Saturday night was the much anticipated return of Cole Anthony to the Tar Heel lineup. After a slow start in the first half, Anthony would explode for a huge second half, scoring 20 of his 26 points down the stretch. Unfortunately, his strong performance wasn’t enough, as the Tar Heels fell to the Boston College Eagles 71-70 with Anthony’s miss as the final seconds ticked off, a loss that drops the Tar Heels to 10-11 (3-7) on the season.
After having their best back-to-back shooting games of the season in wins against Miami and NC State, the Tar Heels struggled from the field as a team, hitting just 36.1% of their 61 shots, including a 21.1% mark from deep. While that drop off hurt, the game was lost at the free throw line, where the Tar Heels converted just 22 of their 31 attempts from the line, seven of the misses coming from Garrison Brooks, who left a lot on the floor on Saturday night.
Both Brooks and Armando Bacot finished with double-doubles, but both had trouble staying on the block throughout the night, especially late in the game. Bacot had a solid night from the line to save his tough night from the field, while Brooks just couldn’t find any sort of rhythm from the field or at the line.
The final sequence will have Tar Heel fans talking for the next couple of days about what could have been. Brandon Robinson was called for a shooting foul on Jared Hamilton that, after seeing a review, was questionable at best. On the play, he suffered what looked to be a somewhat significant right ankle injury, as he was carried back to the locker room by teammates, not able to any pressure on that leg. With Robinson off the floor, it was all in the hands of Anthony, who wasn’t able to get the screen he was looking for from Brooks leading to any extremely difficult heave from just in front of the Tar Heel bench that failed to graze the rim as the final seconds ticked away. 3 takeaways from Saturday night’s loss:
1. Cole Anthony Is Indeed Back: While is wasn’t the smoothest start, Anthony responded with a big second half in his first game in nearly two months. Anthony’s 20 second half points were the only reason the Tar Heels had a chance late in the game and his 14-14 clip from the free throw line was almost enough in the end. His two 3-pointers early in the second half were a huge part of why the Tar Heels were able to close the lead and eventually take the lead after Boston College was able to extend their lead to nine. While this team will have to work on regaining cohesiveness with Anthony back in the lineup, his return was definitely a boost for the Tar Heels, especially on the perimeter.
2. Garrison Brooks Struggles: Brooks has had an amazing season for the Tar Heels so far in 2019-20, but Saturday night was far from his best performance. Brooks finished with a double-double, but struggled to convert important opportunities, finishing the night just 5-15 from the field. His biggest struggles came from the line, though, where Brooks was a dismal 0-7 on the night. Unfortunately, those missed free throws were the difference in the game.
3. NCAA Tournament Hopes Take A Blow: It’s not even the fact that the Tar Heels are losing the game, it’s more about who they are losing to. The Tar Heels have now lost games at home this season to Wofford, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Clemson and Boston College. In all, one of these teams appears to even have a realistic chance of making the tournament, that being a Pittsburgh team that ranks 77th in the latest NET rankings. The Tar Heels now likely need to pull an upset wins in two of their final four matchups with ranked teams this year to have a chance. All four of those matchups come against teams currently ranked in the top ten in the latest AP poll and three of which will be on the road. If they can’t do that, they will likely have to win the ACC Tournament to get in and avoid missing the tournament for the first time since 2010.