CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Tyler Zeller scored in the paint and buried key free throws. John Henson locked down on Kentucky's top scorer. Larry Drew added a strong second half that helped North Carolina hang in until the final horn.
The Tar Heels showed fight that has been missing around Chapel Hill — especially against a marquee team like the Wildcats.
Zeller scored a career-high 27 and hit the go-ahead free throws with 47 seconds left, helping North Carolina edge No. 10 Kentucky 75-73 on Saturday.
Zeller scored 12 of the final 16 points for the Tar Heels (5-3) in a game that had five lead changes in the final three minutes before Kentucky's Doron Lamb missed a heave for the win from near halfcourt as time expired. The Tar Heels have won six of the past seven against Kentucky (5-2).
"You never can tell what 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds are going to take from something," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "But I know the scene in our locker room right after the game when I got in there was a fun time."
Henson, a former Sickles High standout, said the Tar Heels did some soul searching after a loss at Illinois on Tuesday dropped them to 4-3.
"We told ourselves, we're not going to have another year like last year," he said. "We needed to win big time."
Henson, who had an otherwise strong game, shot two airball free throws early in the second half.
Drew, who has struggled as the starting point guard, made two critical free throws with 20.9 seconds left and scored all seven of his points after halftime.
"It's not one of those games where we can be content that, 'Okay, we beat Kentucky,' " Zeller said. "That doesn't make your season."
North Carolina shot just 41 percent, including 1-for-11 on 3-pointers. The Tar Heels didn't have a field goal in the final 6½ minutes but made 26-of-37 free throws.
"It was two young teams," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "There were some plays made where I just shook my head. I'm stunned we were in the game at the end."
Zeller hit all six of his free throws in the final 90 seconds. The 7-foot junior also had a career-high 11 rebounds and matched his high of five blocks. He was a big part of the Tar Heels' dominance in the paint, where they outscored the Wildcats 34-14 and hounded leading scorer Terrence Jones.
Henson had 13 points and 12 rebounds, his fourth double double, and led the defensive effort on Jones, who was averaging nearly 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Jones had nine points and six rebounds on 3-for-17 shooting and fouled out with 3:04 left.
"I sensed him getting a little angry and a little upset," Henson said. "As a player, you like to see that and you feed off that."
No. 1 duke 82, butler 70: Nolan Smith scored 24 for the Blue Devils (8-0) in East Rutherford, N.J., moving Mike Krzyzewski into a tie with Adolph Rupp for third in career victories. Freshman Kyrie Irving added all but four of his 21 in the second half for Duke, which beat the Bulldogs (4-3) in last season's national title game. Krzyzewski has 876 wins, 803 at Duke. "Each era has outstanding achievements by individuals, whether they be players or coaches and in this era I've been fortunate to have some,'' he said.
No. 3 Pitt 87, Rider 68: Brad Wanamaker had 16 points and 11 assists and the host Panthers used a tough man-to-man defense to improve to 9-0 for the eighth time in nine seasons. The Broncs, who were shooting 44.6 percent on 3s, were 7-of-21 (33 percent).
No. 6 Michigan State 74, Bowling Green 39: Durrell Summers scored 14 and the host Spartans (6-2) went on a 21-1 run early in the second half. The Falcons shot 27 percent.
No. 8 Syracuse 65, N.C. St. 59: Scoop Jardine scored 23 and the host Orange (8-0) shut down the Wolfpack late. Trailing by six, Syracuse clamped down, forcing two shot-clock violations and holding N.C. State without a basket for the final 7:20.
No. 14 memphis 77, W. Ky. 61: D.J. Stephens had 13 points and 11 rebounds and the host Tigers (7-0) won despite giving up 28 offensive rebounds.
No. 15 Minn. 71, Cornell 66: Trevor Mbakwe had 12 points, all on free throws, and 16 rebounds and the Gophers (7-1) used their size advantage to pull away in the second half.
No. 16 Georgetown 68, Utah State 51: Chris Wright scored 21 as the host Hoyas (8-0) played strong defense against the Aggies, the preseason pick to win the Western Athletic Conference.
No. 20 Illinois 73, Gonzaga 61: Demetri McCamey had 11 points and seven assists and the visiting Illini (8-1) started the second half with 10 3-pointers among its first 11 field goals..
No. 21 BYU 78, Hawaii 57: Stephen Rogers scored a career-high 13 off the bench for the host Cougars (8-0). Rogers entered having missed all seven 3-pointers but gave BYU a spark after Hawaii pulled within 23-19 with 6:55 left in the first half. He hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 of BYU's next 14.
No. 22 Purdue 66, Alabama 47: E'Twaun Moore had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Boilermakers (7-1), who hit 9 of 24 3-pointers and held the Tide to 0-for-9 on 3-pointers.
No. 23 Washington 108, Texas Tech 79: Justin Holiday had 17 of his career-high 20 points in the first half for the host Huskies (5-2).
Miami 79, West Virginia 76: The host Hurricanes (6-2) overcame a 13-point deficit with less than 13 minutes left. The Mountaineers fell to 77-4 under coach Bob Huggins when they take a lead of at least 10. "Every time I look at our guys, I don't see any pros," Huggins said.
UCF 74, SE Louisiana 49: Keith Clanton had 16 points, 15 rebounds and tied a school record with eight blocks for the host Knights (7-0), showing no letdown after their upset Wednesday of No. 18 Florida. The Lions, averaging 86.2 points on 52.6 percent shooting, had season lows in points and percentage (18-for-61 for 29.5 percent).
B-CU 62, Florida A&M 55: C.J. Reed had 19 points and out seven assists for the visiting Wildcats (4-4, 1-0 MEAC). Bethune-Cookman was 20-of-30 at the line; the Rattlers (3-5, 0-1) were 8-of-18.
Jacksonville 71, Florida Gulf Coast 56: Ayron Hardy had 11 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks as the host Dolphins (6-1, 2-0 Atlantic Sun) beat the Eagles (2-5, 0-2).