No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky provided one of the best finishesof the NCAA Tournament on Sunday in a heated Elite Eight battle.
The Wildcats tied the gamelate courtesy of a Malik Monk 3-pointer, but North Carolina would not be denied, ultimately winning 75-73 on Luke Maye'sclinching mid-range jumper with 0.3 seconds on the clock tomove back into the Final Four. The Tar Heelshave now made it to 20 Final Fours, which is the most all time.
Here are three reasons why North Carolinabeat Kentucky:
1. Late scoring run — It looked like the Wildcats might pull off an upset until North Carolina went on a 12-0 run late in the second half. Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox snapped the run with a corner 3-pointer, but Kentucky was too sloppy down the stretch, missing shots and turning the ball over.
The Tar Heels were sluggish at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half, but the veteran group made plays when it mattered most with the clock winding down.
2. More scoring options — Neither team was incredibly deep this season, but North Carolina got17points off the bench from Luke Maye, who averaged 5.5 points this season.
ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels with 19 points, point guard Joel Berry II brushed off an injury to score 11 points and center Kennedy Meeks added seven points and 17 rebounds. North Carolina is versatile and skilled at multiple positions. In the end, it came down to the Tar Heels' ability to take advantage of a defensive lapse by Kentucky — which is something brought on by having multiple offensive weapons.
3. More options in frontcourt — Bam Adebayo was great in the second half for Kentucky, ultimately finishing the game with13 points with seven rebounds. But he wasn't able to contain the likes of Meeks, Maye and Tony Bradley.
The Tar Heels out-rebounded Kentucky 44-34 while grabbing 13 offensive rebounds. Those extra second-chance opportunities helped North Carolina burn more clock and keep the ball out of Fox and Monk's hands.