EditorsNote: Corrects Keldon Johnson’s point total, other stat fixes
Freshman guard Keldon Johnson scored 23 points as No. 19 Kentucky defeated No. 9 North Carolina 80-72 in a battle of storied programs Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.
Reid Travis, who helped the Wildcats (9-2) get off to a good start, tallied 20 points.
Tyler Herro’s 15 points and PJ Washington’s 11 also gave Kentucky a lift.
Johnson had four of Kentucky’s nine 3-point baskets, with his shooting helping the team maintain a second-half lead. Herro added three treys.
Cameron Johnson’s 17 points paced North Carolina (8-3). Luke Maye added 16 points and Kenny Williams had 11 points as seniors were the top three scorers for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina was trying to build off its toppling of Gonzaga from a week earlier but was hindered by 17 turnovers even though Kentucky also had 18.
Kentucky maintained control for most of the second half, benefitting from North Carolina turnovers that turned into scoring chances.
After the Tar Heels pulled within 66-60, Washington’s 3 and Ashton Hagans’ layup helped the Wildcats regain a double-digit lead.
Kentucky led 40-31 at halftime, closing the half on a 10-4 run even with a turnover on the final possession. Travis had 16 points by halftime.
The Wildcats didn’t have great first-half numbers, shooting 42.4 percent from the field, including 4-for-15 on 3-pointers. Both teams committed 10 turnovers before halftime.
But the Wildcats limited the Tar Heels on the interior, and North Carolina went to the line for only two free throws by that juncture (and finished 11-for-16 on foul shots).
Nick Richard had six rebounds off the bench as Kentucky controlled the boards with a 43-33 rebounding edge.
The teams hadn’t played since two thrillers in the 2016-17 season, with Kentucky winning in Las Vegas and North Carolina prevailing in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight round on the way to the national championship. Maye made the winning basket in the tournament game that sent the Tar Heels to the Final Four.
—Field Level Media