Big Win for Kentucky as Wildcats Beat North Carolina 80-72 Saturday
By Jamie H. Vaught
Kentucky displayed a handful of stars in the CBS Sports Classic Saturday evening at the United Center in Chicago.
UK's dynamic duo of 6-6 freshman Keldon Johnson and 6-8 graduate student Reid Travis put on a spectacular show as they guided the No. 19 Wildcats to a key 80-72 win over North Carolina.
Johnson and Travis led UK's scoring attack with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Johnson, who was coming off his 24-point performance against Utah, has scored in double figures in all but one game this season.
And don't forget Kentucky freshman Ashton Hagans, playing with a sore ankle, who also sparked the Wildcats with lots of energy and flair. Considered the team's best on-ball defender, Hagans (pictured in an earlier game) had eight steals and seven points against the ninth-ranked Tar Heels.
Freshman Tyler Herro and sophomore PJ Washington also performed well, scoring 15 and 11 points, respectively. Washington also had 10 rebounds and eight assists.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams praised UK's performance, especially Hagans.
"Congratulate John (Calipari) and his club, and amazing thing to look down. Ashton Hagans is 2-for-6, seven points, and I thought in some ways he was more dominating in the game than anybody, seven steals," said Williams. "We turned it over 18 times, 17 times, and gave him 20 points out of it. One of the keys for us in the game was to make the easy play and not turn it over but their effort I thought was much better than ours.
"Well, hope everybody has a better Christmas than I'm going to have. Mine's not going to be as smooth as I would like for it to be."
Hagans' teammates said his play was outstanding.
"His defensive presence is amazing," said Johnson. "You seen it all, he was locking up, making plays, big stops and you could just see it rubbing off on everybody."
Herro added, "I think on defense, really tough to beat, just the way he puts it on every team, he played great tonight and we expect that from him every night."
It was UK's first victory over a ranked opponent this season. The Wildcats also had 24 assists in the contest.
Kentucky, now 9-2, travels to Louisville on Saturday, Dec. 29 for its annual rivalry date with the formidable Cardinals. ESPN2 will carry the game, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
Photo by Tyler Davis