Cole Anthony wasn’t nearly as hot Friday night as he was in North Carolina’s season-opener.
But it didn’t matter. He had help.
Graduate transfer Justin Pierce scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and UNC beat UNC-Wilmington 78-62 at Trask Coliseum.
The ninth-ranked Tar Heels are 2-0.
Anthony put the country on notice with his 34-point, 11-rebound performance against Notre Dame on Wednesday. It was the most points by a Tar Heel freshman in his debut. But against UNCW he struggled with his shot.
He was 7-for-24 from the floor and finished with a game-high 20 points. Despite his tough shooting night, Anthony played well. He recorded his second double-double in as many games. He had 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. He was also 4-for-11 from behind the 3-point line.
UNCW, which is coached by former UNC assistant C.B. McGrath, got off to a hot start. The Seahawks led the Tar Heels 18-16 through the first nine minutes. The Tar Heels shot poorly from the floor and had trouble getting anything going.
But Pierce, who transferred from William & Mary in the spring, provided a spark.
He made five of his first six shots and his first three 3-pointers. His 3-pointer with 7:45 left in the first half gave the Tar Heels a 30-21 lead, capping a 14-3 run.
That was all the Tar Heels really needed. They led 40-29 at halftime.
The Seahawks cut the Tar Heels’ lead to eight points with a little more than 15 minutes left, but Pierce quickly answered with another 3-pointer to give UNC a 49-38 lead.
After that, UNCW never got closer than nine points. Junior Garrison Brooks also had one of the best games of his career. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Tar Heels’ next game is at home against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 15.
Anthony got scoring help from his teammates. It was a good sign for the Tar Heels after Anthony accounted for 43.5 percent of his team’s points against Notre Dame. Pierce and Brooks were noticeably more aggressive throughout the game.
The Tar Heels left too many points at the the free throw line. They got to the line often, but did not take advantage. They finished 16 of 30, which is 53.3 percent. Pierce and Anthony combined to shoot 2-for-11 from the free throw line.
“Those kind of things allow you to be beat in close games,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
Armando Bacot was hit in the face late in the first half. He went back to the locker room and did not return. After the game, Williams said Bacot was being evaluated for a concussion. The Tar Heels are already shorthanded with four scholarship players who did not dress out.
Making sense of the numbers
7 UNC players played the majority of the minutes. The Tar Heels had a short bench with so many injuries to key players.
12 rebounds for Brooks. His 12 rebounds was a career-high. And he had his first career double-double. He was one rebound shy of a double-double against Notre Dame.