NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 27: DeAndre Liggins #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates after a play against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second half of the east regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Prudential Center on March 27, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

NCAA Tournament: No. 4 Kentucky Holds Off No. 2 UNC, Punches Final Ticket To Houston

Kentucky led North Carolina most of the way and held off a furious rally down the stretch to punch its ticket to the 2011 Final Four.

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Final Four 2011, Kentucky Vs. UNC Final Score: Wildcats Basketball Advances To Play UConn In Houston

The No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats held off a late charge by the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels, winning to advance to the 2011 Final Four. They’ll play the No. 3 Connecticut Huskies in Houston next weekend.

Kentucky led by as many as 11 late before a UNC rally closed the game to a tie with three minutes left. The Wildcats re-found their shooting touch and figured out how to hang on to the ball again, with DeAndre Liggins sinking a crucial three with seconds left to make it a four-point game. Officials reviewed to make sure his toe was behind the line. It was, by the narrowest of margins.

Brandon Knight was the highest scorer for Kentucky, drilling five threes to reach 22 for the game. He also pulled down seven rebounds, tying him with Terrence Jones for second on the team behind Josh Harrelson.

This is Kentucky’s first Final Four since Tubby Smith’s title run in 1998.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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Harrison Barnes Scores Eight Straight, UNC Closing On Kentucky In Elite Eight

Harrison Barnes scored eight straight points in the closing minutes of the last Elite Eight matchup, pulling the North Carolina Tar Heels within a strike of the Kentucky Wildcats. The Cats lead is down to 67-65 with about four minutes left. Barnes has 18 points, a game high, and five rebounds.

Kentucky’s strong shooting and ball control, its first-half reasons for success, have all but vanished. UNC now holds the edge by a bit in both marks for the game, and even more so for the second half.

The Wildcats haven’t hit a three-pointer in about six minutes, which is actually a pretty long time, the way this game has gone.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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UNC Vs. Kentucky Score: Dexter Strickland, Tyler Zeller Step It Up As Heels Rally

The North Carolina Tar Heels are only going to get so many chances to put together a comeback against the sharp-shooting Kentucky Wildcats, and they’re making the most of their current run. With just under eight minutes left, the Heels are now only down four, 59-55.

Tyler Zeller, who didn’t look like much of a match for the intense and powerful Josh Harrelson early on, scored a block against his counterpart, grabbed his game-high sixth rebound, and also took over as the contest’s top scorer, with 17 points. Dexter Strickland has seven points in the second half.

Kentucky has suddenly started turning the ball over, with seven in the second half. They’ve kept their deep shooting edge intact, but UNC has found an interior advantage.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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Final Four 2011 Trip On The Line As Kentucky Basketball Leads UNC In Second Half

North Carolina started the second half of this Elite Eight matchup hot, forcing a pair of turnovers and grabbing an easy bucket. John Calipari called a time out to regroup — and then UNC forced a back court violation seconds later.

Kentucky soon extended its lead to 47-36. Around the 17-minute mark, Kentucky got back to business. DeAndre Liggins and Brandon Knight hit threes, and John Henson picked up his fourth foul.

Harrison Barnes inadvertently tripped up Josh Harrelson on a run to the basket at one point, with Harrelson hitting the floor and springing up to glower and huff. An official spotted blood on the big guy’s knee a few plays later, forcing Harrelson to the bench.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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Kentucky Vs. North Carolina Score: At Halftime, Wildcats Lead Thanks To Deep Shooting

With John Henson on the bench for the final seven minutes of the half due to foul trouble, the North Carolina Tar Heels kept pace with the Kentucky Wildcats, but trail 38-30 at the break. This has been a sloppy game, with the teams combining for 14 turnovers with about two minutes left.

At one point Harrison Barnes attempted a Kobe Bryant self-pass off the backboard, but couldn’t pull it off. He was also called for a charge, running into Doron Lamb in the paint. Still, he’s put in eight points, UNC’s second-most behind Tyler Zeller’s 11.

With a trip to play UConn in Houston on the line, Carolina’s going to have to slow Brandon Knight and Lamb outside, keep Henson from picking up his fourth foul, and hang on to the basketball.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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Josh Harrelson, John Henson Key Matchup In Kentucky Vs. North Carolina So Far

Not a great deal of scoring going on in North Carolina-Kentucky’s early minutes, with the Wildcats needing over four minutes to pull off an 8-0 run. Kendall Marshall broke the drought with a three for UNC. With just over seven minutes to go, Kentucky leads 25-18.

UNC leads on the boards, but Kentucky’s interior advantage is becoming more pronounced as the first half goes on. Josh Harrelson already has 10 points and three rebounds, while John Henson is already in very serious foul trouble with three. Without Henson’s seven boards, Carolina wouldn’t even be in this game right now.

Kentucky is shooting better, 43 percent to 33 percent.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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UNC Vs. Kentucky Score: Elite Eight Matchup Close in First Half

Harrison Barnes notched the first score of the Elite Eight matchup between the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats. Josh Harrelson countered with a pair of free throws, and off we went. Two of college basketball’s most storied (this means lots of stories have been told about them) programs began their battle for the last available Final Four spot.

The game is tied at 13 with about 13 minutes remaining after a Barnes drive featuring a Darius Miller foul and a John Henson score from close.

Harrelson leads all scorers with six points, with Barnes close behind at five.

For more on this game, UNC fans should join Carolina March, and Kentucky fans should visit A Sea Of Blue and Team Speed Kills.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA 2011 Tournament bracket … the full NCAA Tournament schedule.

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Elite Eight 2011 Predictions, Preview: UNC Tar Heels Vs. Kentucky Wildcats, 4:55 ET Sunday

In college basketball, it doesn't get more prestigious than North Carolina vs. Kentucky: this is a clash of the titans, a meeting of the royal houses, a new chapter in some long, storied history books. It's also just an Elite Eight game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket, meaning that either the Tar Heels or the Wildcats will fail to snag a 2011 Final Four banner after falling short in this East Regional final. UNC vs. Kentucky tips at 4:55 p.m. this Sunday from Newark: it's the last game of the second week of the the 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule, and Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg will have the call on CBS.

North Carolina wants to run; in this NCAA Tournament, that hasn't been a problem. The Tar Heels are the highest-scoring team left in the field, averaging 86.6 points per game, and are keyed by Kendall Marshall's smart passing and a fierce transition game. It hasn't hurt to have Tyler Zeller and John Henson down low, either; those two have combined for more than 30 points in each of Carolina's three games so far. Oh, and then there's Harrison Barnes, who has only scored over 20 points in each game. While the Tar Heels can play indifferent defense at times — see their nearly disastrous first half against Washington — their offense is both talented enough to win games with little defensive input and quick enough to capitalize on stops and steals in transition.

Kentucky can be forgiven if it doesn't quite see a mirror image in the Tar Heels. The Wildcats have similar talent — young bucks Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, and older contributors Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller — and a similar interest in making things happen in transition. But the 'Cats play defense, and well, and that's how they gutted out wins against Princeton and Ohio State when their offense lagged. Knight's been their savior in this NCAA Tournament, hitting two game-winning shots to escape the Tigers and down the Buckeyes, and pouring in 30 points to help top West Virginia, but Marshall presents a tougher matchup for him on defense. If he can dominate Marshall, Kentucky will move on, but if he doesn't, it's going to be hard to disrupt the vaunted North Carolina offense. The Wildcats' X factor is, as always, Harrellson; if he can pick up cheap fouls on Zeller or take away the Carolina big man's nearly unstoppable hook shot, he might be the chief reason Kentucky heads to Houston.

Star Watch: Terrence Jones' immense talent shows itself only in spurts, it seems. And it hasn't, really, in this NCAA Tournament: Jones is averaging just 10 points per game. But Jones is a little too strong for both Barnes and Henson down low, and just good enough from distance to force whoever does draw him to shade further out on defense. That might not be the recipe for a 25-point explosion, but if Jones can at least force the Tar Heels to respect him on defense, it will open up lanes for Knight to do damage by either slashing to the hoop or driving and kicking.

Prediction: North Carolina has a little too much talent for Kentucky, and though both teams have improved significantly since the Heels won their first meeting this season in Chapel Hill in December, the Tar Heels' better is better than Big Blue's. Carolina wins, 82-75, and breaks a tie with UCLA by earning its record 19th Final Four.

More Reading: SB Nation's North Carolina blog Carolina March has the Tar Heels covered from A to Zeller, while Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue is your go-to resource for all things Big Blue. And check out the SB Nation NCAA Tournament hub for more on the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

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