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Big Blueprint: UK falls to UNC in first true road outing

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UK fell to UNC on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., 82-77. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK fell to UNC on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., 82-77. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Big Blueprint is back. A rapid recap of the game, the Big Blueprint looks at the nuts and bolts of the latest UK game when Cat Scratches is not in attendance. Today, we look back at UK's 82-77 loss at North Carolina.

The skinny: Kentucky went on the road for the first time this season, falling to North Carolina in a raucous Dean Smith Center, 82-77. The Wildcats (8-3) fell victim to major first-half foul trouble, but managed to stay within three points of the Tar Heels at the break. Out of halftime, UK attacked the basket relentlessly using pick-and-rolls, taking a 46-44 lead with less than 14 minutes left. UNC (8-2), however, had an answer and seized control with a 10-2 run. The Cats would battle, but couldn't overcome mistakes even though Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined for 37 points.

The difference: Half-court offense. UK had its moments -- particularly from the Harrison twins and James Young -- but never found a consistent offensive rhythm. Julius Randle (11 points on 3-of-9 shooting) struggled to get involved and committed four turnovers. The Tar Heels scored 22 points off Wildcat miscues, shot 57.7 percent in the second half and sealed the win with a pair of rebounds of their own missed free throws in the final minute.

Player of the game:
James Michael McAdoo. When leading scorer Marcus Paige struggled in a two-point first half, the junior forward stepped up. He scored 11 points before halftime on just three shots, hitting 9-of-13 free throws and drawing many of UK's 15 fouls. Paige would score 22 in the final 20 minutes, but it's McAdoo's steadiness that made him so valuable. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Turning point: UNC's 10-2 run. After the Cats grabbed a short-lived lead at 46-44, the Tar Heels forced back-to-back turnovers and scored on five consecutive possessions to reclaim control. Nate Britt had a pair of jumpers to key the spurt and Desmond Huber capped it off with a tip-in of a Brice Johnson miss.

Key stat: 17 turnovers. UNC's pressure and fronting of Randle in the post caused plenty of problems, but many of UK's miscues were unforced. Poor passes and lapses in concentration played the Cats from start to finish, rendering their 44-32 rebounding edge meaningless.

Unsung heroes: Harrison twins. It will be overlooked because of the loss, but Andrew and Aaron Harrison turned in their best combined game. Andrew was on the floor for all but three minutes and 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds. His four turnovers and 10-of-17 free-throw shooting hurt, but if not for his play-making and penetration the game would not have been close. Aaron, meanwhile, got off to a quick start, scoring five points in the opening minutes before picking up his second foul and heading to the bench. He once again came out firing in the second half and finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

What this one means:
The Cats missed out on an opportunity for a marquee nonconference win and displayed many of the same problems that cost them in losses to Michigan State and Baylor. Though UK never gave in, but it's clear John Calipari still has a great deal of work ahead in leading his team to fulfill its vast potential. The good news on that front is there is still time. UK will take final exams next week, then go through "Camp Cal," a time during which all practice restrictions are lifted. Historically, that's been when Calipari's teams have shown the most improvement.

Video: Calipari's postgame interview


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