When you take a look back at this 2019-20 season, Wednesday night’s game against the Elon Phoenix likely won’t be a game that you will focus on as an important part of why this Tar Heel is what is at the end of the season. You should, though. Trust me. I’m not crazy. I’ve been clinically checked. Seriously, though, just hear me out.
For the first time in this young season, Cole Anthony wasn’t, well, Cole Anthony. He scored just nine points on 4-14 shooting and was never able to get in any sort of rhythm on the offensive end. And, guess what, that might be a good thing. I know this game wasn’t as comfortable as we had hoped; no one expected this team to be trailing at halftime to Elon at home. At the end of the day, though, this forced other players to step up to get this offense going, something we had been asking for since the season opener.
Armando Bacot was the player that stepped forward and took control for this Tar Heel team on Wednesday night. After a solid performance against Gardner-Webb that was soured a bit by some turnover issues, Bacot went to work against Elon, scoring 22 points, 18 of which came in second half. He was dominant on the block matched up against the Phoenix’s big man Federico Poser, shooting 8-12 from the field in the second half while being primarily guard by him. Bacot also ripped down a career-high 14 rebounds, becoming the first freshman to finish with that combination of points and rebounds since Harrison Barnes in 2011. He wasn’t just on fire on the offensive end, though, as he blocked three Elon shots on the night, giving the Tar Heels a glimpse of the type of rim protector he can be. The Tar Heels have lacked that rim protecting presence since Kennedy Meeks’ graduation, so there is a reason why this defensive performance was extremely encouraging.He wasn’t the only big man that stepped up, either. Garrison Brooks had his best scoring night of the season, as he added 14 points on 6-12 shooting and 6 rebounds on the offensive end for the Tar Heels.
Believe me, there is still plenty to be concerned about on the offensive end for this team, but this game was a huge wake up call for this Tar Heel team that entered this game without a solid second scoring option. While this one game doesn’t completely solve the question of who that No. 2 option will be, it is definitely a step in the right direction for this offense.
-Even though Anthony struggled scoring the ball on Wednesday night it wasn’t as if he didn’t have any impact. He still managed to corral 10 rebounds and dished out 8 assists.
-After rebounding from a slow start at the free throw line against Gardner-Webb, the Tar Heels shot 14-23 from the stripe on Wednesday night. While it wasn’t a terrible night from the line, it was far from a great night.
-The Tar Heels overall shooting struggles continued against Elon on Wednesday night. As a team, they shot just 42.6% from the field and 15.8% from beyond the arc. Some different guys stepped forward, but this team is still a long way from a complete product on the offensive end.
-Taking care of the basketball was clearly a focus for this team in preparation for this game, as the Tar Heels posted a 19-10 assist-turnover ratio. That is a significant improvement over the 15.4-14.0 average the Tar Heels entered the game with.
-Elon entered Wednesday night averaging 44 rebounds per game, leading some to think they could be competitive on the glass. Instead, the Tar Heels dominated the glass, out rebounding the Phoenix 56-33, the +23 margin being their biggest of the season so far.