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The Daily Tar Heel

Cole Anthony ditches the glasses, dons his cape in season-opening Notre Dame win

A bespectacled Cole Anthony scans the floor against Notre Dame on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. No. 9 UNC won, 76-65.

Was it the glasses?

In the opening stages of No. 9 North Carolina basketball’s season opener against Notre Dame, the highly touted Cole Anthony, son of NBA veteran Greg Anthony, the best point guard prospect in a generation, UNC’s highest-rated recruit since Harrison Barnes, looked mortal. 

The bespectacled first-year, doing his best Clark Kent impression, started out a pedestrian two of six from the field on Wednesday with a pair of bad misses from three-point range. The Irish were cold out of the gate, then clawed their way to a 31-30 advantage at the break.

As the first half winded down, Anthony took off the glasses. When the second began, he had to don his cape.

Anthony scored 23 after halftime to key a 32-13 run in the Tar Heels’ eventual 76-65 win. His 34 points were a game-high, and a record for a UNC debut, eclipsing Rashad McCants’ 28 points in 2002.

A better way to frame the game, though: after ditching the Rec Specs, Anthony made 10 of 18 shots, including six of nine three-point attempts. 

He could see clearly now. The rain was gone.

“I think it was messing up my depth perception,” Anthony said. “Because when I took those off, something clicked.”

With about 10 minutes left, a pair of Anthony three-pointers, plus an assist for an Andrew Platek triple, were the key to the game for the Tar Heels, turning a two-point lead into a 61-50 advantage. In his first college game, Anthony played 37 minutes – including the entire second half – and, according to his head coach, “carried” North Carolina.

“The second half, it was Cole Anthony,” Roy Williams said. “Sometimes Tyler Hansbrough carried us. Cole carried us tonight.”

A rare sentiment from a coach known for an unsparing use of his bench. But Williams hardly had a choice against the Irish; North Carolina was outscored 12-2 in the precious little time Anthony spent resting.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go 40,’” Williams recalled. “I don’t want him to do that very often, to say the least.”

It was his first time running the UNC offense, but the first-year took the keys and went for a joyride. He looked as comfortable driving the lane as he did launching 30-footers, and the Cole Anthony show was as enjoyable for his teammates as anyone else.

“It’s fun to watch, for sure,” forward Garrison Brooks said. “I’m pretty sure y’all enjoyed the whole game seeing him. Sometimes I became a spectator.”

The 6-foot-3 Anthony controlled other facets of the game, too, collecting 11 rebounds and adding five assists. But the points were what mattered, and after sinking five second-half three-pointers – all in a nine-minute stretch – Anthony admitted he was in a zone.

“I think it’s surreal,” he said. “I think that’s a good word for it. It’s like you’re not thinking about anything else. It feels like that stadium was empty to me. I was in there just playing basketball.”

North Carolina is the thinnest it’s been in some time. Williams – who is, as it stands, missing the talents of Sterling Manley, Brandon Robinson, Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis – essentially played just seven Tar Heels on Wednesday. 

Cole Anthony said the zone is a familiar place for him. Now that the glasses are off, he might have to get used to playing the role of Superman.

“It’s so much fun playing with him,” Platek said. ”And we’re gonna need him every game throughout the rest of the year.”


@DTHSports |

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