for this game

Thompson, North Carolina toy with Kentucky

Nov 19, 2008 - 6:42 AM CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (Ticker) -- It may have been a matchup of the top two winningest programs, but only North Carolina appears primed to significantly add to its total this season.

Deon Thompson scored a career-high 20 points as top-ranked North Carolina started fast before winning big in a matchup with Kentucky, 77-58, on Tuesday.

It was a lopsided affair throughout despite the fact that the Tar Heels (2-0) were forced to play without Tyler Hansbrough, last year's consensus national Player of the Year, for a second straight game due to a stress reaction in his right shin.

The 6-8 Thompson picked up the slack inside, scoring three times in the opening 2 1/2 minutes and contributed 10 points on a 23-4 run that made it 25-6 with 11:34 remaining. UNC held a 41-25 advantage at the half.

"I guess I have just a little bit more of an opportunity with Tyler out of there and just taking advantage and not really trying to force anything," Thompson said. "I think the way I've been scoring and getting rebounds has just been coming in the flow of our whole offense, just being in the right spot. So, I don't think I'm trying to force anything."

"It's encouraging," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of Thompson. "I think Deon, other than Tyler, probably worked harder than anyone else on our team in the offseason, probably for the past two years. He's been working on his body and it is really satisfying to see the change and being able to see the transfer from working on his body in the offseason to seeing his success on the court."

Thompson finished 10-of-16 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds, including seven offensive.

North Carolina, which was also without the services of top defender Marcus Ginyard, broke out to the big start due to Kentucky's inability to handle the Tar Heels' pressure. The Wildcats committed 17 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, leading to as many points for the Tar Heels.

"We had a fantastic 10 or 12 minutes, our defense was really aggressive with the intensity that we had hoped," Williams said.

Wayne Ellington scored 16 points and Ty Lawson added 13 for UNC, which forced 28 turnovers en route to career win No. 1,952.

The Tar Heels still trail the Wildcats by 14 wins for the all-time record of 1,966, but have been coming on strong due to their recent annual meetings, as UNC has won the last five.

The one black mark for the Tar Heels came in the closing minutes, as top freshman Tyler Zeller hurt his left wrist after he was challenged on a dunk attempt with 1:26 left in the contest, crashing to the floor awkwardly. The 7-foot center only had two points on 1-of-6 shooting, well below the 18 he netted in Saturday's season-opening win over Pennsylvania.

"Right now we feel really good about the win, at the same time we're concerned about Tyler Zeller," Williams said. "He's on the way to the hospital right now taking the X-ray to see what it is, but it doesn't give us a good feeling."

With the loss, Kentucky dropped to 0-2 on the season following a 111-103 setback to VMI in its home opener on Friday. It is the first 0-2 start for the school since 2001-02.

"We're just making too many mental errors even though it's the second game of the season against a really good team and really well organized team and fine executing team," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "You can't make the mistakes that we made like picking the dribble up, not being strong with the ball, getting destroyed on the offensive ball."

The winless start is just another trying beginning for Gillispie, who saw the Wildcats lose nine of their first 16 games last season before rallying for a 18-13 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson each scored 19 points for Kentucky, which shot just 37.5 percent (9-of-24) in the first half, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.

The Wildcats were able to put up more of a respectable effort in the second half, shooting 52 percent (11-of-21). However, they were unable to cut their deficit to less than 13 points.

Patterson had 11 rebounds and Meeks added seven for the Wildcats, who actually won the battle on the boards, 37-35.

Ramon Harris scored 15 points for Kentucky, which will host Delaware State on Saturday.