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Rob Dillingham helps No. 14 Kentucky top No. 9 North Carolina

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Rob Dillingham scored 17 points off the bench and No. 14 Kentucky led almost the entire game but had a tussle down the stretch to defeat No. 9 North Carolina 87-83 on Saturday at Atlanta.

D.J. Wagner had 14 points, Aaron Bradshaw notched 12 points and Reed Sheppard posted 11 points for the Wildcats (8-2), who shot just 41.7 percent from the field.

RJ Davis poured in 27 points and Cormac Ryan tallied 20 points for North Carolina (7-3). Harrison Ingram added 10 points.

There were riveting stretches as the teams played a tight final few minutes, though a North Carolina turnover on a miscommunication while trailing 86-83 in the last 10 seconds doused some potential drama.

Davis hit his second 3-pointer in the game’s last three minutes to draw the Tar Heels within 81-80. Dillingham made a difficult shot at the other end.

Then with 1:10 left, Davis made a free throw, tying him for the school record with 41 in a row before he missed the second attempt. Kentucky’s Bradshaw missed a foul shot but the Tar Heels fumbled the ball out of bounds.

Bradshaw, a freshman center, sank both ends of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity to push Kentucky’s margin to 85-81 with 47 seconds left.

Ingram connected on two free throws for the Tar Heels. Then Dillingham went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line with 11.9 seconds to go.

North Carolina took its only lead of the game at 72-71 on two Bacot free throws with 5:15 remaining. Kentucky answered with the next six points in a 67-second span.

The Wildcats held a 12-point lead with 15-plus minutes to play before the Tar Heels pieced together a comeback despite the impact of Kentucky’s 18 offensive rebounds.

Kentucky led 40-38 at halftime despite going more than four minutes without a field goal to end the half. It was 40-30 with 2:45 to play.

Ryan’s 12 points were a boost to the Tar Heels, who committed 11 first-half turnovers. They were meeting a Top 15 team for the second game in a row after a loss to Connecticut more than a week earlier.

Kentucky was up 20-10 early in the second game of a neutral-site doubleheader that featured Ohio State’s 67-60 victory vs. UCLA in the opener.

–Field Level Media

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