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North Carolina remains top dog in matchup with Kentucky

Dec 2, 2007 - 12:23 AM LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Danny Green helped make the Kentucky faithful blue once again.

Green scored a career-high 20 points as second-ranked North Carolina continued to dominate the matchup of the nation's two winningest programs with an 86-77 victory over Kentucky on Saturday.

It was the fourth straight win in the series for the Tar Heels (7-0), who still trail the Wildcats' total of 1,952 all-time wins by 31.

"Every year it's always a big game," Green said. "There's tradition and history on both sides, so it's a great rivalry, even though we're not in the same league.

"The atmosphere each time is great, with 23,000 fans here going crazy. This is the reason you come to school, for these types of games."

North Carolina improved to 7-0 for the first time in nine seasons, including the first time under coach Roy Williams.

"We feel very fortunate to come into Rupp Arena and get a win," Williams said. "It wasn't a pretty basketball game, but we have a bunch of kids on both teams that have a great deal of pride that were fighting regardless of what the score was."

"It was a tough loss," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "They've got a very, very good team. I thought we competed well for the most part and I'm hoping that's a good sign."

Wayne Ellington had 18 points and Tyler Hansbrough chipped in 14 and 11 rebounds for North Carolina, which saw point guard Ty Lawson return to the lineup after missing a game with an ankle injury.

In the midst of a hectic travel schedule that has included a winning appearance at the Las Vegas Invitational and a victory at Ohio State on Wednesday, the Tar Heels were sluggish at the outset, shooting just 32.4 percent (11-of-34) in holding a 37-32 advantage at the half.

Green picked up North Carolina early, scoring 12 points and connecting a pair of 3-pointers over the first 20 minutes.

"We just wanted to get me in some mismatches," Green said. "We played four guards and one big man a lot today, so it gave me a chance to step outside because we didn't think their big guy wanted to step out there. Luckily my shot was going down for me early."

The rest of the junior's teammates came alive thereafter, as the Tar Heels went on a 15-3 run in the opening minutes of the second half for a 57-39 advantage on a 3-pointer by Bobby Frasor with just under 15 minutes to play.

Green, who finished 8-of-11 from the field with six rebounds, later scored six straight points for his team before a jumper by Ellington gave UNC a 67-47 lead with 9:42 remaining.

"Kentucky's team took us out of a lot of things that we wanted to do with their defensive pressure," Williams said. "I think from the 18-minute mark of the second half down to the 10-minute mark of the second half we were really good. We were moving the ball. We were passing. We were doing a decent job defensively."

The return of Lawson had a lot to do with the Tar Heels' better ball movement, finishing with 10 points and six assists in playing for the first time since suffering a right ankle in the opening minutes against Brigham Young in the final of the Las Vegas Invitational last Saturday.

While the Tar Heels were welcoming back their top playmaker in Lawson, the Wildcats proved quite sloppy in their biggest matchup so far, committing 19 turnovers that North Carolina turned into 33 points.

"We're just picking up our dribble too much," Gillispie said. "There are too many inexperienced players.

"All the mistakes we made today were errors of commission and those are correctable mistakes. That's a starting point for us. We just have a lot of little discipline things to correct. All those things are correctable."

Joe Crawford scored 21 points and Ramel Bradley and freshman Patrick Patterson added 19 apiece for Kentucky (4-2), which shot 44.8 percent (26-of-58) and were outrebounded, 42-31.

Shooting 7-of-18 from the field with three 3-pointers, Crawford became the 54th Wildcat to surpass 1,000 points, finishing with 1,010.

Patterson recorded double figures in points for the fifth consecutive time in his young career. The 6-9 first-year player also grabbed nine rebounds before fouling out.

"He's a solid big man," Hansbrough said of Patterson. "He's very physical and he can get you into weird positions because they run so many things to him. He's going to be very helpful for them."