Candidates for the player of the game in last night’s defeat are hard to come by. After five crushing losses in the last few weeks, the Heels’ fuel tank finally landed on “E”. Unlike Saturday’s soul-destroying loss, where any number of UNC players could have laid claim to this highly pretigious prize, Tuesday night only offered a trio of Heels.
Armando Bacot produced a respectable 10 points and 7 rebounds. Cole Anthony (surprise, surprise), also poured in 15 points, but was just 5-19 from the floor (0-6 from three) and committed 7 turnovers. That left only Christian Keeling as the viable choice for a mid-week award.
Keeling tied Anthony for the team lead with 15 points on 7-14 shooting (1-4 from three). Unsurprisingly, the mid-range game that has become a staple of his (and UNC’s) offensive repertoire accounted for 10 of those 15 points. After spending the first half of the season trying to find a role within UNC’s complicated offensive system, Keeling is finally showing a level of comfort on the offensive end that’s been missing since he arrived in Chapel Hill.
Those 15 points were also a season high for Keeling who has recently found a shooting touch. He has now reached double-digit scoring in three straight games. Those scoring totals, not coincidentally, coincide with Brandon Robinson being sidelined with an ankle injury. Keeling deserves credit for helping lessen the offensive burden during this stretch.
Of note, most of the graduate transfer’s damage was done after halftime. He scored 11 points in the first 9:57 of the second half, trying desperately to keep UNC within reach of the Demon Deacons. Those efforts, obviously, were ultimately unsuccessful.
Keeling also grabbed 4 rebounds and was credited with 2 steals.
He will try to continue to his offensive explosion this weekend, when UNC welcomes UVA to the Dean E. Smith Center.