CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—North Carolina was sloppy, slow and allowed Kentucky to snatch a loose ball in a tight situation. It was the perfect time for coach Roy Williams to bench his starters and give his young players a scare.
“He pulled us off and showed us how important it was to get on the floor for loose balls,” freshman Wayne Ellington said of the second-half benching en masse. “It’s intense. He showed a little bit of fire.”
He and the rest of the Tar Heels finally got the message. Ellington scored 17 points, fellow freshman Brandan Wright added 16 and No. 7 North Carolina went on to rout the Wildcats 75-63 on Saturday in a game between college basketball’s winningest schools.
Reyshawn Terry also scored 16 points and capped the Tar Heels’ decisive run with a pair of 3-pointers.
“I felt like early on, I got in the rhythm going, got some defensive stops, got some assists and it just opened up a lot of things and I got in the flow,” Terry said.
North Carolina (6-1) never trailed and won its second high-profile nonconference game of the week at the Dean Smith Center, where the team is 3-0 this season.
The Tar Heels overcame Randolph Morris’ 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting to earn their third straight victory in this series. North Carolina is 41 behind the Wildcats’ NCAA record of 1,930 victories.
Wright has scored at least 10 points in each of his seven games as a Tar Heel. For Terry, this was his second consecutive strong performance against Kentucky. He had a career-high 25 in the Tar Heels’ win last December.
“It just happened to be Kentucky,” Terry said. “Last year, I had a good game against them, and I had a good start early on today (this time) and it seemed to work out for me for the whole game.”
The pivotal 11-2 stretch in this one started with Williams’ lecture. He pulled his five starters with 17:16 remaining, upset that they allowed Kentucky to make its first three shots in the second half, pull within 36-33 and get to one loose ball in particular.
“The basketball was rolling on the floor and we’re tiptoeing through the freaking tulips reaching over to get the ball,” Williams said. “It is so stupid. We’re going to dive after the ball. We had four guys daintily trying to get the ball. If it’s on the floor it says North Carolina basketball and if you’re not going to get it, I’ll get somebody else in who will.”
Moments after Wright started the run with a hook shot, he and the other starters were benched for about 2 1/2 minutes while they caught grief from their coach.
“We had to get down and dirty with it,” Wright said.
When they returned, Terry got hot. He made two 3-pointers 26 seconds apart to push the Tar Heels’ lead into double figures for the first time, 47-35, with just over 13 minutes left. Kentucky never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
“It was just in the flow of the game—Ty (Lawson, the point guard) got some open looks, he penetrated, their guys helped and I was able to get open,” Terry said.
Joe Crawford had 16 points and Bobby Perry added 12 for the Wildcats (4-3), who outrebounded North Carolina 42-36 but lost their third game against a ranked team this season.
North Carolina, playing three days after a wild 98-89 victory over No. 3 Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, found itself in an entirely different style of game against the Wildcats.
“It was one of those games where we had to grind it out,” Terry said. “The younger fellows, they’re starting to realize how important it is to take one game, and just deal with it and get ready for the next game.”
For the most part, Morris was Kentucky’s offense in the first half. He was 5-of-5 shooting with 11 points during the opening 20 minutes. The rest of the Wildcats were a combined 6-for-23 and went 0-for-9 from 3-point range—out of character for a team that entered shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
“Obviously, they let me catch the ball in the post,” Morris said. “Anytime I feel like I catch the ball with somebody behind me, I have the potential to score. I was just making shots today.”
Tyler Hansbrough, the star of the Ohio State win with 21 points, struggled against the Wildcats for the second straight season.
The sophomore preseason All-American has failed to reach double figures three times in his career—and two of those came against Kentucky. A year after scoring just six points against the Wildcats, Hansbrough finished this one with a season-low seven.
“We just tried to help pack it in on the inside and eliminate his touches, and trap when he gets the ball,” Morris said.