SWEET! CAROLI­NAS HEAD­ING TO FI­NAL FOUR

Carolina ousts ’Cats in meet­ing of bluebloods.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Teresa M. Walker

mem­phis, tenn.» Roy Wil­liams went all “Gone With the Wind” when a player asked about his North Carolina Tar Heels mak­ing the last shot Sun­day to edge Ken­tucky to the Fi­nal Four.

And the co­in­ci­dence that the Tar Heels have been on the other end of sim­i­lar shots re­cently, like in the 2016 na­tional cham­pi­onship and a wild De­cem­ber game against the Wild­cats.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a ...” Wil­liams said with a smile, quot­ing Clark Gable’s famed line as Rhett But­ler. “I didn’t care what he was talk­ing about.”

Luke Maye hit a jumper with 0.3 sec­onds left and top-seeded North Carolina held off Ken­tucky 75-73 to earn the Tar Heels’ sec­ond straight trip to the Fi­nal Four, win­ning a show­down of col­lege bas­ket­ball’s elite in the South Re­gional.

The na­tional semi­fi­nal will be the 20th for North Carolina, where the Tar Heels (31-7) will play Mid­west champ Ore­gon on Satur­day in Glen­dale, Ariz.

North Carolina took con­trol with 12 straight points over the fi­nal five min­utes, a run sim­i­lar to what it used a week ago to beat Arkansas. The Tar Heels fin­ished this game with a 16-9 run. Ken­tucky’s De’Aaron Fox hit a 3 and fel­low fresh­man Ma­lik Monk quickly added two more, one with 7.2 sec­onds left and de­fend­ers in his face to tie the game at 73.

“I prob­a­bly should have called time out,” Ken­tucky coach John

Cali­pari said. “It en­tered my mind, but they got that son of a B in so quick, I couldn’t get to any­body to do it. I needed to stop that right there.”

Theo Pinson drove enough to­ward the bas­ket to pick off Maye’s de­fender, then passed back to Maye. The sopho­more from Hun­tersville, N.C., knocked it down for the win with his feet on the 3-point line.

“I just kind of stepped back, and he gave me the ball and I just shot it, and luck­ily it went in,” Maye said. “It was a great feel­ing.”

Maye fin­ished with a ca­reer-high 17 points off the bench for North Carolina. Justin Jack­son scored 19 points, and Joel Berry II added 11 on a sprained left an­kle.

The Wild­cats had one last chance, but Derek Wil­lis’ in­bounds pass went out of bounds on the far end.

Ken­tucky (32-6) will miss out on the Fi­nal Four for the sec­ond straight year. Wil­lis and sopho­more Isaac Humphries left the court with tow­els over their heads, and Fox was the last to leave.

The Wild­cats had hoped their tal­ented fresh­men would carry them. Bam Ade­bayo and Fox each had 13 points, and Monk, the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence player of the year, fin­ished with 12. Fox and Ade­bayo wept side by side in the locker room.

“That shot is just play­ing back and forth in my head,” Fox said. “It’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to get over.”

Never be­fore had the NCAA Tour­na­ment pit­ted pow­er­house pro­grams that have so dom­i­nated March. This South fi­nal fea­tured Ken­tucky with the most tour­na­ment wins all-time with 124 and North Carolina just be­hind with 120 (now 121).

This was just the fourth time these blue bloods have met in a re­gional fi­nal. The re­sult was much the same as the oth­ers, with North Carolina now 3-1 against Ken­tucky as the Tar Heels avenged a 103-100 loss on Dec. 17 in Las Ve­gas.

Ken­tucky led for less than 4 min­utes in a game North Carolina had a big edge on the boards (4434) and in­side, where the Tar Heels outscored the Wild­cats 34-26.

Of­fi­cials didn’t help the flow of this game call­ing fouls left and right, though Ken­tucky took the brunt with its star trio of fresh­men all pick­ing up two fouls each in the half. Fox played only 8 min­utes of the first half af­ter pick­ing up his sec­ond foul with 12:23 left. Ade­bayo eas­ily was the most frus­trated as he missed all five shots in the half with Kennedy Meeks swat­ting away one of his dunk at­tempts.

North Carolina led by as many as nine points a cou­ple times be­fore both teams went into shoot­ing slumps. The Tar Heels led 38-33 at half.

No­body has played in more Elite Eights than Ken­tucky with its their 33rd over­all and sixth un­der Cali­pari. Ken­tucky now is 5-2 with Cali­pari in re­gional fi­nals. Fox and Monk com­bined for 71 points in the De­cem­ber win over North Carolina led by Monk’s 47. This time, they com­bined for 25.

Andy Lyons, Getty Images

North Carolina for­ward Luke Maye ex­ults af­ter mak­ing what proved to be the game-win­ning shot Sun­day against Ken­tucky, a jumper with 0.3 sec­onds left to give the Tar Heels a 75-73 vic­tory in the South Re­gional fi­nal.

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