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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Five things we learned from Kentucky-North Carolina

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Only one sure-fire conclusion could be drawn from No. 1 Kentucky's 73-72 home victory over No. 5 North Carolina on Saturday morning: It left anyone who watched craving a rematch.

While there was no way to say which of the two is the better team right now, there was plenty to learn from what was the best college basketball game yet to be played this season.

• When Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones both play like that, Kentucky is the toughest team to guard in America. For Kidd-Gilchrist, it was the 6-foot-7 freshman's most impressive offensive game yet at UK. He had 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and attacked the middle of North Carolina's defense at will. He's a brutal match-up for opponents when he takes the ball off of the bounce from the wing. As for Jones, well, you know what to expect. He did everything from hit jumpers to deliver a nasty dunk on a nice back-to-the-basket move against John Henson and Tyler Zeller. The duo also combined for 18 rebounds. Basically, it was two future NBA lottery picks playing up to that billing at the same time. That's damn near un-guardable for anyone.

• North Carolina definitely got a wake-up call last Saturday in Las Vegas. In a 90-80 loss to UNLV in the Las Vegas Invitational, the Rebels won arguably every hustle point that was available. They took things away from the Tar Heels on the perimeter all night long and consistently outworked them on the glass on both ends. After surviving a grinder against Wisconsin on Wednesday night, UNC looked like the aggressor for its share of the game on Saturday. The Tar Heels led for the better part of the contest, and every time the Wildcats made a push — including in the final minutes — they had an answer. Yes, they suffered their second loss in eight days, but from both a talent and effort standpoint, UNC played like one of the nation's true elite teams in Lexington. {YSP:MORE}

• P.J. Hairston could be one of the nation's deadliest weapons off of the bench. Despite a wrist injury suffered earlier in the week, the UNC freshman came up huge off of the bench, scoring 11 points in 14 minutes and hitting three of four 3-point attempts. He's now 17-of-31 from deep this season, despite only averaging a little over 12 minutes per game. He could see some more minutes over the next month as the Tar Heels' schedule softens significantly before ACC play begins. Both he and Reggie Bullock could see more minutes if Roy Williams decides to give Harrison Barnes's ankle a bit of a rest.

• Marquis Teague isn't far off. Kentucky's freshman point guard didn't have a great day scoring the ball, but he managed the offense pretty well. He committed only one turnover, which gives him three in the team's last three games after registering 20 in their first five. Still, he missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the free throw line that gave UNC a shot at the late go-ahead score. That miscue stood out some because of the magnitude of the situation in which it happened, but either way, he's developing rapidly all around.

• Anthony Davis's star will only continue to grow. The 6-foot-10 freshman had dominated some undersized opponents coming into Saturday, and though he didn't put up mind-blowing numbers against UNC, Davis proved late why he's the most dangerous young big man in the country. After a silent first half, he finished the afternoon with seven points, nine rebounds and this college basketball's signature defensive play. The block left UNC so stunned that the Tar Heels took a moment to react once he corralled the loose ball with 5.5 seconds left. They were never able to commit a foul, and the clock ran dry. A second half like that in his first game against an elite-level front line should do wonders for the still-raw Davis moving forward.

Follow Ryan Greene on Twitter: @ryanmgreene

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