North Carolina coach Roy Williams called the Tar Heels’ preseason the toughest of his career.
With four players out with injuries and a team full of new players, Williams had to piece together a lineup he wasn’t sure would work.
On Wednesday, in their season-opener against Notre Dame, the Tar Heels struggled early but ultimately persevered.
UNC freshman Cole Anthony, a preseason All-ACC pick, got hot in the second half, helping the Tar Heels to a 76-65 victory over the Fighting Irish at home.
“I used to sit here sometimes and say Tyler Hansbrough carried us,” Williams said. “Well, Cole carried us tonight.”
Anthony led all players with 34 points and 11 rebounds. UNC is 16-1 under Williams in season-openers and his team survived what will likely be one of its toughest early-season games without Brandon Robinson, one of its better players.
Robinson injured his ankle Friday in UNC’s exhibition game against Winston Salem State. He is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks.
The Tar Heels entered with almost an entirely new roster. Their top five scorers from the 2018-19 team moved on to the NBA. So finding out where scoring would come from was one of the questions entering the season.
The answer is Anthony. He scored 23 points after halftime and was 6-for-11 from behind the 3-point line.
UNC junior forward Garrison Brooks, the Tar Heels’ leading returning scorer, was aggressive early but did not find much success scoring. He tallied 10 points and 9 rebounds.
“I think we need to get more out of him than that, but basically in the second half it was Cole Anthony,” Williams said.
For the most part, the Tar Heels played well defensively, with the exception of allowing a few open shots. While the Fighting Irish did not turn it over much, they shot 35 percent from the floor.
UNC (1-0) will play at UNC-Wilmington on Friday.
The Tar Heels outrebounded the Fighting Irish 51-31, limiting Notre Dame’s second-chance points.
After committing 23 turnovers in their exhibition game against Winston Salem State, the Tar Heels were not much better against Notre Dame.
North Carolina committed 18 turnovers, including 10 in the second half.
UNC freshman forward Armando Bacot went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury in the second half. He went to the locker room but returned a short time later and looked fine.
Bacot said he felt a sharp pain in his ankle, but felt fine after taking Ibuprofen.
The Tar Heels can’t afford to lose another player to injury. Williams played with a short bench on Wednesday.
Making sense of the numbers
10 3-pointers. Most of those 3’s came from Anthony. But knocking down those 3’s at crucial times helped the Tar Heels build a fairly comfortable lead. The Tar Heels finished 10 of 20 from behind the 3-point line.