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UNC vs. Alabama: Player of the Game - Garrison Brooks

The junior tied his career high for points and led the Heels’ dominance on the interior.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Alabama at North Carolina Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

For the fifth game in a row, UNC won ugly and struggled to establish its offensive game early. Fortunately for them, Garrison Brooks was there to keep them afloat.

Brooks had his best offensive half as a Tar Heel in the first interval in the Bahamas yesterday. By the time the teams headed into the locker room, he had 16 points on 6-12 shooting and was 4-4 from the foul line. A good thing too: UNC was turning the ball over willy-nilly and Cole Anthony in particular was struggling under Alabama’s concerted pressure and physicality. He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds, an assist and a block.

Not that Brooks was entirely faultless himself: He committed five turnovers, a couple of which were maddeningly poor entry passes intended for Armando Bacot. While UNC’s big men ultimately dominated an overmatched Alabama frontline, there is still a long way to go for the two of them to establish the kind of chemistry on the interior that has been a calling card of great Tar Heel teams in years past. The potential is there: Bacot is fantastically mobile and active for his size and Brooks has made big strides in his offensive game since last year. But they’re not nearly there yet.

Brooks’ defense won’t stand out in the box score, but he did a solid job per usual of locking up his cover on the inside. Alabama got to the rim far too often, but that was largely due to UNC’s inability to guard the dribble on the perimeter. Leaky Black in particular was an offender yesterday. Brooks blew up a lot of Alabama possessions when they seemed to have an opportunity off penetration. His activity and defensive IQ while playing at the 4 is a big asset considering the vulnerabilities this team has with perimeter defense.

It may not have been the most aesthetic of games, but Garrison delivered the highlight of the night, hammering home a one-handed slam on the classic UNC baseline inbounds play. Y’know, the play that John Henson, Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks, Rasheed get the point.

Here it is again for your viewing pleasure:

I’d say the bicep flex and mean mug had a little Sheed in it, the scream afterward was all Brice. More of this please!