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John Calipari and Wildcats recap signature win over No. 9 UNC, plus postgame notes

Kentucky’s eighth win is its biggest of the young season.

Aaron Bradshaw. DJ Wagner. Rob Dillingham. Huddle. Drew Brown - A Sea Of Blue

Wow. That’s a word often said when Kentucky and North Carolina face off, and this one was no different.

While Kentucky was ahead much of the way, the Tar Heels did just enough to stay within striking distance.

With five minutes to go, the Heels finally struck, taking their first lead of the game at 72-71. But instead of folding against veteran-heavy UNC, the young Cats made big play after big play in the clutch.

Aaron Bradshaw made a layup to put Kentucky back in the lead, and Rob Dillingham hit three shots down the stretch to ensure the Cats stayed ahead for good en route to an 87-83 victory.

After the game, head coach John Calipari and select players met with the media to discuss what was easily Kentucky’s biggest win of the season. Here is a recap of what they had to say via UK Athletics.

And here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 8-2 on the season, North Carolina is 7-3.
  • North Carolina leads the series, 25-18, but the Wildcats have won the last two meetings.
  • UNC leads 13-8 in games played at neutral sites.
  • Kentucky is 5-5 all-time in the CBS Sports Classic, including 4-1 against North Carolina in the event.
  • UK is 71-33 all-time in games played in Atlanta, including 1-2 vs. North Carolina.
  • Next for Kentucky: on Thursday, the Wildcats travel to Louisville to take on the in-state rival Cardinals. Game time is 6 p.m. and it will be televised on ESPN.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky is now 2-1 against top-10 ranked opponents this season, with wins over North Carolina and Miami and a loss to Kansas (opponent ranking at time of game).
  • Kentucky won the rebounding, 42-32, going +10 in rebounding for the second straight game. UK is 5-0 this season when leading the boardwork.
  • UK won offensive rebounding 18-6, leading to a 15-6 advantage in second-chance points.
  • Two huge offensive rebounds by Aaron Bradshaw:
  • His rebound and putback erased North Carolina’s only lead of the game when the Tar Heels had gone ahead 72-71.
  • With the shot clock expiring, Bradshaw rebounded Tre Mitchell’s desperation 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, was fouled, and made two free throws to give UK an 85-81 cushion.
  • Sparked by Rob Dillingham’s 17 points and 11 from Reed Sheppard, UK won bench points 36-14.
  • Led by Adou Thiero’s career-high four blocked shots, UK had a season-high nine blocks.
  • Kentucky led by as many as 12 points. UK is 336-15 (95.7%) in the Calipari era when leading by at least 10 points at any time in the contest.
  • All nine Wildcats who played scored at least one point.

Player Notes

  • Rob Dillingham led UK with 17 points. He has scored in double figures in every game but one this season.
  • D.J. Wagner had 14 points, tied for the team lead in rebounds with six, and had a game-high five assists.
  • UK is 8-0 this season when he scores at least five points.
  • Making his first collegiate start, Aaron Bradshaw had 12 points, his second straight game in double figures. He led Kentucky in plus/minus with a +9 total.
  • Reed Sheppard notched 11 points, tied for the team high with six rebounds, and had two steals – extending his streak of at least two steals in every game this season.
  • Antonio Reeves had nine points, the first game this season he did not hit double figures.
  • He extended his streak of 21 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, longest UK streak since Kellan Grady had a 21-game stretch in the 2021-22 season.
  • Tre Mitchell had eight points and five rebounds. He has had at least four boards in every game this season.
  • Adou Thiero had seven points and a career-best four blocked shots.
  • Ugonna Onyenso saw his first action of the season, totaling one point, one rebound and three blocked shots in 10 minutes.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari has an 840-255 (76.7%) all-time on-court record, including 395-115 (77.5%) at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is 71-50 (58.7%) at UK against ranked competition.
  • Calipari is 9-4 vs. North Carolina.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky started D.J. Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw and Tre Mitchell for the first time this season.
  • Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard were UK’s first substitutions with 16:58 remaining.
  • UK never trailed in the first half, lengthening the lead to as many as 11 points at 24-13.
  • Kentucky led 40-30 with 2:45 remaining, but North Carolina closed the half with an 8-0 run to make it 40-38 at halftime.
  • Bradshaw, Wagner, Sheppard and Adou Thiero led UK with seven points each.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
  • North Carolina scored on the opening possession, extending the run to 10-0 and tying the game at 40.
  • Kentucky responded with a 15-3 spurt, claiming the largest lead at 55-43.
  • North Carolina rallied steadily, taking its first (and only) lead, 72-71, with 5:15 left.
  • The Wildcats roared back with three straight baskets, forcing a UNC timeout with 3:45 remaining.
  • Clinging to an 83-81 lead, Bradshaw made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 45 seconds left.
  • After two UNC free throws, Dillingham made the second of two free throws with 11.9 seconds remaining to make it 86-83.
  • With 4.7 seconds left, Bradshaw made the second of two free throws to provide the final score of 87-83.