the three winningest in men's basketball. Kentucky has the most wins (2,119) and North Carolina is third (2,097) behind Kansas (2,107). ... The teams resurrected the series, which North Carolina leads 23-13, after skipping last season. Kentucky won 73-72 on Dec. 1, 2011, in the most recent meeting, which was the 13th clash in a 12-season span. ... Kentucky has three more games before a Jan. 11 visit to Vanderbilt. All three are at home, with Belmont's visit coming next Saturday. ... North Carolina is two games into a six-game homestand, with the next game Wednesday night against Texas.

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