In the lead-up to the 2013-2014 college hoops season, there was a massive amount of discussion surrounding the “new” officiating rules, which would emphasize hand-checking and other violations, and presumably, increase the amount of free throws. Kentucky and North Carolina likely wouldn’t outright blame that change (or the referees, even) for their 88 combined free throw attempts on Saturday evening, but that doesn’t stop it from being the major takeaway.
If you are thinking that 88 free throw attempts seems like a lot, you would be right, and the fact that it was balanced with 43 for UK and 45 for UNC is all the more staggering. Still, the Tar Heels were able to overcome some miserable shooting at the foul line (57.8%) and as a result of their stellar play elsewhere, North Carolina was able to grab a 82-77 win over Kentucky.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige led an impressive 2nd-half push from Carolina on the offensive end, as Paige scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime to pulse the victory. UNC scored 49 points in the second half, and in addition to Paige, the Heels got 20 points and 5 rebounds from James Michael McAdoo, as well as 15 points (in just 26 minutes) from forward J.P. Tokoto.
On the Kentucky side of things, poor field goal shooting probably did them in this spot. Freshman Aaron Harrison shot the ball very well (8 for 12 FG for 20 points), but aside from that, the Wildcats simply couldn’t get anything going. As a unit, Kentucky shot just 40.7% from the field, and if you remove Aaron Harrison’s production, the rest of the team managed just 33.3% (14 of 42) for the game.
It’s certainly too early to make major takeaways about the individual teams, but this is a very nice home win for the short-handed Tar Heels. Still, a game with this level of interest (simply because of the two programs involved) probably shouldn’t be marred by an officiating “battle”, but that was certainly the case here.