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UNC vs. UCLA Player of the Game: Anthony Harris

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Has Carolina found its shooter?

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at North Carolina Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

All of the attention for Carolina’s incoming freshmen had been, rightly, placed on Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot. They were top talents, at least one of them is a one and done player, and both were going to be leaned on heavily for the Tar Heels to have any success this season.

A big unknown was a third freshman, Anthony Harris. He really wasn’t on the radar of UNC fans until the spring as he was a Virginia Tech commitment until Buzz Williams left. When he decided on UNC, it was seen as more for the long term as he had torn his ACL during his senior season and hadn’t played much basketball at all. As he was still recovering when the season started, he was an afterthought, some even wondering if this would be a redshirt year for him.

With the injuries, it became obvious that Harris was going to be needed sooner rather than later. Yesterday, he showed exactly why Carolina fans should have been excited when he committed to the Tar Heels . On a team where no one wanted to seem to shoot the ball, Harris torched the nets in the second half, helping to key the decisive run that ended a game that was frighteningly close with about six minutes left.

Harris played only three minutes in the first half, as Williams still seems to be trying to balance the minutes for him and fellow freshman Jeremiah Francis. Both are coming off season-long injuries and haven’t been able to practice as long as the rest of the team, but by the second half it’s clear Williams felt the team was better with them on the floor. It showed.

The first half went well for the Tar Heels, but the second was just going horribly. Enter Harris, and his 14 points on 5-7 shooting, 2-3 from three, and 2-2 from the line. He showed something a lot of Tar Heels hadn’t so far: confidence, and it translated on the other side of the court as well. He far and away led the Tar Heels in +/- in the second half with a +12. The next closest was Jeremiah Francis at +3. A healthy Harris that can contribute along with the great start by Jeremiah Francis could be the key for the Tar Heels to tread water while waiting for Cole Anthony’s return.

The quotes from Williams about Harris should make Tar Heel fans smile:

Jeremiah Francis deserves the shout out as well, as it’s become increasingly clear that the offense moves better with him out on the floor. He’s absolutely showing the rust that one would expect when not playing basketball for two years, but he appears to have embraced what he can do on the floor, and had the D collapsed on multiple occasions to set up easy shots. He also hit a wide open three in the motion of the offense, and it feels like only a matter of time before he’s starting.

The inside duo of Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot combined for 27 points on 10-18 shooting and 21 rebound. Bacot actually had a double double with 15/12 on his own. Their touches were still criminally low despite this, and the Tar Heels are going to have to work on way to get them the ball more. If Harris continues to play like this, then the Tar Heels may finally force defenses to stop packing it down low, and this game could be remembered as the turning point in the year.