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Fitch buries UNC with late jumper

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky ended its shooting slump just in
time to beat North Carolina, and the big shot belonged to Gerald
Fitch.
Fitch scored 21 points and made a clinching 3-pointer with 23
seconds left, helping Kentucky (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) defeat the No. 9 Tar Heels
61-56 on Saturday.
"I feel like I'm going to make bigger shots than this one,"
Fitch said.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams likes that kind of attitude.
"I love college basketball and kids," he said. "The feeling
that Gerald Fitch has is what we wanted to have in our locker
room."
Kentucky (9-1) rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit and
downed North Carolina (8-2) for the fourth straight season.
Erik Daniels added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats,
who shot 55 percent in the second half after shooting 26 percent in
the opening half.
The Wildcats combined to shoot 37 percent in their previous two
games, a loss to Louisville and a lackluster win over Austin Peay.
Kentucky committed only three turnovers after halftime.
"We weren't focusing on turnovers; we were focusing on energy
level," Fitch said. "In the first half shots weren't falling, but
we stayed with it."
The game was a matchup between the schools that rank 1-2 in
career wins in Division I -- Kentucky at 1,858 and North Carolina at
1,816.
North Carolina's only other loss this season came in triple
overtime to No. 6 Wake Forest.
North Carolina led 35-26 with 15:43 left. Kentucky used an 11-2
run to pull even and took the lead for good with 10:53 to go on a
basket by Daniels that made it 43-41. The Tar Heels drew to 57-56
on a 3-pointer by Raymond Felton with 56 seconds left.
"Honestly, I thought they were going to miss and we would come
down and win the game," Williams said.
But with the shot clock at 3, Fitch hit a 3-pointer -- his fifth
of the game -- to restore Kentucky's lead to four points. North
Carolina turned the ball over on its next possession, and
Kentucky's Cliff Hawkins made one of two free throws with 14.5
seconds left.
"That was a big-time 3, after they had knocked down a 3 at the
other end," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We were so happy to
see him make that three and give us a little cushion at the end."
Melvin Scott scored 16 points and Felton added 11 for North
Carolina. The Tar Heels lost despite the return of two starters,
May and Jawad Williams. They missed North Carolina's previous game,
a 105-72 win over Coastal Carolina, because of an ankle injury and
a concussion.
"We didn't look like a very well-coached team today," Roy
Williams said. "I could see Williams and May hadn't practiced, but
to say that is just a bunch of excuses."
Rashad McCants, North Carolina's leading scorer at 19 points per
game, scored 4 points, and Smith credited the defense of Kelenna
Azubuike. Two little-used bench players, Ravi Moss and Bernard
Cote, contributed in their extended playing time.
Scott made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the first
half, which ended with North Carolina up 28-20. The Tar Heels' lead
could have been larger if they had not committed 11 turnovers. They
finished the game with 20 turnovers.
North Carolina is 16-10 against Kentucky. Before the current
Kentucky streak, the Tar Heels had won six in a row against the
Wildcats.

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