UNC basketball prepares for interconference matchup with Big South’s Gardner-Webb on Friday night
With a pair of double-digit wins to begin the 2019-20 college basketball season, the North Carolina Tar Heels are off to a quick 2-0 start. That undefeated mark shouldn’t be tested too hard when the Tar Heels take the court against Gardner-Webb at the Dean Smith Center on Friday night.
The Tar Heels have gotten tremendous production out of freshman point guard Cole Anthony, an early-season favorite for National Player of the Year. Anthony put together a record-breaking performance in game one against Notre Dame, and followed it up with his second consecutive double-double, a 20-point, 10-rebound night against UNC-Wilmington.
North Carolina is also getting 14 points and 10-plus rebounds per game out of junior power forward Garrison Brooks. He’s leading the team in minutes-per-game at 36, and hitting better than 56 percent of his field goal attempts. And averaging just short of a double-double over the first two games is senior graduate transfer Justin Pierce, who put together a terrific 18-point, 12-rebound effort against UNCW.
The Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb, however, have lost each of their first two games by at least 12 points — matchups with Furman and Western Carolina. Their game against Western Carolina was marred by 22 turnovers, and they haven’t shot better than 38 percent in a game yet. They’ll have to do better on both fronts against a North Carolina team hungry to push the tempo, and up the amount of possessions.
Key to the game for UNC
There won’t be a complex game plan in place when the Tar Heels tip-off with the Bulldogs on Friday night. North Carolina will push the pace in this game, and increase the number of offensive touches they get. They’ll utilize a dominant rebounding performance to do so — they’re averaging better than 52 rebounds per game — and use quick outlet passes to beat the defense down the court and score easy, uncontested buckets.
The Tar Heels’ size inside will be to their advantage, too. Freshman center Armando Bacot is banged up, but expected to play against Gardner-Webb. And reinforcements are coming in the UNC back court soon, as freshmen guards Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris are said to be making progress in their respective returns to the court. It’s doubtful that either will be seen on Friday night, but the Tar Heels’ superstar point guard (Anthony) and company should be enough to help lead North Carolina to victory in the Smith Center.
Player to watch
Cole Anthony. Always Cole Anthony. His play is electric, and people who don’t even watch North Carolina basketball are tuning in to see him play. Never mind the NBA scouts that will follow him everywhere he goes this season in anticipation of him being one of the top picks in next year’s NBA Draft.
Look for Anthony to fire up the ball early and often tonight, as Roy Williams has given him the clear green light to do so. He’ll look to be a bit more efficient than he was against UNC-Wilmington when he hit just 7-of-24 shots from the floor, and 2-of-7 from the free throw line. Don’t anticipate his volume or usage to change any, though, unless the Tar Heels get out in front by a large margin, which is entirely possible tonight.
What you need to know
What? No. 6 North Carolina 2-0 (1-0 in ACC) vs. Gardner-Webb 0-2 (0-1 Big South)
When? Friday, November 15, 9:00 p.m. EST
Where? Dean E. Smith Center – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
TV? ACC Network
Radio? Tar Heels Sports Network
Line? UNC -25
All-time series? UNC leads 4-0
Last meeting? UNC 76, Gardner-Webb, 59 (11/9/2012)
Prediction? UNC 85, Gardner-Webb, 60