Kentucky and North Carolina consider themselves to be the blue-bloods of college basketball and over five games in the Cal era they’ve proven it. Just about every time the two teams have met the games have been an all out slugfest with the decision coming at the wire. How close have they been? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and recap UNC in the Cal era.
12/5/09 68-66 Win
Kentucky and Carolina were in a close race back then to be the first program to hit the 2000 win mark. UNC had closed the gap thanks in part to the disaster of the Billy G years and were winners of five straight over the Cats. As for UK, we were undefeated with the first group of one and dones but fans were still hesitant to call them true contenders just yet. The win over UNC changed all that in an instant. John Wall put on a star-making performance and Kentucky basketball announced itself as back from a half decade of futility. One of the most enjoyable games to go back and watch the highlights.
12/4/10 75-73 Loss
Brandon Knight’s squad of Cats went on the road to Chapel Hill to face a North Carolina team desperate for a win. UNC had a talent loaded team that season but head-scratching losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, and Illinois left many wondering if that Tarheel team could get things together. Turns out they figured it out just in time for Kentucky to come to town. The two teams battled down the stretch but Kentucky was never able to seal the deal in a hostile environment. Like so many times that season the Cats had a chance to win at the buzzer but Doron Lamb’s shot bounced off the backboard. It wasn’t the final time the teams would meet that season.
3/27/11 76-69 Win
Going into the NCAA tournament in 2011 there were two teams nobody wanted to see, Ohio State and North Carolina. Both teams, along with Kentucky, were red hot in March and playing their best basketball of the season. Kentucky took down Ohio State in a sweet 16 game for the ages. Now, it was on to two seed North Carolina and the Cats jumped out to a 38-30 half time lead. Kentucky looked to half the game in hand but the Tarheels slowly whittled down the lead and cut it to 1 point with a minute to go. That’s when Deandre Liggins got the ball in the corner and buried the biggest shot of his career. UNC didn’t score again and the Cats were on to their first final four in 13 years.
12/3/11 73-72 Win
Perhaps the most loaded with NBA talent teams UK and UNC have ever had in a match-up took place in the 2011 game. The two teams were heading for a #1 vs #2 game until Carolina dropped a game to UNLV a week prior. Still the game was an instant classic with MKG putting in a double-double. The Cats only lead by one when Anthony Davis sealed the deal with an unforgettable block. It was the last time UNC made the trip to Rupp Arena and a game that many would call one of the finest to ever be played within its hallowed halls.
12/14/13 83-77 Loss
After a year off Kentucky and UNC renewed their rivalry last season down in Chapel Hill. The Cats never had an answer for Marcus Paige in the second half as the guard poured in 23 points and the Cats road woes continued. Aaron Harrison scored 20 but it wasn’t enough to overcome 17 turnovers. That was a Kentucky team that still had a lot of growing up to do. Now, most of those same Cats are back and playing elite level defense. If Kentucky can get it’s offense going tomorrow then we could be looking at the most lopsided win of the Cal era.
Which UNC game has been your favorite of the Calipari era?