Led behind Cole Anthony's 23 point second half outburst, Carolina rallied from a 31-30 deficit to earn a impressive 75-64 win over Notre Dame. TJ Gibbs and Prettiness Hubb lead the Fighting Irish in the first half, each scoring 11 points while combining for 6 three pointers. Carolina started faster than expected before Roy Williams rested Cole Anthony, which took the team out of rhythm on both ends of the floor. Missed free throws also plagued Carolina, as a team that we expect to score the basketball, will need to take advantage of putting up points when the clock stops. The Tar Heels responded in the second half, led by the aforementioned Anthony, as they shot a blistering 64% from the floor while holding the visitors to just 38%. Entering tonight the worry was whether or not, Carolina would be able to contain John Mooney, the big man who averaged a double double last season. They answered the question, holding him to just 10 points on 5-13 shooting, and only 8 rebounds. Overall this game went as expected, you saw glimpses of the kind of team this can be, while also seeing them struggle at times. Let's react to the season opening win:
1. Cole Anthony is Legit: This is a easy one, but still worth writing about. His 34 points are a UNC record for a debut. The most impressive part of his game? He's not only a willing defender, but he's also a willing rebounder, he brought down 11 boards.He was in complete control of his game, and you can tell the team has responded to him as a leader. Cole entered with as much as any Carolina Basketball player in the modern era, and tonight he showcased his talent in leading his team to a big time win.
2. Not So Battle of the Boards: We've talked at length about the scoring production the team lost from last season, that we forgot they lost a good bit in the rebounding department as well. As the season moves along there wasn't a worry if this team would rebound at a high level, but initially there were concerns. They responded with 51-31 advantage, which kept them in the game, after finishing the first half 7-29. The Heels grabbed 14 offensive rebounds leading to 17 points, while holding Notre Dame to 8 offensive rebounds, and only 10 points.
3. Keeling & Pierce Need Time to Adjust: The grad transfers were put in a tricky spot when they transferred in over the summer, and it only got worse as injuries began to mount. Keeling at times look undersized, and slow compared to the opponent. Pierce struggled from the field (1-6), but was attacking the boards hauling down 7 rebounds. It's important to remember this was their first ACC game, and they need time to adjust to the step up in competition. Expect them to be more comfortable when they travel to Virginia next month.
4. Free Throws & Turnovers: It’s not often that you turn the ball over 18 times, and miss 7 free throws, and you still find yourself in the winners column. Carolina was very fortunate to overcome those aspects of the game, credit the defense as the Heels hounded Notre Dame for most of the night. The turnovers will correct itself, as the team learns how to play with one another. As for the free throws, Bacot struggled the most only going 1-6. He has good form, it's just a matter of him feeling confident when he toes the line, and knock them in at a consistent rate.
Up Next: Carolina hits the road for instate battle, as they'll head to Wilmington to face UNC-Wilmington. Trask Coliseum is sold out, as CB McGrath will host his mentor Roy Williams. The game will tip off at 7.
(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A Camarati of GoHeels.com)