Cole Anthony, to say the least, lived to the hype.
The first-year guard poured in 34 points — the most ever by a UNC first-year in his debut — in No. 9 North Carolina’s season-opening 76-65 win over ACC foe Notre Dame on Wednesday night.
The Tar Heels, who also out-rebounded the Fighting Irish 51-31 and shot 28 of 60 from the field, moved to 16-1 in season openers under head coach Roy Williams.
North Carolina scored on its first two trips downcourt; first, a Garrison Brooks jump hook, then a Cole Anthony layup high off the glass. Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling both sank the first three-point attempts of their North Carolina careers and Notre Dame missed 11 of its first 14 shots, helping UNC to a 13-6 advantage at the 11:45 mark.
The Irish found their groove, however, and a 12-2 run later in the half gave them a 28-23 advantage with 2:50 to go until halftime.
Seven UNC points, five from Anthony, slimmed the Notre Dame lead to 31-30 going into the break. The first-year guard paced the Tar Heels with 11 first-half points, tied with ND’s Prentiss Hubb and T.J. Gibbs for what was then a game-high.
Anthony stayed hot in the second half — he added nine quick points and, again, helped seize momentum for UNC, which led 48-46 at the under-12 timeout.
Teammates like Andrew Platek stepped up, too, and by the 9:25 mark, the Tar Heels were shooting 11 of 15 to start the second half. And after Platek tossed a fast-break alley-oop to Armando Bacot to boost UNC’s lead to 65-52, North Carolina’s sloppy first half was a distant memory.
The Fighting Irish hung around, thanks mostly to the trio of Mooney, Gibbs and Hubb, but the Tar Heels held a comfortable lead — always somewhere in the nine- to 16-point range — as the second-half clock drained and, eventually, ran out on a UNC victory.
Who stood out?
Anthony’s 34 points were the most for a UNC first-year debut, eclipsing Rashad McCants’ 28 points against Penn State in 2002.
Brooks finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Bacot, his frontcourt running mate, added seven points and eight boards.
Hubb was a much-needed spark for Notre Dame all night; his 22 points and five 3-pointers were both team highs.
When was it decided?
Leading by just two with a little over eight minutes left to play, UNC went on a decisive run, going on a 9-0 run with two three pointers from Anthony and one from Platek to put the game firmly in hand.
Why does it matter?
After a poor shooting first half, UNC’s secondary players — such as Bacot, Platek and Leaky Black — stepped up to supplement Anthony and Brooks.
North Carolina also logged its 15th consecutive win in a season-opener.
Who do they play next?
North Carolina will travel east and play UNC-Wilmington on Friday in its first road game on the season. The Seahawks are coached by C.B. McGrath, a former UNC assistant coach of 14 years.
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