UK vs. NC felt like Final Four

Published 1:33 am Monday, December 19, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari figures the sixth-ranked Wildcats and seventh-ranked North Carolina are still sorting through what kind of teams they can be.
If that’s the case, they both will stick around long into March.
The Wildcats got a freshman program-record 47 points from Malik Monk to hold off the Tar Heels 103-100 in a Saturday thriller, the week’s only matchup of top-10 teams from the AP Top 25 . It was a glimpse of the high-level potential for both the freshman-led Wildcats and veteran Tar Heels, two teams that sure looked like Final Four favorites in Las Vegas.
“We’re still trying to figure each other out,” Calipari said afterward. “They’re trying to figure each other out. … If we had lost that game, I’d be saying, ‘It’s December 17th, and this is who we are on December 17th against a really good team. Good enough to beat them. Good enough to lose to them. That’s who we are.
“Now my thing is: where are we going to be one month from now?”
Monk’s huge performance — capped by the go-ahead 3 with 16.7 seconds left — was so good that fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox’s 24-point, 10-assist effort went practically unnoticed by comparison.
Meanwhile, UNC juniors Justin Jackson (career-high 34 points) and Joel Berry II (23 points and seven assists in return from ankle injury) led a deep offense that ran with the Wildcats like few teams can or will.
“I mean, we were right there against one of the best teams in the country, and I guess that’s all you can take from it,” Jackson said. “I mean, we kept fighting, which is what I’m extremely proud of everybody on that team. And we were right there.”
As for poll implications, Kentucky could get a bump, while it’s hard to imagine UNC taking much of a slide after a game that will stand out even when by the time the nets come down in April.

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