Ugo helped in this department in his first game.
Mostly, Kentucky vs. North Carolina It ends up being a thriller and that was true in the 2023 edition of this blue-blooded tournament.
When the final horn sounded, Kentucky won the thriller by a score of 87-83. While it was certainly a barnburner, the final score doesn’t tell the full story of what was every bit as much of an offensive shootout as a half-it-out slugfest.
In the first half, Kentucky was 14/40 from the field (35%), while UNC wasn’t much better at 13/31 (41.9%).
Things picked up in the second half as Kentucky hit 16/32 shots (50%) and the Heels 14/26 (52.8%) after halftime.
You’ll notice Kentucky took 15 more shots than North Carolina, and boy was that huge in a game decided by four points.
That’s because Kentucky stopped them in the paint battle with a 43-32 win over North Carolina. Kentucky dominated the offensive boards, 18-6, and led by a 16-5 margin in second-chance points.
Simply put, Kentucky won because it outplayed the veteran Tar Heels, and head coach Hubert Davis said as much during postgame interviews.
“Kentucky is tougher than us in the trenches.
The best part about it was that it was far from a one-man effort. Kentucky received major contributions from many fellows in the field.
Actually Justin Edwards, Reed Shepard and T.J. Wagner tied for the team high in rebounds with six each.
Ato Thiero came off the bench to block a game-high number of shots.
Then Ukona Onyenzo made his debut in 2023-24 and finished with three blocks in nine minutes of play.
Kentucky actually had more blocks from bench players (eight) than UNC did as a team (five).
This is how you win games in March and it absolutely had the feel of a March classic.