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UNC Basketball: Cole Anthony’s 28 points helps Tar Heels hold off Gardner-Webb

It was far from Carolina’s cleanest game, but Cole Anthony made sure they didn’t lose.

Gardner-Webb v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Cole Anthony topped the 20-point mark for the third straight time to start his college career as UNC was able to avoid an upset bid by Gardner-Webb. It was a closer game than most any Carolina fan will feel comfortable with, but this team showed they are still very much a work in progress.

In addition to Anthony’s strong performance, fellow freshman Armando Bacot logged his first double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Christian Keeling and Andrew Platek finished with nine points each.

The game started incredibly sloppy for both teams with the score staying 2-0 UNC for what felt like forever. Carolina finished the game with 16 turnovers (four from Anthony) which was more than the Bulldogs’ 13. Fortunately, Carolina turned Gardner-Webb turnovers into 18 points. The Tar Heels were also able to out-rebound the Bulldogs 44-23 and had 22 fast break points.

Whatever Roy Williams said at halftime seemed to work because UNC came out and scored the first nine points of the second half. Anthony scored 18 of his points after halftime and might have scored more if he hadn’t run into foul trouble with just over ten minutes left. He picked up a third foul and went to the bench before coming back in and picking up his fourth foul in the final minutes. Ultimately it didn’t matter, but we’ve seen the team’s effectiveness suffer with Anthony on the bench. That’s certainly something to monitor as time goes on.

Even though the first half seemed rough by all measures, it was actually UNC’s best shooting first half (41.5%) of the season so far. That’s probably telling. Things went better in the second half as they shot 50% from the field and got a few more threes to fall. Gardner-Webb put up a pretty strong fight before falling off a bit at the end. They failed to score in the final 2:18 and UNC pulled a comfortable distance away for good.

The non-conference season is always maddening. It’s doubly maddening when you have an inexperienced team still trying to find their identity. Thankfully this one ended the way we wanted it to, but the team is nowhere near a finished product. Roy Williams coaches his teams to be ready for March instead of making sure they play a spotless non-conference slate. Just remember that in the weeks ahead. Or try, at least.

UNC is back in action next Wednesday against Elon at home.