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Anthony Harris’ return spoiled by Florida State’s heroics in UNC’s 75-82 loss

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This is an Anthony Harris appreciation post. We also can talk about the game, I guess.

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

UNC went down to Tallahassee and put up a respectable fight against one of the best teams in the ACC, but in the end Florida State showed that they were too much to handle as they handed the Heels a 75-82 defeat. This ended the three-game win streak that Roy Williams’ squad enjoyed over the last couple of weeks, and the Seminoles officially started their own win streak as they have now taken down two North Carolina teams in a row.

Things in this game started off harmless enough, as the Heels traded blows with the Seminoles for the first six minutes of the game. Garrison Brooks and R.J. Davis helped create some separation by giving UNC a four-point lead, but then Florida State jumped ahead thanks to some sub-optimal shooting and turnovers. M.J. Walker created all kinds of issues for the Heels, and helped the Seminoles pull away by 11 points before UNC closed the gap before halftime. Points in the paint were virtually non-existent, so Kerwin Walton, R.J. Davis, and Caleb Love had to hit four three-pointers to send the Tar Heels into the locker room with a four-point deficit.

In the second half Kerwin Walton brought the Heels within one thanks to a three-pointer after a missed jumper from Garrison Brooks. Unfortunately this would only create the illusion that UNC was going to take the lead from Florida State, but in reality things got really sloppy. I mean, really sloppy. UNC went into halftime with only six turnovers, but managed to commit five turnovers in the first seven minutes of the second half. Things were looking pretty bad for the Heels’ chances of making this a game, but that’s when sophomore guard Anthony Harris returned to action for the first time over a year.

It’s hard to overstate just how important Anthony Harris was to the Tar Heels in the little amount of time that he played last season. When he injured himself again it was hard to see him being as effective as he was today considering how much time he had to miss. What we learned, however, is that Anthony Harris is the crown jewel of this Tar Heel basketball team and should be protected at all costs. Harris was simply amazing for the time that he was on the court, and finished the game with five points, three assists, zero turnovers and shot 100% from the floor. Down the stretch he helped the team get to within one with 2:22 left in the game, but then he went to the bench and things fell apart all over again. Florida State nailed six free throws at the line, and it was all she wrote.

While Anthony Harris’ return is truly the story of the game, there were a couple of other positives that are worth pointing out. Caleb Love and R.J. Davis took a couple of steps forward against a very good Florida State team, combining for 27 points and shot 55.5% from three. Combining this kind of efficiency with Kerwin Walton’s always reliable perimeter shooting could be huge going forward, but the freshman duo will have to prove they can do what they did on a more consistent basis.

The big negative in this game aside from the obvious (turnovers) is that UNC struggled mightily in the paint. Only 22 of UNC’s points were near the rim, which would somehow look much worse if it weren’t for Florida State only scoring 24 points in that department themselves. The Seminoles did a good job getting UNC’s bigs away from the baseline, and when they did get touches in the paint there were a number of white jerseys waiting for them. If we want to look at this from a glass half full perspective, I think it did help quite a bit when it came to perimeter shooting, but it’s still hard for this Carolina team to win games when their biggest strength is getting shut down.

Regardless, it’s perfectly reasonable to see this game as a “good loss”. We all knew that it was going to be really difficult to take Florida State down on their own court, and for what it’s worth the Heels did everything they could to keep their win streak alive. Next on the schedule is Wake Forest on Wednesday, who is currently 0-4 in conference play. Hopefully we will see even more of Anthony Harris, the crown jewel of Carolina basketball.