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Cole Anthony returns but UNC falls 71-70 to Boston College

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So. That wasn’t great.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Anthony made his much-anticipated return and North Carolina welcomed the Eagles of Boston College to the Dean Dome. The Heels needed a much-needed ACC win before traveling to Florida State on Monday, which would have had them rolling into Tallahassee on a three-game win streak. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and UNC fell in the final seconds, 71-70.

The first half was typical of most UNC games this year. North Carolina struggled to find the bottom of the net while the Eagles were able to do just enough to keep it close. After Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks scored UNC’s first eight points, Anthony replaced starting point guard Leaky Black. The Heels quickly stretched an 8-7 lead to 12-7 on the back of a Brandon Robinson dunk and two Anthony free throws.

Boston College responded with a 7-0 spurt that started off with a made three-point attempt by Jared Hamilton. (Because of course it did). That gave the Eagles a 14-12 lead, and the teams would continue to exchange the lead until halftime with UNC trailing 32-30. Boston College never led by more than four points, but UNC struggled to pout together consecutive scoring possessions throughout the half.

Part of those struggles was an inability (or unwillingness) to feed the post. That was reflected with just 12 points in the paint. Meanwhile, Boston College also scored 12 points in the paint while hitting 5-9 from deep.

Along the way Anthony went 6-6 from the foul line, with the Heels going a combined 11-12 from the stripe. That helped keep the gap close after shooting just 9-30 from the floor and 1-8 from three. Bacot led all Heels in the first half with 8 points and 6 rebounds. Brooks, who entered the game averaging 18.7 points in conference play, didn’t score in the final 18:35 of the half. Anthony entered the break 0-4 from the floor.

The second period looked to rectify some of the earlier problems, but success was elusive. UNC’s first three possessions resulted in shot attempts and two fouls drawn by Bacot and Brooks, but an inability to convert at the foul line only created two points. The struggles continued and Brooks started the second-half 0-5 from the foul line. Those missed opportunities helped Boston College stretch their lead to 41-32 before the under-16:00 media timeout.

Out of the timeout, an Anthony three finally dropped, but the Heels gave up consecutive lay-ups on the other end. That gave Boston College a double-digit lead, when Brooks and-1 looked to cut the lead to seven. Unfortunately, Brooks missed another free-throw and Bacot joined the brick party going 1-2 from the line. Another Anthony three-pointer cut the lead to 48-41 at the under 12:00 media timeout, giving the Heels a glimmer of hope.

The previously mentioned Anthony trifecta kicked off a 11-0 run that gave the Heels new life and a 49-48 lead. The Eagles briefly recovered with their own 7-0 run, but North Carolina finally had the confidence it was missing for the first 30 minutes. They slowly chipped away, re-taking a 62-61 lead on a Robinson drive to the rim. After giving up another lay-up, Brooks earned another and-1 opportunity, leading to the final media timeout with 3:16 remaining.

Holding a 64-63 lead, Brooks failed to convert the ensuing free-throw, but a scrum for the loose ball led to a jump ball. The possession arrow pointed UNC’s direction, and Cole Anthony used the extra opportunity to give UNC a 66-63 lead thanks to two free throws. However, as with most of this season, every peak has a valley.

Unable to hold the lead, the two teams entered the final minute tied at 68-68. Then the fun began.

Derryck Thornton (yes, the former Duke Blue Devil), his one of two free throws for a 69-68 lead. Cole Anthony responded with a drive of his own, giving UNC a 70-69 lead, but it wouldn't last.

On Boston College’s final possession, Brandon Robinson tried to contest Jared Hamilton’s three point attempt. The shot glanced off the front of the rim, but referee Jamie Luckie blew his whistle. Depending on one’s visual angle, Robinson apparently made contact with Hamilton either on the hand after the ball was in the air or when Hamilton jumped forward and landed on Robinson’s ankle.

Hamilton made two of the free throws for a 71-70 lead. North Carolina had 17 seconds and three timeouts remaining on their final possession, but a 23-foot contested three-pointer by Cole Anthony was their only attempt. It failed to hit the rim and bounced out of bounds as time expired.

Anthony led all scorers with 26 points thanks to going 14-14 from the line. Bacot (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Brooks (10 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles. Free throws proved problematic again, as UNC was just 22-31 from the stripe. They also failed to dominate in the paint, only managing to win that battle 28-26. The final foul call will get the attention, but North Carolina had plenty of chances to pull away.

For their part, Boston College was 12-17 from the line, but 7-18 from deep. That proved to be enough to get the win. Jared Hamilton led the Eagles with 18 points (3-6 from three).

UNC dropped to 10-11 on the season and 3-7 in the ACC.

They travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State on Monday night.