Johnson and Travis combined to score 43 points in the Wildcats' victory over the Tar Heels.
CHICAGO (AP) – Keldon Johnson scored 23 points, Reid Travis added 20, and No. 19 Kentucky beat ninth-ranked North Carolina 80-72 Saturday in a matchup between two of college basketball's winningest programs.
Johnson scored 16 in the second half, helping the Wildcats (9-2) hold off the Tar Heels (8-3) in their first meeting since the 2017 NCAA South Regional final. North Carolina won that game on a last-second jumper by Luke Maye en route to its sixth national title.
This time, Johnson came on strong down the stretch after Travis got off to a scorching start.
Johnson hit three 3-pointers in the second half and made 4 of 7 from beyond the arc overall. Travis scored 16 as the Wildcats grabbed a 40-31 halftime lead.
Tyler Herro scored 15. PJ Washington added 11 points, nine rebounds and a career-high eight assists, and Kentucky won its second in a row since an overtime loss to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden.
Cameron Johnson led North Carolina with 17 points. Maye scored 16 for the Tar Heels, who knocked off then-No. 4 Gonzaga one week earlier.
It was the Tar Heels' first game since the school announced an eight-year contract extension through the 2027-28 season for Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams.
Kentucky was leading 66-55 with just under eight minutes to go after Keldon Johnson nailed 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions.
North Carolina then cut the lead to six, but two steals by Ashton Hagans helped bump it back up to 11. The first led to a 3 by PJ Washington, and Hagans then scored on a breakaway layup off another steal to make it 71-60 with 5:50 left.
North Carolina: Coming off the win over Gonzaga, the Tar Heels fell short against another nonconference powerhouse.
Kentucky: The Wildcats scored 20 points off 17 turnovers but struggled from 3-point range, making 9 of 26.
North Carolina: Hosts Davidson on Dec. 29.
Kentucky: Visits Louisville on Dec. 29.