GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 11:  Roy Williams, head coach of the University of the North Carolina Tarheels coaches in their first round game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 11, 2010 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

North Carolina Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams

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In college basketball or any other sport, the final five-minute stretch is always a chess game. That’s when coaching matters.

Roy Williams, with his North Carolina Tar Heels being the decided underdog today, out-coached John Calipari and his formerly 10th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, beating him not with superior talent, but with great gameday coaching. Many longtime observers of the game will just shrug their shoulders and say, “What else is new?”

Calipari has long been known as a recruiter, not a coach. His abysmal performance in the NCAA Tournament last season is ample evidence of that. With superior athletes as starters who all went to the NBA, he failed to even get close to the Final Four.

Williams’ game plan was simple. Win with defense and and rebounding, take the ball inside and foul out Kentucky’s big men. It worked to perfection on Tobacco Road in Chapel Hill.

This was a signature win for Carolina. It also, ironically, will propel undefeated Tennessee, currently ranked 13th nationally, into the lead spot in the national rankings among Southeastern Conference teams. Look for the Vols to make it to the Top 10 before Christmas.

Behind Tyler Zellers 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots, UNC came back from a 2-point halftime deficit to outshine UK’s Doron Lamb’s 24 points. Carolina’s three forwards, Zellers, John Henson and Harrison Barnes, combined for 52 of Carolina’s 75 points, while Kentucky’s trio of guards, Lamb, Darius Miller and Brandon Knight, had an identical 52 total points out of the Wildcats’ 73. 

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Kentucky Head Basketball Coach John Calipari

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The key to victory for the Tar Heels was the fact that they fouled out all three of Kentucky’s big men starters, forwards Eloy Vargas, who failed to score, Terrence Jones, and Josh Harrellson, none of which tallied a blocked shot in the entire game. Carolina struggled from outside, going only 1 of 11 from the 3-point line, but made up for it with tenacious defense that held UK to only 38% shooting. UNC also outrebounded UK 40-32, proving their big men outhustled the visitors.

Once again, defense, rebounding, and coaching wins championships. This big college basketball game, an early gauge of what is to come this season, proves that exquisitely.

Kentucky had only seven players that made the box score in this game. That won’t be enough for the deep benches they will face against Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State in the tough SEC this winter.