UK's season ends in 75-73 heartbreak as UNC advances to Final Four

Derek Terry, Beat Writer
Cats Illustrated
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Luke Maye's two-point jumper with 0.3 seconds left gave No. 1 seed North Carolina a 75-73 win over Kentucky (32-6) and sent the Tar Heels to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.

"Theo (Pinson) just drove down court and was penetrating towards the basket and kind of picked my man a little bit" Maye said. "I just stepped back and he gave me the ball and I just shot it. Luckily it went in."

Kentucky took a five-point lead with 5:10 left in the second half, but North Carolina, resilient all day, strung together 12 consecutive points to regain control. The Tar Heels led by seven until De'Aaron Fox made a three-point jumper in the corner to cut the lead to four. Kentucky's defense forced a five-second call on Kennedy Meeks, giving the Wildcats the ball back. Malik Monk, who struggled shooting most of the day, knocked down a three to cut the lead to one.

Justin Jackson hit a layup on the other end on a long inbounds pass to put the Tar Heels back up by three. The Wildcats turned the ball over on the following possession but got a another chance to tie when Jackson missed the front-end of a one-and-one. The ball ended up in Monk's hands and he rose over two North Carolina defenders and drained a three to tie the game with nine seconds left.

Pinson rushed the ball up the floor and found Maye open inside the arc for the game-winning jumper.

"When (Monk's) three went in and it tied the game, I probably should have called a timeout," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after. "It entered my mind but they got that son of a b in so quick, I couldn't get to anybody to do it."

Kentucky took its first lead on a pair of Adebayo free throws with 17:35 left in the game. As they would do later in the game, The Tar Heels countered and went on a 9-2 run to take a six-point lead. The Wildcats battled back and forth, but in the end Maye was the difference maker. He scored 17 points on six of nine shooting. Jackson, who scored 34 against the Wildcats in December, led the Tar Heels with 19 points.

For as unlikely as Maye's heroics were, Kentucky's Isaac Humphries was just as surprising. The sophomore scored a career-high 12 points off the bench and was the main contributor in helping Kentucky take its largest lead at five in the second half.

"So proud of Isaac," Calipari said after the game. "Can you imagine his first real opportunity to do this was in this game, and he performed? Amazing."

The freshmen trio of Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo—all whom likely played their final games for the Wildcats—combined for 40 points. Senior Dominique Hawkins scored all 10 of his points in the first half while Derek Willis scored six points on 3 of 6 shooting.

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Inside the Kentucky locker room after the game, players buried their faces while others answered questions with tears rolling down their face.

"We all love each other," Fox said. "I don't have words for what I felt. I didn't want it to end like that. I wish I could've done more for these seniors."

Monk, who had one of the best freshman seasons in Kentucky history, said he'll remember his season with the Wildcats by "this game." He shook off a poor first half and hit timely clutch shots down the stretch to put Kentucky in position to tie the game.

Adebayo was Kentucky's main source of offense for a stretch in the second half. He scored 12 of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes. After the game, Adebayo stared at the ground and told reporters what this team meant to him.

"I love them to death," Adebayo said. "They're all family to me. Our staff did a good job. We just came up short."

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