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UNC survives messy first half to beat Elon behind Armando Bacot’s 22-point effort

UNC needed a second scorer, and they found it tonight in their other big freshman.

NCAA Basketball: Elon University at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

It has been obvious in every game so far that UNC was going to need to find a second scorer to help Cole Anthony. On a night when Anthony’s offense was hard to come by, his fellow freshman Armando Bacot stepped up in a big way to have his best game so far. Bacot scored 22 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, and the Tar Heels needed almost every one of them as they beat Elon 75-61.

The Phoenix held a one-point lead at halftime after getting off to a hot start in the first half. That hot start did not continue, but UNC’s offense went equally cold. Even though the Heels out-shot Elon 42% to 37%, Elon was able to rain threes in a way they haven’t done all season. Literally. They are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in college basketball and they made six first-half threes. Whether luck or bad defense, their luck did not continue as much in the second half. Thankfully.

It was after halftime that Carolina really turned on the jets. Roy Williams might have peeled every inch of paint off the walls in the locker room to get them there, but they looked like a much more cohesive team for the first several minutes of the second half. It certainly didn’t continue that way for the entire half, particularly late when UNC seemingly let up off the gas in a big way. That allowed the Phoenix to mount a mini comeback before UNC was able to slam the door and lock it for good.

Anthony flirted with a triple-double on easily his worst shooting night so far. He scored just nine points but stuffed the stat sheet with 10 rebounds and eight assists. Christian Keeling also had nine points. The Heels shot just 16% from beyond the arc, making just three of their 19 shots from long distance. Elon made 12 of their 32. The free throw line was once again shaky for UNC with just 14 of 23 made from the charity stripe.

Carolina’s size presented a huge problem for Elon as evidenced by their 46 points in the paint. They also out-rebounded the Phoenix 56-25. All of that being said, it’s kind of astounding that the game was as close as it was. That’s a pretty brutal illustration of how rough the offense was for the Tar Heels.

The road gets harder from here for the Heels. They won’t be able to show up and play one half of basketball and still win the game in the largest majority of their games going forward. They’ll have to figure that out in the next week before taking on Alabama in the Bahamas next Wednesday.