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Kentucky vs. North Carolina: Revisiting The Rivalry


Two of the all-time winningest programs in the history of college basketball will meet for the 26th time this Saturday when your University of Kentucky Wildcats roll into Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels of North Carolina. The two teams have squared off 13 times since the series was renewed in 2000, with a break last season to offset the home-home schedule and a postseason showdown in the 2011 NCAA East Regional Finals in Newark, New Jersey. North Carolina currently leads the series 22-13, but Kentucky has won three of the last four under John Calipari after dropping five consecutive meetings from 2004 to 2008 under Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie.

Tonight on KSR, as a way to get you ready for one of your favorite Saturdays in December, I have a complete rundown of the UK-UNC series, dating all the way back to the first time the two programs met in 1924. Shout-out to Jon Scott and Big Blue History for all the research and information.


North Carolina 41, Kentucky 20
February 24, 1924
SEC Tournament, Atlanta, GA

Three years after shocking the south by winning its first Southern Conference Championship, Kentucky drew North Carolina in the first round of the 1924 bracket, resulting in a loss to the much better Tar Heels. North Carolina’s Jack Cobb almost outscored Kentucky on his own with 17 points in the 41-20 win. The Tar Heels went on to win the tournament.

North Carolina 26, Kentucky 15
January 1, 1929
Alumni Gymnasium, Lexington, KY

4,000 Kentucky basketball fans showed up for a disappointing outing from the team in blue, their first loss of the season. The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Neil Plummer wrote, “A lot of credit must be given to the Tarheels, who seemingly could hit a basketball goal dead center from almost any part of the floor, it was a Wildcat team that played as if it didn’t know what a basketball was, that aided the visitors in their drive to victory.”

North Carolina 43, Kentucky 42
February 27, 1932
SEC Tournament, Atlanta, GA

UK fell one point shy in Adolph Rupp’s first shot at North Carolina. Kentucky’s Forest Sale, whose jersey hangs in Rupp Arena today, had a game-high 20 points but it still wasn’t enough to get the W as the Wildcats blew a nine-point lead in the second half en route to the loss.

North Carolina’s Virgil Weathers hit a “one-armed heave” with 30 seconds left to give the Tarheels its first lead and the final score, 43-42.

(2) Kentucky 83, North Carolina 44
January 9, 1950
Alumni Gym, Lexington, KY

Kentucky won its first game over North Carolina in front of 2,200 fans in Alumni Gym in 1950. Four players — Walter Hersch, Jim Line, Bill Spivey, and Dale Barnstable — reached double-figures for the Wildcats, with Hersch’s 18 points leading the way. It was the ninth win in the first ten games of the 1949-50 season, with the lone loss coming to Frank McGuire’s St. Johns team in the third game of the year. UK finished the season with a 25-5 record, including an SEC Championship and a loss to eventual champion City College of New York in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Kentucky 76, North Carolina 70
December 18, 1959
Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, KY

Bennie Coffman and Bill Lickert combined for half of Kentucky’s 76 points in the win over North Carolina in the University of Kentucky Invitational Tournament. The tournament also featured St. Louis, West Virginia, and that awesome poster you see above.

Kentucky lost in the UKIT finals to West Virginia, a Mountaineers team that featured a young Jerry West.

Kentucky 70, (5) North Carolina 65
December 13, 1960
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC

Head coach Frank McGuire, now at UNC, and his fifth-ranked Tar Heels lost to Kentucky, 70-65, in the first time the rivalry was played on North Carolina soil. Vincent Del Negro, the father of former NBA coach/player Vinny Del Negro, scored six points for UK in the win.

By show of hands, how many of you knew Vinny Del Negro Sr. played for Kentucky?

North Carolina 68, Kentucky 66
December 17, 1962
Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, KY

Dean Smith won the first Dean Smith/Adolph Rupp showdown in 1962. A young Larry Brown led the way with 19 points, outshining Kentucky star Cotton Nash in the two point win.

Little did we know at the time, probably because most of us weren’t born yet, Smith, Rupp, and Brown would go on to win a lot of basketball games throughout their careers.

(9) Kentucky 100, North Carolina 80
December 9, 1963
Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, KY

Cotton Nash got his revenge two years later by scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out five assists in a blowout win over North Carolina. UNC’s Billy Cunningham led all scorers with 32, but the Wildcats were too much for the Tar Heels in this one, shooting 41-of-82 from the field.

(13) North Carolina 82, (11) Kentucky 67
December 7, 1964
Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

With Cotton Nash in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, a young Pat Riley stepped up for the Cats with a team-high 16 points. The freshman’s efforts weren’t enough, though, as Billy Cunningham led all scorers once again with 22 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in the UNC win.

Fun Fact: Cunningham was nicknamed “The Kangaroo Kid.”

(8) North Carolina 64, (3) Kentucky 55
December 13, 1966
Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, KY

Led by 24 points from Larry Miller, 8th-ranked North Carolina defeated 3rd-ranked Kentucky in Lexington, 64-55. Miller was later named ACC Player of the Year that season.

(5) North Carolina 77, (9) Kentucky 84
December 12, 1967
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC

Meeting for a second consecutive season as top 10 teams, North Carolina handed Kentucky a third consecutive loss in the rivalry, this time in Greensboro, North Carolina.

A sophomore Mike Pratt tallied 13 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

(2) North Carolina 87, (3) Kentucky 77
December 7, 1968
Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, KY

11,500 fans showed up to watch Kentucky lose, yet again, to North Carolina. This time the two teams were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the AP poll. Kentucky’s Mike Casey had a game-high 26 points in the loss. Dan Issel added 19 points and nine boards.

(2) Kentucky 94, (7) North Carolina 87
December 8, 1969
Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

Sitting at 1-5 against Dean Smith in his career, Adolph Rupp finally got back in the series’ win column in 1969. Dan Issel and Mike Pratt were the stars of the game for the Wildcats. Issel scored 41 points on 15-of-31 shooting with 15 rebounds, alongside Pratt’s 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Kentucky lost to Jacksonville in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight later that season.

(13) North Carolina 78, (8) Kentucky 70
December 11, 1972
Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY

Now with Joe B. Hall at the helm, Kentucky fell to North Carolina, 78-70, in front of 16,000 fans in Louisville’s Freedom Hall. The loss was the third in the first four games of Coach Hall’s head coaching career. The Cats finished the year with a 20-8 record and a loss to Indiana in the Mideast Regional Finals in Nashville.

(5) North Carolina 101, (10) Kentucky 84
December 10, 1973
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC

Kentucky’s Kevin Grevey led all scorers with 23 points, but Grevey’s effort wasn’t enough as Kentucky lost again to North Carolina, the second time in Joe B. Hall’s first two years.

All-American Bobby Jones scored 21 for the Tar Heels.

(15) Kentucky 90, (9) North Carolina 78
December 9, 1974
Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY

The third time was the charm for Joe B. Hall against Dean Smith as Kentucky won its third meeting against UNC under Hall, 90-78, behind 35 points from Jimmy Dan Conner. The Cats needed a 26-3 run to overcome a 31-16 first half deficit en route to the victory. The win sparked a seven-game win streak that included wins over 18th-ranked Kansas and 13-ranked Notre Dame.

(4) North Carolina 90, (7) Kentucky 77
December 8, 1975
Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

A 19-year-old Goose Givens scored 24 points with 10 rebounds in 37 minutes, but Goose’s big night wasn’t enough to even Joe B. Hall’s score against Dean Smith. North Carolina won the game, 90-77, in the old Charlotte Coliseum. The win gave North Carolina an 11-6 record in the series.

(5) North Carolina 79, (3) Kentucky 72
March 19, 1977
NCAA East Regional Finals, College Park, MD

After wins over Princeton and VMI, Kentucky met North Carolina in the Elite Eight of the 1977 NCAA Tournament, where its season came to an end. North Carolina shot 33-of-36 from the foul line — take notes, 2013-14 Wildcats — and advanced to the Final Four with a win.

(1) North Carolina 82, (2) Kentucky 69
December 26, 1981
East Rutherford, NJ

Playing in the new Brendan Byrne Arena (later known as Continental Arena, Meadowlands Arena, and the IZOD Center) in East Rutherford, New Jersey, North Carolina won the battle of unbeatens and the nation’s top ranked teams. That North Carolina team featured Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Sam Perkins, while Kentucky’s star, Sam Bowie, sat on the bench recovering from a stress fracture of his left tibia.

Jordan, Worthy and Perkins combined for 66 of UNC’s 82 points in the win.

(24) North Carolina 121, Kentucky 110
December 27, 1989
Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY

A Rick Pitino led Kentucky Wildcats team dropped its fourth straight to the Tar Heels in 1989, Pitino’s first season in Lexington. Redshirt sophomore Deron Feldhaus and senior Derrick Miller scored 27 and 26, respectively, in the loss. Sophomore Richie Farmer added another 21.

(10) North Carolina 84, (25) Kentucky 81
December 10, 1990
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

Now coaching in the arena that carries his name in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Dean Smith beat Kentucky for what feels like the one-billionth time. John Pelphrey led all scorers with 24 in the losing effort and we have now entered the Eric Montross era of North Carolina basketball. He scored two points.

(4) North Carolina 74, (2) Kentucky 61
March 25, 1995
NCAA Southeast Regional Finals, Birmingham, AL

After cruising through the first three rounds of the 1995 NCAA Tournament, one seeded Kentucky fell to two seeded North Carolina, 74-61, in the first game I actually remember in the series. That Cats had four regular season losses that year by a combined 10 points, including a one point loss on the road at eventual champion UCLA and a two point loss to Louisville in Freedom Hall.

Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace combined for 30 to Walter McCarty and Tony Delk’s 33 in the Elite Eight game.

Kentucky 93, (6) North Carolina 76
December 2, 2000
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

In the first game of the current series, Tubby Smith’s unranked Kentucky Wildcats poured it on Matt Doherty’s sixth-ranked Tar Heels for UK’s first win over North Carolina in 26 years. Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Marquis Estill, Cliff Hawkins, and Saul Smith all reached double-figures in the win.

(11) Kentucky 79, North Carolina 59
December 8, 2001
Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

One of the single greatest shooting performances college basketball has ever seen. Tayshaun Prince, 7-for-11 from downtown, 5-for-5 in the first four minutes…

(18) Kentucky 98, (12) North Carolina 81
December 7, 2002
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

Hayes, Estill, Fitch and Bogans matched North Carolina’s 81 points as Tubby Smith advanced to 3-0 over North Carolina. Fitch’s 25 marked a career-high.

(8) Kentucky 61, (9) North Carolina 56
January 3, 2004
Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

Make it four in a row over the Tar Heels for Tubby Smith as the Cats came from behind to beat North Carolina, this time under Roy Williams, in Rupp Arena, 61-56. It was a one point game with under a minute to play until Gerald Fitch knocked down a fadeaway three-pointer with 24 seconds left to stretch the lead to four. Cliff Hawkins sealed the deal with a steal and free throw in the final seconds.

Tubby Smith credited walk-on Ravi Moss with the spark that brought UK back when the Cats trailed by 10 in the second half.

(8) North Carolina 91, (9) Kentucky 78
December 4, 2004
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

The Tar Heels led from start to finish in the 2004 meeting with Rashad McCants scoring a game-high 28 points, 20 of those coming in the first half. UK trimmed an 18-point deficit down to seven late in the game but that’s as close as the Cats would get.

North Carolina 83, (10) Kentucky 79
December 3, 2005
Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

Kentucky was outworked and out-hustled by a young North Carolina team that featured a freshman Tyler Hansbrough. Rajon Rondo scored 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to get the job done as UK’s poor showing on national television resulted in an L.

(7) North Carolina 75, Kentucky 63
December 2, 2006
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

Another loss to North Carolina in 2006 dropped the Cats to 4-3 on the season and marked the third consecutive loss to the Tar Heels. Randolph Morris shut down Tyler Hansbrough, exactly what UK needed, but Wayne Ellington, Reyshawn Terry, and Brandan Wright made up for Psycho T’s absence. Morris scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds in the outstanding, but losing effort.

(1) North Carolina 86, Kentucky 77
December 1, 2007
Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

Before Kentucky fans knew Billy Gillispie was Billy Gillispie, his young Wildcats showed fight against the best team in college basketball. The problem was, it takes more than Patrick Patterson, Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley to win a basketball game. Kentucky’s big three combined for 59 points but got no help, outside of seven from Alex Legion, from their teammates.

Your boy Mark Coury had zero points in 21 minutes.

(1) North Carolina 77, Kentucky 58
November 18, 2008
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

53 points from Jodie Meeks, Patrick Patterson’s afro and Ramon Harris; five points from everyone else. Kentucky and its new incredibly baggy shorts lost big, falling to 0-2 on the year after losing to VMI in the season opener.

It only got worse from there.

(5) Kentucky 68, (10) North Carolina 66
December 5, 2009
Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

We all remember this as the day Kentucky basketball in Rupp Arena got fun again.

John Wall, ladies and gentlemen. John Wall.

North Carolina 75, (10) Kentucky 73
December 4, 2010
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC

UK led North Carolina in the final four minutes but the Tar Heels came back and escaped with a narrow victory. Doron Lamb scored 24, Tyler Zeller scored 27, and Jarrod Polson kicked it to Lamb for what would’ve been the game-winner from just inside half-court had it gone in.

Watch the final minutes here…

The two teams would meet again…

(5) Kentucky 76, (10) North Carolina 69
March 27, 2011
NCAA East Regional Finals, Newark, NJ

A DeAndre Liggins three-pointer sent Kentucky back to the Final Four for the first time in almost a decade. It also created one of Big Blue Nation’s favorite moments in a long, long time…

(1) Kentucky 73, (5) North Carolina 72
December 3, 2011
Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

Another magical moment occurred a little over eight months later when Anthony Davis’ block won the game for Kentucky and almost brought the roof down in Rupp Arena.


And we all know how that season ended.

(11) Kentucky ___, (18) North Carolina ___
December 14, 2013
Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC


Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

28 responses to “Kentucky vs. North Carolina: Revisiting The Rivalry”

  1. Jacques Tits

    devrait être un grand jeu, vont les chats

  2. Tom Seaver

    So the ‘modern’ series began in 2000? Did they have to get a ladder to get the ball out of the peach baskets they used as goals in 1995 or was McCarty long enough to get it out without a ladder?

    1. Rod Strickland's Secret Smile

      I think Drew means that’s when the current home-and-home series started, after only two regular season games in the twenty years prior.

  3. SCCat

    that prince video still gives me goosebumps. thanks for sharing.

  4. Daniel

    Man great stuff

  5. JB_Forty

    Man, that 2010 team was so much fun to watch. Glad to see Wall and Boogie doing well in the League.

    1. JB_Forty

      I meant the 2009-2010 team, Cal’s first year


    I was about 9 rows behind the bench for the 2011 game and it was by far the best game/atmosphere I had seen during my time as a student at UK (Jodie Meeks’ 3 to knock off Florida was also pretty crazy).

  7. Mos Def

    Man, The Wall team would’ve won it all if only one Jodie Meeks stayed. But it was a fun season nevertheless.

  8. Kev

    WCS looks like a Duracell Battery, hope he’s charged for Sat.

  9. Elwood Blues

    Any word on PJ Hairston?

  10. eric

    I also agree with #6 I just graduated from UK in 2013 and have attended close to 100 Kentucky games over my life. Including the recent Elite 8 loss to WV, final four loss to uconn and the UK UNC game when Anthony Davis blocked the go ahead bucket. Easily the loudest I’ve ever heard the big blue faithful and all 24,000 in Rupp stayed for My old Kentucky Home. Brings a tear to my eye, the greatest game I’ve ever attended. I remember how on fire UNC was from behind the arc always staying in the game. Also, the best seats I ever got as a student in the second row!

    Go CATS

  11. Chicago Chris

    Oh man, that 2009-2010 would kill this team at this stage. One of the best to not win it all. I thought it would be that fun every year. I do recall a lot of close wins and even in that highlight they go up 20, but still win by just 2.

  12. Jeremy F

    Love seeing the Prince 3s. Get goosebumps every time I see that video. Is anyone going to the game in Chapel Hill on Saturday? They are doing a white out and I will be there in my blue UK jersey. Hopefully some more of the BBN will be able to invade the Dean Dome!

    1. Hey

      I’ll be there. Will be wearing blue as well!

  13. Cjs4

    A lot of great memories between two great programs. Cats have a breakout game. KY 84 NC 77

  14. John Ellis

    Since you lumped Tubby and Gillispie together, I’ll point out that Tubby had a four game win streak against NC, was 4-3; Pitino never beat NC; and that was better than Rupp managed. Hopefully Cal will top it, but in the history of UK basketball Tubby is the Tar Heel killer and might have kept it up if not for the head troubles Rondo had in college.

  15. David Elswick

    So far, in the history of UK basketball, John Calipari is the Tar Heel killer with a 3-1 record, which is a better winning % than Tubby’s 4-3.

    1. the realest

      Cal never has won in Chapel heel…but Tubby has

  16. blueballs

    Cats free throws are going to make them lose this game

    1. Rod Strickland's Secret Smile

      Maybe. But Cats are shooting 67% this season, UNC only 62%. Tar Heels have been much worse from the stripe so far.

  17. Nato45

    Is it me or is there no joy wih this team we have now? John Wall’s and MKG’s smiles were infectious on their respective teams. and Boogie was just Boogie! Not much smiling on this team. Cal just yells a lot. very few fast break celebrations…very few fast breaks for that matter. They seem to plod down the court with no enthusiasm for the task at hand.

    1. Wild Blue

      I agree. Said the same thing to my wife when they played Boise St, no emotion and no congratulating one another when they make a spectacular play. Also, a lack of togetherness at the foul stripe huddle.

  18. Columbus Cat Fan

    Wait, they’re meeting for the 26th time, but Carolina leads the series 22-13? The numbers dont add up. Which is accurate? And being present for both John Wall’s and Anthony Davis’ respective games against UNC, I believe the 2011 game with Davis blocking Henson was the better atmosphere. Both rank in the top 5 games Ive ever seen live, but the best had to be the UK-Ohio State Sweet 16 game in March 2011.

    1. Um

      I’m pretty sure the 22-13 is accurate. This will be the 36th meeting. I’m also pretty sure UNC is the only team we have a losing record against that we have played a meaningful number of games against.

      Can’t wait for this one! Having lived in Chapel Hill for a few years this game is basically right behind Louisville for me.

  19. RC

    The game on Saturday scares me. I don’t like the matchup whatsoever at this point in the season and really don’t like it playing on the road in CH.

    I live in Raleigh and married into a Tar Heel family. Have been to several games on this list including the ’95 Elite Eight game, the 2002 game in CH where we beat them by 17, the 2004 game in CH where Ellington & Wright killed us, and the 2010 game in CH that went down to the wire.

    Paige will give Harrison a ton of trouble and the Heels are just as big as we are inside. This game will be won or lost on the backboards and FT line. Neither of which helps us, especially on the road.

    UK played like crap in stretches against Boise State but it didn’t matter due to our size. If we don’t play our best game of the year for a full 40 mins on Saturday we’ll lose by double-digits.

  20. DH

    What’s the billiken doing in the poster?! Also,on Dec 12, 1967, it says we lost for the 3rd straight time to UNC, but the score says we won 84-77. I assume the score is backwards…

  21. MikeMan

    Man, that Tayshaun highlight is awesome. Miss that guy.