Ken­tucky, UNC bat­tle like ti­tle con­tenders

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY AARON BEARD

RALEIGH, N.C. | Ken­tucky coach John Cali­pari fig­ures the sixth-ranked Wild­cats and sev­enth-ranked North Carolina are still sort­ing through what kind of teams they can be.

If that’s the case, they both will stick around long into March.

The Wild­cats got a fresh­man pro­gram-record 47 points from Ma­lik Monk to hold off the Tar Heels 103-100 in a Satur­day thriller, the week’s only matchup of top-10 teams from the AP Top 25 . It was a glimpse of the high-level po­ten­tial for both the fresh­man-led Wild­cats and vet­eran Tar Heels, two teams that sure looked like Fi­nal Four fa­vorites in Las Ve­gas.

“We’re still try­ing to fig­ure each other out,” Cali­pari said after­ward. “They’re try­ing to fig­ure each other out . ... If we had lost that game, I’d be say­ing, ‘It’s De­cem­ber 17th, and this is who we are on De­cem­ber 17th against a re­ally good team. Good enough to beat them. Good enough to lose to them. That’s who we are.

“Now my thing is: where are we go­ing to be one month from now?”

Monk’s huge per­for­mance — capped by the go-ahead 3 with 16.7 sec­onds left — was so good that fel­low rookie De’Aaron Fox’s 24-point, 10-as­sist ef­fort went prac­ti­cally un­no­ticed by com­par­i­son.

Mean­while, UNC ju­niors Justin Jack­son (ca­reer-high 34 points) and Joel Berry II (23 points and seven as­sists in re­turn from an­kle in­jury) led a deep of­fense that ran with the Wild­cats like few teams can or will.

“I mean, we were right there against one of the best teams in the coun­try, and I guess that’s all you can take from it,” Jack­son said. “I mean, we kept fight­ing, which is what I’m ex­tremely proud of ev­ery­body on that team. And we were right there.”

As for poll im­pli­ca­tions, Ken­tucky could get a bump, while it’s hard to imag­ine UNC tak­ing much of a slide af­ter a game that will stand out even when by the time the nets come down in April.

Still rolling

Top-ranked and reign­ing NCAA cham­pion Vil­lanova (11-0) rolled past Tem­ple 78-57 for its 17th straight win Tues­day night. And Josh Hart fol­lowed a 37-point show­ing against Notre Dame with 26 against the Owls, help­ing the se­nior push his way into the race for national player of the year.

Hoosier State bat­tles

No. 15 Pur­due and No. 18 But­ler came out with wins against ranked in­state foes in the Cross­roads Clas­sic. The Boil­er­mak­ers beat No. 21 Notre Dame 86-81 , while the Bull­dogs beat No. 9 In­di­ana 83-77 for their sec­ond up­set of the Hoosiers in four years.

Ore­gon back?

Ore­gon started the year at No. 4 but didn’t have Dil­lon Brooks early due to off­sea­son foot surgery and started 2-2. But the No. 22 Ducks have won eight straight af­ter Satur­day’s 83-63 win against UNLV, with Brooks scor­ing 20 points in his first start.

Lead­ing scorer Chris Boucher sat out with an an­kle in­jury for the Ducks, but the Pac-12 fa­vorite could be mak­ing its move back up the rank­ings.

Fresh­man watch

While Monk’s per­for­mance against UNC stands out, an­other five-star prospect — North Carolina State’s Omer Yurt­seven — made his col­lege de­but this week.

The NCAA had forced the 7-footer from Turkey to sit out the first nine games amid an el­i­gi­bil­ity dis­pute tied to his overseas ca­reer.

He scored 12 points in his first game Thurs­day night against Ap­palachian State, then added 12 more in Sun­day’s win against Fair­field.

Yurt­seven can shoot from out­side and is a good passer, but he has to work on staying out of foul trou­ble as he ad­justs to the Amer­i­can game.

“It’s just adapt­ing to the sys­tem, to ref­er­ees,” Yurt­seven said af­ter Thurs­day’s win. “I had four or five fouls, so I’ve got to keep watch­ing that.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ken­tucky’s Ma­lik Monk scored a fresh­man-record 47 points for the No. 6 Wild­cats in their 103-100 win on Satur­day over No. 7 North Carolina in the week’s only matchup of top-10 teams from the As­so­ci­ated Press Top 25 rank­ings.

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