North Carolina Downs NKU but Billups Dunk Makes SportsCenter Top 10
Just when it appeared Northern Kentucky might be in position to stun the college basketball world on Friday night, North Carolina literally blocked any thoughts of an upset.
The 19th-ranked Tar Heels finished with 15 blocks and pulled away for a 75-60 win over visiting Northern Kentucky in the Smith Center. North Carolina, which held just a 35-30 lead at the break, rejected 10 shots by Northern Kentucky in the second half. The Norse made just 27.3 percent from the field during the final 20 minutes, much of it due to the taller Tar Heels' ability to alter or block shots.
"North Carolina has very tall players at every position, and they made it difficult to get good looks," Northern Kentucky head coach Dave Bezold said. "I thought we played very well during the final part of the first half and showed a great deal of composure after we fell behind by 14 points. Our guys hung in there, and all of a sudden it's a three-point game late in the first half."
Jalen Billups rammed home a dunk off an offensive rebound with less than a minute left in the first half to pull the Norse within 33-30. Billups' dunk also made a loud impression on the crowd of 18,842 in the Smith Center.
Video of Billups' Top 10 Jam:
North Carolina responded with an 8-1 run to begin the second half and extended its lead to 43-31 when Leslie McDonald hit a jumper. The Tar Heels slowly pulled away from the Norse and improved to 9-3.
James Michael McAdoo scored 14 points to lead the North Carolina offense. McDonald and Marcus Paige each added 11 points for the Tar Heels, while Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks and Desmond Hubert blocked three shots apiece.
Tyler White scored 13 points for Northern Kentucky (4-8), which saw its three-game winning streak halted. White sparked the Norse's first-half comeback by netting 11 points before the break.
Billups finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Jack Flournoy and Jordan Jackson each added 10 points. The Norse shot 33.3 percent from the field for the game and committed just eight turnovers.
North Carolina won the rebounding battle by a 42-32 count. Paige grabbed nine boards to lead the Tar Heels.
"It was a great experience to play in this building against a program like North Carolina on national television," Bezold said, noting the game was televised on ESPNU. "We've gone up against Purdue, Kentucky and now North Carolina this season. That's three great programs, all on the road in tremendous environments for basketball."
Northern Kentucky begins Atlantic Sun Conference play on Monday with a road game against Florida Gulf Coast at 7:05 p.m. in Fort Myers, Fla. NKU concludes the road trip Wednesday with a 7 p.m. contest against Stetson in DeLand, Fla.
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communication via NKUNorse.com