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Monday December 5th

UNC defeats Elon, 75-61, behind Armando Bacot's 22 points and 14 rebounds

<p>UNC graduate forward Justin Pierce (32) attempts an offensive drive past Elon sophomore guard Andy Pack (21) and junior forward Simon Wright (33) during a game in the Smith Center on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. The Tar Heels beat the Phoenixes 75-61.</p>
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UNC graduate forward Justin Pierce (32) attempts an offensive drive past Elon sophomore guard Andy Pack (21) and junior forward Simon Wright (33) during a game in the Smith Center on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. The Tar Heels beat the Phoenixes 75-61.

After a sloppy first half that left the Tar Heels facing a 33-32 deficit at halftime in front of a home crowd, the North Carolina men's basketball team composed itself to secure a 75-61 victory over Elon on Wednesday.

What happened?

Elon got off to a hot start against UNC as the Phoenix drilled seven of their first eight shots. The Tar Heels opened the game with several sloppy mistakes, highlighted by an errant pass into no-man's-land by junior forward Garrison Brooks.

North Carolina seemed to be on a mission to prove that it didn't need to have the ball constantly flow through first-year guard Cole Anthony early on. Anthony had just two points on one field goal attempt, one rebound and one assist in the first eight minutes of the game.

However, the Tar Heels slowly began to chip away at the dream start for Elon.

After Hunter McIntosh drained an open three-pointer for the Phoenix, UNC's Justin Pierce responded with a bucket in the low post. Less than 35 seconds after being subbed into the game, Christian Keeling knocked down a three-pointer of his own for the Tar Heels, forcing Elon to call timeout with its lead cut to 25-23. Coming out of the break, North Carolina's Andrew Platek scored the tying basket after the guard arose from a scrum that dived on Pierce's missed layup with the ball.

Both teams proceeded to struggle scoring the ball to close out the first half, with the Tar Heels scoring just seven points in the final eight minutes. Elon carried a 33-32 lead into halftime, despite missing 20 of its final 22 shots to close out the first half.

North Carolina opened the second half looking like a completely rejuvenated team. UNC emerged from the tunnel and quickly shot ahead to a 44-35 lead that was fueled by a plethora of post moves and dunks from first-year Armando Bacot.

From there, the second half featured mostly back-and-forth action between the two squads before Elon began to close the gap. With just under six minutes remaining, the Phoenix kickstarted an 8-0 run that cut UNC's lead to 66-58 with 2:56 left to play.

The Tar Heels were able to fend off the comeback to win, 75-61, behind Bacot's 22 points and a near triple-double from Anthony.

Who stood out?

Even when he struggled scoring the ball, Anthony remained integral to North Carolina's success. The first-year guard nearly posted a triple-double, finishing with just nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assist.

Bacot was explosive to start the second half, starting off a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. The 6-foot-10, 232-pound forward dominated his mismatch against Elon's Federico Poser, a 6-foot-8 forward, with 18 of Bacot's 22 points coming in the second half. The first-year also grabbed 14 rebounds for the second double-double of his collegiate career.

When was it decided?

Once UNC jumped out to a double-digit lead at the start of the second half, it was clear that the Tar Heels were feeding off of the momentum in the Smith Center.

Bacot's burst of quick buckets and key rebounds helped extend North Carolina's lead to 15, an obstacle that would prove to be too large for the Phoenix to overcome.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina has relied on first-year phenom Anthony to make major scoring contributions early in the season. When Anthony finished the first half shooting 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, UNC's supporting cast struggled to find alternative scoring options at first.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel to Paradise Island, Bahamas, to face Alabama on Wednesday, Nov. 27, in the opening round of the 2019 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

@McMastersJ

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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