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Hubert Davis on why Kentucky beat North Carolina

Ugo helped in this department in his first game back.

Ugonna Onyenso Drew Brown - A Sea Of Blue

More often than not, Kentucky vs. North Carolina ends up being a thriller, and that held true in the 2023 edition of this blue-blooded rivalry.

When the final horn sounded, it was Kentucky who came away with a thrilling 87-83 victory. While it was certainly a barnburner, the final score doesn’t quite tell the whole story of what was every bit of a grind-it-out slugfest as an offensive shootout.

In the first half, Kentucky shot a putrid 14/40 from the field (35%), though UNC wasn’t much better at 13/31 (41.9%).

Things picked up more in the second half, as Kentucky hit 16/32 shots (50%) after the break, while the Heels hit 14/26 shots (52.8%).

You’ll notice that Kentucky ended up taking 15 more shots than North Carolina did, and boy did that prove to be massive in a game decided by four points.

That’s because Kentucky largely won the paint battle, out-rebounding North Carolina 43-32 and out-blocking them 9-5. Kentucky dominated on the offensive boards, 18-6, helping lead to a 16-5 margin on second-chance points.

Simply put, Kentucky won because it out-muscled the veteran Tar Heels, and head coach Hubert Davis said as much during postgame interviews.

“Kentucky eas tougher than us in the trenches.

The best part of this was it being far from a single person’s effort. Kentucky got big contributions from several guys in this department.

It was actually Justin Edwards, Reed Sheppard, and DJ Wagner who tied for the team-high in rebounds with six apiece.

Adou Thiero came off the bench to block a game-high shots.

And then there’s Ugonna Onyenso, who made his 2023-24 debut and finished with three blocks in just nine minutes of play.

Kentucky actually had more blocks from bench players (eight) than UNC had as a team (five).

That’s how you win games in March, and this absolutely had the feel of a March classic.

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