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Zeller's big game fuels UNC victory over No. 10 Kentucky

Dec 5, 2010 - 3:41 AM Chapel Hill, NC (Sports Network) - Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 27 points and hit four key free throws in the final minute, as North Carolina held on for a 75-73 victory over 10th-ranked Kentucky at the Dean Dome.

Zeller made two from the stripe with 47 seconds remaining to give North Carolina a 70-69 lead and Kentucky's Doron Lamb missed a runner at the other end. Larry Drew was fouled with 20.9 seconds to play and canned both from the line to extend the Tar Heels' lead to three.

Kentucky went for the quick two and Brandon Knight hit a short jumper with 12.3 seconds left. Zeller was fouled and made both from the line to restore Carolina's three-point edge, and Lamb connected on two free throws to again pull Kentucky within one.

The Wildcats fouled Dexter Strickland with 5.6 seconds remaining and the 68 percent free throw shooter calmly sank the first from the line. He missed the second and, without a timeout, Lamb managed only a shot from just inside half- court that missed as time expired.

"We had a chance to win on the road at North Carolina and in this environment. That made me feel good," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "But we got things to work on."

Lamb led Kentucky (5-2) with 24 points and Knight added 15 in defeat. Darius Miller scored 13 for the Wildcats, who were coming off a 91-57 rout of Boston University on Tuesday after losing to Connecticut in the final of the Maui Invitational.

Zeller added 11 rebounds and five blocked shots while John Henson scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for North Carolina (5-3), which dropped a 74-69 decision at Illinois on Tuesday. Freshman Harrison Barnes added 12 points in the victory.

"Tonight was my night to be able to step up," Zeller said. "Every big game, you have to have somebody that steps up. It's not going to be me every time, but tonight was my night."

A fast-paced first half that featured nine ties and eight lead changes ended with Kentucky holding a 42-40 advantage. It stayed tight through the first eight minutes of the second half until Kentucky built a 57-51 lead on a jumper by Miller, but the Tar Heels answered with five straight to again make it close.

Neither team managed to pull away from there and Carolina was able to win it at the line. The Tar Heels made 10 of their final 12 free throws and finished 26-of-37 from the line overall, led by Zeller's 11-of-12 performance.

The Tar Heels opened an 8-5 edge early, but Kentucky went on a 16-6 run and grabbed a 21-14 lead on a bucket by DeAndre Liggins with just over 11 minutes to play in the first half. A jumper by Lamb gave the Wildcats their biggest lead at 25-17 just past the midway point.

Back came North Carolina with nine straight, as a thunderous putback dunk by Barnes gave the Heels a 26-25 lead. The back-and-forth continued over the next few minutes before North Carolina built a 39-34 margin on a free throw by Zeller with 2:48 to play.

The Wildcats answered with seven straight points in just over a minute for a 41-39 lead and carried a two-point edge to the intermission.

Game Notes

North Carolina made just 1-of-11 three-point tries, while Kentucky connected on 9-of-21 from beyond the arc...Four different Wildcats fouled out...North Carolina improved to 22-11 all-time against Kentucky. The Tar Heels, who own the third-most wins in college basketball history, had won five straight against the Wildcats, who have the most wins all-time, before suffering a 68-66 loss last year in Lexington.