It's been 103 days since the UNC men's basketball team's 76-65 home win over Notre Dame in a rare November ACC matchup. But it seems like a lifetime ago.
Nail-biter after nail-biter has left this team wondering what it did to deserve such tough luck, and Monday night's dramatic 77-76 loss, a rematch with the Fighting Irish, was no different. After yet another down-to-the-wire finish, here are the three big takeaways from UNC's 16th loss of the season.
Cole Anthony played more like a true point guard
The first-year lived up to the hype in North Carolina's first meeting with Notre Dame and relied primarily on his scoring abilities to put on a show en route to 34 points, however, Anthony struggled to share the ball and finished with five assists to four turnovers.
On Monday, Anthony proved he has what it takes to distribute the ball effectively for the Tar Heels. UNC's point guard had his best assist to turnover ratio of the season at 6:1, and his six assists were his second most in a game this year behind only the Elon game, when he dished out eight.
North Carolina's offense flowed particularly well when Anthony was able to set junior Garrison Brooks up with easy looks in the post. Half of Anthony's assists came off buckets by Brooks, all of which were inside the paint.
If the young guard can continue to improve on what was a 50:52 assist to turnover ratio heading into Monday night's game, the Tar Heels' offense should see similar growth.
UNC can't just rely on Brooks and Anthony
Outside of the Brooks-Anthony tandem, North Carolina's offense looked stagnant for extended periods.
The guard and forward combined for 45 of UNC's 76 points — 23 from Anthony and 22 from Brooks — while Brandon Robinson was the only other player to reach double figures with 11 points, six of which came in the final 11 minutes of the game.
Monday night seemed like a golden opportunity for Christian Keeling to assure the Tar Heels that he could be considered a reliable contributor on offense heading into the tail end of his final season of college basketball.
The grad transfer had scored at least 11 points in each of his last four contests before the ND matchup, and this game got off to a similar start when Keeling scored seven first-half points on 2-5 shooting. But, like the majority of UNC's offense, the guard stalled out in the second half and only managed to register two more points for the rest of the night.
If the Tar Heels hope to have any shot of winning the ACC Tournament to earn an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament, the team can't simply rely on Brooks and Anthony to bail the squad out on offense.
One step closer to a last-place finish in the ACC
With Monday's loss, there is a legitimate possibility that the Tar Heels could finish in sole possession of last place in the ACC regular season standings for the first time in the conference's history.
UNC (3-12 ACC) is in a battle with Wake Forest (4-11) and Miami (5-10) for the bottom spot in the standings, with a daunting schedule ahead. North Carolina's final five games of the regular season feature matchups against four of the top six teams in the ACC, including No. 11 Louisville on the road and a regular season finale against No. 6 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Tar Heels will get a shot to even the season series against Wake Forest when they face the Demon Deacons at home on Tuesday, March 3, a game that could prove to be the deciding factor in how the bottom of the ACC standings shake out.
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