When Karl-Anthony Towns stepped to the foul line to try to extend a 16-point lead Saturday, a Kentucky fan could be heard calling out to Roy Williams.
"Hey, Roy!" he yelled at the North Carolina coach. "How about dem Cats?!"
By then (4:56 left), No. 1 Kentucky was well on the way to a heady 84-70 victory over the Tar Heels and, maybe more importantly, showing that the sudden loss of Alex Poythress less than 48 hours earlier might not be problematic. It certainly wasn't in game one of the post-Poythress portion of the season.
But even with a convincing victory over No. 21 North Carolina, UK Coach John Calipari advised the Big Blue Nation to proceed cautiously.
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"I'm going to tell you, the biggest issue (remains) with us missing Alex," Calipari said. "And it doesn't go away. Don't think, well, they played well without Alex."
Somewhere, sometime, maybe against UCLA next Saturday or at Louisville the following Saturday, Kentucky will need an athletic play that can't be scripted or taught.
"Trey doesn't do that," Calipari said of Trey Lyles, who started in Poythress's place against North Carolina. "Trey's a totally different player. Karl does some of it, but not like Alex does."
Poythress could do that. But he's gone after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in practice Thursday. To compensate, Calipari said, Kentucky must become more efficient on offense and even better on defense.
"So we're not in the position to have to have that play," he said. "Because it's not there anymore."
Kentucky didn't feel Poythress's absence against North Carolina, and not because he sat near the bench and then on the bench during the game. The Cats became the first UNC opponent to make better than 40 percent of its shots this season. Way better at 56.3-percent accuracy as UK snapped out of a recent shooting slump from three-point range. The Cats made seven of 15 three-point shots, which was only one less trey than they made in the previous four games total.
"If we can make shots like that consistently, it's scary how good we can be," said Willie Cauley-Stein, who along with Devin Booker led UK with 15 points each.
Of course, Kentucky collapsed two years ago after losing Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL.
The first half sent a clear message: No Poythress? No problem.
Breaking out of a three-point shooting slump helped Kentucky lead 49-34 at halftime. The Cats made six of 12 three-point shots in the opening 20 minutes. That matched the six treys made in the previous three games (in 42 attempts) and propelled UK into firm control.
"We tried to play a little bit of zone early," North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said, "and we haven't played any zone this year."
Aaron Harrison, who had made only three three-pointers in the previous four games (in 16 attempts), made three of six shots from beyond the arc in the first half. One of the misses came at the buzzer and looked like a heat-check. Taken from in front of the UNC bench, it was on target, but rimmed out.
For the fourth time in 11 games, Kentucky never trailed. But UNC hung in there for a while. The Tar Heels seemed intent on trying to beat UK in transition and score before the defense set up. Six of UNC's first eight points came off the break. That represented more fast-break points than eight of UK's earlier 10 opponents managed.
But Kentucky only gave up two more transition baskets the rest of the game.
A three-pointer by Booker gave UK its first double-digit lead: 16-6 at the 15:41 mark. Helped by UNC's 10 first-half turnovers, Kentucky got the margin to 15 by halftime.
North Carolina had been behind at halftime only once previously this season: 31-29 to Iowa.
Kentucky extended its lead to as much as 62-43 on Booker's three-pointer with 14:38 left.
Then UK scored only once in more than three minutes. UNC got as close as 66-57 when Theo Pinson banked in a three-point shot with 10:19 left. He had made only two of 10 shots from beyond the arc this season.
Kentucky answered 31 seconds later with a Cauley-Stein dunk off a lob from Tyler Ulis. That marked UK's first dunk off a lob in the game.
Kentucky didn't need the lobs this game. Williams was not surprised.
"Coach (Dean) Smith used to say, if you lose a guy, that the next game you're going to be so much better because everybody is going to try to pull forward (with) a little more effort and play better," the North Carolina coach said. "But in the long run, nobody is going to be better if you lose one of your better players."
It's that long run that seemed on Calipari's mind.
"Thank goodness," he said, "we have time between games now to get ourselves right."