Walter Davis doesn't particularly like the four-corners offense. It's not his style, he says. He'd rather run.

Davis had his way in the first half yesterday, then played the four corners like he was born to it in the second half as North Carolina used its brains and poise to beat Kentucky's impatience and brawn in the NCAA East Regional final at Cole Field House.

All-America guard Phil Ford played only 15 minutes because of his hyper-extended right elbow and four fouls, so John Kuester directed the four corners for the final 15 minutes.

"I may not like it too much and I'm always surprised when we go to it early," Davis said. "But it always works."

It worked yesterday because Davis helped get North Carolina a 53-41 lead with a brilliant first half.

He made five of seven field goals and five of seven foul shots in addition to grabbing 15 rebounds in the first period.

Kentucky tried to intimidate Carolina by starting both of its 6-foot-10 behemoths, Rick Robey and Mike Phillips.

Robery got the unenviable task of guarding Davis. Davis ate him up.

"It's a difficult job trying to stop with Walter," Robey said. "He has a lot of quickness and they set a lot of picks for him. I was at a great disadvantage. It got me into foul trouble, too, but we had to try it."

Davis, who finished with 21 points, said he thought the Kentucky defense was dropping off him slightly, giving him the outside jumper. But he added that he was, indeed, getting good picks.

The broken right index finger that operated on two weeks ago didn't bother Davis yesterday, he said.

"The Notre Dame game got all of the fear out of my system Thursday," Davis said. "The only problem I thought I might have was with my rebounding or if I fell to the floor and somebldy stepped on it."

Ford wasn't so lucky. He limbered his arm up before the game and said it felt pretty good. But his first shot missed the basket. He made his second a 15-foot jumper, then got his third foul and sat out the final five minutes of the half.

Between then and the start of the second half, Ford's elbow stiffened. He said he shot four free throws between halves and none came close.

"I couldn't extend my elbow without it hurting," Ford added.

Ford started the second half, thinking the arm would loosen up. But less than a minute into the period he charged into Kentucky's Jack Givens and fell hard on his right arm. He didn't play anymore.

"That fall did it," Ford said. "I think I could have played if that didn't happen."

Ford will be examined today.

With Ford out and Kentucky flexing its muscles, Carolina coach Dean Smith called for the four corners delay game with 15 minutes left and the Tar Heels on top, 59-53.

Kentucky's Larry Johnson was the man who had to play Kuester while he dribbled around in the middle, directing the four corners.

"What you have to do is be patient and try to get them in a jump ball situation," Johnson said. "You have to tire them out and wait for them to make a mistake."

Kentucky closed to 71-70 on a Robey layup with 1:12 to play. Johnson then tried to draw a charging foul on Kuester, but wa called for blocking and fouled out.

Kuester made two free throws to get North Carolina's lead back to three.

Johnson said that by the time North Carolina went to the four corners Kentucky had gotten into a hole and couldn't get out of it.

"We just didn't go inside and dominate with our big men in the first half like we should have," he said. "They (the Tar Heels) came out harazzing us and cut my penetration off. That upset us."