Wheeler, who shot a season-best 80% (12 of 15) from the floor, was one of four Wildcats to score in double figures in Kentucky’s first victory away from Rupp Arena.
Oscar Tshiebwe added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (8-2), while Kellan Grady had 18 points and Keion Brooks Jr. had 10.
The Tar Heels (8-3) had kept five straight opponents below 64 points. They were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.
Armando Bacot led North Carolina with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while RJ Davis had 10 points.
The CBS Sports Classic was reshuffled days in advance due to COVID-19 to line up Kentucky against North Carolina for the second straight season.
Kentucky was previously scheduled to play Ohio State, but the game was canceled Thursday due to positive COVID-19 test results within the Buckeyes program. North Carolina was scheduled to play UCLA, but the Bruins have had ongoing COVID-19 issues.
North Carolina won last season’s matchup 75-63 in Cleveland, but the Wildcats had no trouble Saturday on Las Vegas Boulevard, winning for the sixth time in nine matchups overall in the BlueBlood series.
The Wildcats raced to their biggest lead of the first half, an 18-point advantage with 4:18 left behind a balanced scoring attack that saw nine players on the scoresheet.
Led by Wheeler, who had 14 points in the first half, the Wildcats were 15 of 37 (40.5%) from the floor, including 3 for 7 (42.9%) from 3-point range.
North Carolina, on the other hand, couldn’t find any sort of rhythm outside of Bacot, who scored 11 of the team’s first 13 points before sitting down with his second foul.
The Heels struggled during cold-shooting stretches of 0 for 7, 1 for 9 and 2 for 12.
Down 17 late in the half, Bacot scored six straight points to get North Carolina within 11.
The Tar Heels hit just 10 of 27 from the floor in the first 20 minutes, during which they didn’t get many second-chance opportunities with Kentucky dominating the paint by outrebounding North Carolina 26-14.
Kentucky took a 40-29 lead into halftime.
North Carolina dropped to 1-3 against ranked opponents this season.
Kentucky came into the game leading the country in rebound margin (plus-16.3) and outrebounded the Heels by 18 boards 44-26.
North Carolina was receiving votes and sat 27th in the latest poll and will likely fall further back.
Kentucky could move upward considering the dominant performance in its lone game this week.
North Carolina hosts Appalachian State in one last non-conference game on Tuesday.
Kentucky hosts in-state rival Louisville on Wednesday.