LEXINGTON, Ky. – Before tipoff, Danny Green was trying to do his usual dancing routine to the song "Jump Around" – which they play here at Rupp Arena just like North Carolina does on its home floor – but suddenly got shut down.
One of the referees forced Green to sit in his seat and be content to bop on the bench.
But when Green left the bench and got into the game, he managed to have a lot more fun than any pre-game dancing would have provided.
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Green scored a career-high 20 points to help the Tar Heels to an 86-77 win against Kentucky, their fourth in a row in this series between the two schools.
"That's what my team needed me to do," Green said. "My job is to pick the team's energy up when I'm in the game. I got in a little rhythm."
The Tar Heels (7-0) are off to their best start since 1998 but Kentucky didn't make things easy for them early in the game.
When North Carolina's starters combined to shoot 5 for 24 in the first half, it was clear the team needed a jolt from the bench.
Enter Green, who scored 12 of his points before the break.
Playing at the power forward spot, he had far too much range for the bigger Kentucky defenders.
That meant open shots, including a pair of pure 3-pointers.
"During a stretch in the first half, he was a tough matchup for Kentucky because he was the four man," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "He does give us some flexibility, and he does have the ability to stretch the defense."
Tar Heels other than Green finally got it going early in the second half when a 13-0 run – capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Bobby Frasor – gave them a 57-39 lead.
Carolina held the double-digit advantage until the final five seconds of the game, when the Wildcats (4-2) chipped away for the final margin.
"At the end, it got to be a little ragged and ugly," Williams said. "From about the 18-minute mark of the second half to the 10-minute mark, we were really good."
Tyler Hansbrough finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 19th career double-double.
But as was the case in Carolina's last two wins against Kentucky, the big man's numbers weren't pretty.
Hansbrough was just 2 of 8 from the field – giving him a grand total of 5 for 23 in his three outings against the Wildcats – but he got to the free-throw line 12 times, making 10 shots.
It was clear from the start that Kentucky wanted to be physical with Hansbrough, who ended up on the floor three times in the game's opening minutes.
Kentucky forward Perry Stevenson picked up four first-half fouls guarding Hansbrough and then got a quick fifth in his eighth minute of play, early in the second half.
"Sometimes it seemed like they were over-aggressive," Hanbrough said. "But I think that's the way people come at me, so I'm prepared."
Sophomore point guard Ty Lawson returned to action after missing a game with a sprained ankle and was one of four Tar Heels in double figures
Lawson said Williams left it up to him whether or not to play and that his ankle was feeling good though it was only 75 or 80 percent healthy.
With Lawson limited and Hansbrough getting battered down low, it was all the more important for Green to come through.
While those two were on the court awaiting tipoff, it was Williams who stuck up for Green, protesting when the referee made the junior forward take a seat during "Jump Around."
The loyalty paid off.
"Danny gave us a huge lift off the bench," Williams said. "But he's been doing that all year long."