Though the glorified scrimmage won’t factor into the Tar Heels’ record or season stats, that “something more” Brooks referred to was likely the expectations that came with each new addition’s arrival. For Anthony, those expectations are as lofty as they are for almost any player in the country.
The 6-foot-3 guard — the fourth-ranked player in the class of 2019, according to 247Sports — made a handful of ill-advised plays in the first half. At times, he pulled up for contested 3-pointers; other times, he drove into traffic and turned the ball over.
“His shot wasn’t really falling tonight, but we all believe in Cole Anthony,” junior guard Andrew Platek said. “We all want him to be aggressive, be that dog that we know he is.”
Anthony had four of the Tar Heels’ 23 total turnovers but found more of a rhythm after halftime, finishing the game with 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
“Everyone wants to do well, but at the same time, you’re nervous,” he admitted after the game.
Bacot and Keeling were the two other newbies who rounded out the starting lineup with Anthony, Robinson and Brooks. Bacot finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, taking advantage of a severely undersized Rams team. The 6-foot-10 forward also looked noticeably more comfortable in the second half.
But the player whose two halves were most distinct was Keeling.
After missing his only two shot attempts in the first 20 minutes, the former Charleston Southern guard went 5-5 and hit both of his three-point attempts after halftime. He finished the night second on the team in scoring with 14 points.
Multiple times throughout the game, head coach Roy Williams lost his cool. He got in players’ faces, subbed out his starting five in frustration and yelled from the sidelines for his team to “guard somebody” when its effort on defense looked lackadaisical.
“They know I can get mad now,” Williams said. “It’s been in the back of their minds, but they didn’t know that for sure. It’s removed any doubt now.”
It wasn’t a perfect performance for UNC by any stretch. But Friday night was a time to shake out early season jitters and iron out wrinkles. After all, isn’t that what exhibition games are for?
“We have a lot of work to put in. No one’s gonna stress too much about this game,” Anthony said. “We’ll ponder upon it. We’ll watch the game film, but it’s just a learning experience.”
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