MEMPHIS — In a rematch of college basketball's most exciting game this season, Luke Maye hit a long 2-pointer with 0.3 seconds to cap off a thrilling win for the North Carolina men's basketball team over Kentucky and send the Tar Heels to the Final Four in Phoenix.
The No. 1 seed Tar Heels (31-7) jumped out to an early 6-0 lead before the No. 2 seed Wildcats (32-6) cut it to one behind five points from De'Aaron Fox — who scored a career-high 39 points in the Sweet 16.
But UNC's lineup started to crumble early in the half. Theo Pinson — tasked with guarding Fox — picked up two quick fouls, and Joel Berry headed to the locker room with a sprained left ankle. But the cast of Stilman White, Nate Britt, Luke Maye, Tony Bradley and Pinson staved off the Wildcats long enough for Berry to return four minutes after his injury.
When he did, eight Tar Heels had scored and the team held a five-point lead. Berry and co. slowly mounted their lead before UNC-killer Malik Monk hit a 3-pointer with 4:31 left to revitalize the pro-Kentucky crowd and cut the deficit to four. But with Monk and Fox — who sat 12 minutes with two fouls — nearly nonexistent for the Wildcats, both teams limped into halftime as the Tar Heels took a 38-33 lead after the first period.
North Carolina's offense went cold, missing 10 straight shots between both halves, and a quick six-point run gave Kentucky its first lead of the game. But after two free throws from Meeks reclaimed the lead, a 4-point play from Justin Jackson dragged UNC's offense out of its funk. A few minutes later, Maye scored eight straight points to give North Carolina a 53-47 lead.