Updated: Jan 5
The Tar Heels entered Friday night’s meeting with the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks in Trask Coliseum as beat up as any team in the country. There was some good news on the injury front prior, with Brandon Robinson out of his walking boot, but the Tar Heels injury luck would turn once again early in the first half when Armando Bacot was elbowed in the face. Bacot was wobbly his feet after the contact to the face, forcing teammate Garrison Brooks to hold him up and call the training staff out. Bacot would exit the game and would not return with what head coach Roy Williams classified as a concussion, making the Tar Heels even thinner in an already thin front court.
The good news for the Tar Heels on Friday night, though, was the play of their other two primary bigs. Brooks put together a career night, pouring in 18 points and ripping down 13 rebounds, the most rebounds in a game for him so far in his career and that combined with a phenomenal showing on the offensive end from grad transfer Justin Pierce, who turned a first half double-double into 18 points on 7-12 shooting and 12 rebounds. If Bacot is out for an extended period of time, both of these guys will be counted on to play big minutes until he can return.
It helps that Cole Anthony is continuing to show he’s a once-in-a-generation type of player. Anthony tallied another double-double, leading the Tar Heels in scoring with 20 points, despite shooting just 7-24 from the field and 4-11 from deep, and was able to pull down 10 more boards, all defensive. Anthony was also a +24 when on the floor, the best plus-minus amongst Tar Heel players on Friday night. Anthony has combined for 54 points in his first two games of his Tar Heel career making him just the fourth Division I freshman to start his career with back-to-back 20 point-10 rebound games.
-After finishing with a +20 advantage on the boards on Wednesday night against Notre Dame, the Tar Heels finished with just a 54-48 advantage on the glass on Friday night. This was due in large part to the Tar Heels shooting just 37.5% from the field, creating plenty of rebound opportunities, but Bacot’s size was definitely missed, especially in the second half, though.
-For the second straight game, the Tar Heels had a tough night from the line. The team combined to shoot just 16-30 from the charity stripe, including a combined 2-11 from Anthony and Pierce. Through the first two games the Tar Heels are just 26-47 from the free throw line.
-The Tar Heels turned the ball over just eight times, correcting what was an issue in Wednesday night’s season opener. Christian Keeling wasn’t on the floor nearly as much as he was against the Fighting Irish, but looked much more comfortable, turning the ball over just once after his issues handling the ball on Wednesday.
-Keeling did a better job of taking care of the basketball, but still struggled shooting the rock. The grad transfer shot just 2-9 from the field, finishing the night with just four points. Not the start he was hoping for to his Tar Heel career.
-The Tar Heels finished with 16 offensive rebounds, ten of which came from Brooks or Pierce. This is just another stat that helps to show just how important these two were to the Tar Heels success on Friday night.
-With the win, head coach Roy Williams is now tied with Jim Calhoun for sixth place on the all-time wins list with 873. Coach Williams can move into sole possession of sixth place with a win on Friday against Gardner-Webb and could tie Adolph Rupp for fifth all-time with 876 as soon as November 27th’s meeting with Alabama.