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UNC vs Boston College: Three Things Learned

Cole is back but so are UNC’s big ol’ problems.

Boston College v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Don’t swear in an article...don’t swear in an article...don’t swear in an article

OK, here goes: This basketball season needs to attain carnal knowledge of itself. UNC’s all-too-brief win streak is dead at two and the Tar Heels are now 3-7 in the ACC with a doomsday schedule ahead of it. I can’t say the season is definitively over because miracles are possible, but there’s a Fat Lady outside my window and she won’t shut the heck up. Here are three things learned from a stomach punch of a Saturday night.

Cole is back, but it’s not enough

Understandably, Cole Anthony looked plenty rusty taking the floor in the early going yesterday. He couldn’t find his touch early, took some ill-advised attempts, and seemed to lack the explosive quality that he’d shown at the start of the season. He solved it the way any mature player would: By getting to the line. At the half, he had no made field goals but had seen the ball go in the basket six times. That set the stage for his terrific second half.

Anthony had 20 points after the break, nailing big threes, continuing to attack and get to the line, and taking care of the basketball (he had only one turnover). In the stretches where UNC looked ready to seize control of the game, he was the driving force. It’s no accident that UNC came out flat (AGAIN) in the opening minutes of the half with Cole starting out on the bench. When he was out, Carolina was off, as if the lessons and roles learned without Cole in recent weeks had evaporated. That can’t continue.

Surprise! Garrison Brooks is human

Before we begin, let’s all remind ourselves how terrific Garrison has been over the last month. His play (usually in a losing cause) has been superb, he’s been pretty much the lone bright spot of the season thus far, and if anyone has earned the right to have an off night, it’s him.

That being said, Holy Clankin’ Free Throws Batman. Brooks’ foul shooting has never been anything to write home about, but 0-7 is an abomination, compounded by the fact that it came in a one-point loss. On a night when Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot (both of whom have struggled at times on the line) combined to go 21-22 at the charity stripe, Brook’s goose egg stood out all the more. On top of that, he was 5-15 from the floor and committed three early turnovers.

Equally frustrating are the struggles that he and Armando Bacot had that don’t show up in the box score: UNC had had a fair amount of success working the hi-low action between the two of them in recent weeks and getting the ball to the post had been one of their more reliable tactics. That wasn’t present on Saturday: A lack of movement and spacing permeated UNC’s offense and Brooks and Bacot were particularly guilty of it. As a result, UNC never has able to put pressure on the Boston College bigs, not even with CJ Felder on his fourth foul for much of the second half (more on that later).

This Team’s Basketball IQ Is Brutal

How Boston College managed to commit more turnovers than UNC in that game is utterly beyond me. UNC’s offense was spectacularly bad and careless at times and their lack of flow or movement has become utterly predictable now that we’ve started February. There isn’t enough time in the day to recount all of UNC’s mental mistakes, but there were a few big ones that stood out.

First, Boston College had three starters with four fouls starting at the 9:42 mark of the second half: CJ Felder, Jay Heath, and Derrick Thornton. They hardly sat them at all and UNC didn’t foul a single one of them out. BC switched Thornton off Cole Anthony and that alone was enough to keep him on the floor. UNC never once tried to get Thornton into a screen situation and get him back on Cole, who was drawing fouls everywhere. Plays like that simply don’t occur to this team and they should be obvious.

Second, we can talk all we want about whether or not B-Rob fouled Hamilton there, but that should never have been the situation in the first place. You can’t put yourself in a position for a shooter to draw contact on a three, period. I’m not going to trample on B-Rob when he’s hurt and been giving it his all (I’m not an NC State graduate), but he’s a senior and has to know that. And that was the SECOND time UNC fouled on a three that game (Jeremiah Francis yielded a four point play in the first half).

Thirdly, the last play. Even if you believe in the philosophy of not calling timeout and going quickly to catch an opposing defense unset, that doesn’t apply out of a DEAD BALL FOLLOWING A MISSED FREE THROW. With 17 seconds left and three (THREE!) timeouts, UNC elected to let Cole Anthony freelance and win the game for them. OK, fine, fair enough. But how about with eight seconds left when he’s yelling frantically to Garrison Brooks to come up and set a screen? No time out then? The no-timeout after the made free throw was bad, the communication between Anthony, Bacot, and Brooks was worse, and the lack of timeout when the play was clearly busted was worst. Bleh.

Then again, maybe the memories of the disastrous execution following a timeout at Virginia Tech were the cause? Who can even tell at this point? As Santana would tell us:

“This can’t go on/Lord knows you’ve got to change, baby”