Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Marcus Paige scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half as No. 18 North Carolina once again played the role of giant killer with an 82-77 ousting of 11th-ranked Kentucky at Smith Center.
James Michael McAdoo contributed 20 points and J.P. Tokoto had 15 on 7-of-10 shooting to help the unpredictable Tar Heels (7-2) to their third signature non-conference win this season. North Carolina previously knocked off both defending national champion Louisville and then-No. 1 Michigan State, along with being handed upset losses by Belmont and UAB.
The inexperienced Wildcats showed their youth in their first true road game of the season, committing 17 turnovers and 31 fouls while struggling offensively for much of the game.
"What we are right now is a not a good basketball team," Kentucky head coach John Calipari remarked afterward. "We're not a good team because everything, our emotion, is all based on our individual play instead of our team play. Our stuff is all based on 'Did I miss a free throw? Did I get beat on the dribble? Did I miss a shot? Did I turn it over?' We've got to get through this, but we had chances to let go of the rope, and we didn't. We are what we are right now. We've got a long way to go."
Aaron Harrison went 8-for-12 from the field to pace Kentucky (8-3) with 20 points. Twin brother Andrew Harrison recorded 17 along with seven assists, with James Young netting 16 points in the loss.
The Wildcats' troubles in holding onto the ball proved particularly costly during perhaps the game's most pivotal run, a 10-2 sequence by the Tar Heels that turned a two-point deficit into a 54-48 lead with 12 minutes left. The flurry was highlighted by steals and layups by Paige and Nate Britt on back- to-back possessions.
North Carolina was up by a 66-58 count with five minutes to go, though a Young 3-pointer and two Andrew Harrison free throws quickly cut the margin to three. Aaron Harrison missed a layup on Kentucky's next trip, however, and Paige was fouled driving to the hoop and sank both free throws for a 68-63 edge with three minutes remaining.
"I think Marcus Paige was just sensational for us in the second half," said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.
The Wildcats were down by seven with under a minute left, but made one late charge as both Harrison brothers knocked down 3-pointers around a Tokoto dunk to make it an 80-77 game. Paige sealed the win for UNC, however, by draining two more foul shots in the final seconds.
"We've had some interesting finishes to games so far this year, especially at home with the Belmont game," said Paige. "So when that first free throw dropped I could relax and just knock down the second one."
Kentucky held a 19-12 lead midway through the first half following five straight points from Young, but he, Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison were all saddled on the bench with two fouls soon afterward and the Tar Heels capitalized on the absence of the three star freshmen.
North Carolina countered with a 14-4 run, with Tokoto accounting for seven of those points and capping the flurry with a steal and dunk that put the Heels up 26-23 with five minutes remaining in the period.
Willie Cauley-Stein's alley-oop dunk off an Andrew Harrison feed tied the contest at 30-30 late in the half, but a technical foul called on Calipari -- arguing a foul whistled on Cauley-Stein with 1.9 seconds left -- had the Wildcats down at the break after North Carolina made all three resulting free throws.
The game matched up two of the three winningest programs in NCAA history, with Kentucky topping the list with 2,119 and UNC third with 2,097 ... Randle was held to 11 points and a season-low five rebounds, going 3-of-9 from the floor and committing four turnovers ... Cauley-Stein finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and five blocks, giving him 33 rejections over his last five outings ... At least one of the two schools has been ranked in each of the last 29 meetings in the series, which North Carolina leads by a 23-13 advantage but had dropped three of the previous four matchups ... The Wildcats will host Belmont, which topped the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Nov. 17, next Saturday.