CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Having added a victory over Kentucky to an earlier victory over Louisville, North Carolina was in perfect position to compare and contrast.
But the Tar Heels diplomatically sidestepped an invitation to predict which team will win the upcoming UK-U of L game.
"I think they bring different things to the table," guard Marcus Paige said. "Kentucky's size just jumps out at you when you look at the roster. They really attack from the inside."
Of course, Louisville has good guard play.
"Both are fantastic teams," Paige said, "and will be dangerous at the end of the year. Hard to say who is better who has the advantage. But they're really good at what they do. Whether it's guard play by Louisville or taking advantage of all their talent at Kentucky."
Teammate J.P. Tokoto noted one big difference in Louisville and Kentucky.
"I just go by experience," he said. "Both are great teams. Talented. But Louisville has that experience that will probably help them down the road."
North Carolina beat Louisville 93-84 on Nov. 24. The Tar Heels beat Kentucky 82-77 here Saturday.
The game's 56 fouls and 88 free throws suggested the impact of the new tighter officiating. Although UNC won, Tokoto did not find the game enjoyable to play.
When asked whether the game was fun to play, he said, "It's not fun at all. I like to get up and down. Every two plays or so, the whistle was blown and play stopped. It kind of got us out of rhythm.
"On the flip side, it was a good thing. You get a breather."
With UNC ranked No. 322 in the nation in free-throw accuracy, UK mounted a late rally by wisely fouling repeatedly down the stretch. But earlier calls frustrated Tokoto.
"A lot of touch fouls called," he said. "I feel a lot of players in the NCAA don't like it because it stops play. ... You've got to let us play. You've got to let that go."
Slow start/fast finish
Paige missed his five shots in the first half. He didn't score until he made the two free throws resulting from a technical foul on UK Coach John Calipari with 1.9 seconds left.
Then he scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half. "Just sensational for us," UNC Coach Roy Williams said of Paige's second half.
Paige, who averaged 18.8 points going into the game, credited Kentucky for his slow start.
"Their length and athleticism and physicality," he said. "It's surprising at the beginning of the game. You talk about it. You watch it on film. But you get out there and Willie Cauley-Stein is up at the rim. You're like, geez."
UNC waits on NCAA
North Carolina continued to play without expected starters P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. They are suspended, but practicing while the NCAA looks into off-court incidents involving questions of amateurism.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Williams had gushed about how Hairston has looked as part of what might be the nation's best scout team.
"Roy Williams said he'd never had a guard dominate practice like P.J. Hairston (this season)," Bilas said. "It leaves you thinking what could have been or still could be if the NCAA ever gets it together."
Fellow ESPN analyst Dick Vitale joined Bilas in criticizing the NCAA for not having already made a judgment.
The UNC players "made mistakes," Vitale said in a tweet. "They have been punished. NCAA must realize we must help kids. Enough already."
Calipari wasn't moving free and easy.
After noting on Friday that he's had one hip replacement, he said, "My good hip has gotten bad. So I'm doubtful before every game, now."
Fund-raiser Before the game, Vitale spread the word about his annual fund-raiser to help cancer research. His ninth annual gala will be May 16 at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla.
Reservations to attend can be made by calling (941) 350-0580.
Donations can be made at www.jimmyv.org/eddie. "Eddie" is Eddie Livingston, who passed away on Nov. 24 at age 5.
Spotted watching the game were ex-UNC player and coach Matt Doherty, tennis guru Nick Bollettieri and former North Carolina senator John Edwards.
Bollettieri is a big UK fan, Vitale said.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.