CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Freshman star Cole Anthony had 28 points to help sixth-ranked North Carolina beat Gardner-Webb 77-61 on Friday night.
Fellow freshman Armando Bacot posted his first double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who shot 50% after halftime to build a double-digit lead after leading just 30-27 at the break.
The improved second-half efficiency was a positive for North Carolina (3-0), which has leaned heavily on Anthony offensively while struggling to find consistent producers around him to start the season.
Anthony didn’t shoot particularly well for the second straight game (7 of 17). But he hit a huge 3-pointer over Nate Johnson to beat the shot clock at the 5:48 mark to put UNC up 10, one of several sequences that helped the Tar Heels keep the Runnin’ Bulldogs at arm’s distance through the final 10 minutes.
Anthony, who had 34 points in the season-opening win against Notre Dame for an Atlantic Coast Conference record for a freshman debut, also made 11 of 13 free throws.
Jose Perez scored 12 points for Gardner-Webb, which shot 37% and made 5 of 23 3-pointers.
Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs tenaciously hung in this one, staying within four points through the first half and then responding to the Tar Heels’ halftime-spanning run by getting to the foul line to keep the game from getting away. The problem is their own offensive troubles from the first two games (40.3% shooting) followed them to Chapel Hill and made it tough to keep up when the Tar Heels’ offense ran more efficiently down the stretch.
UNC: The Tar Heels were coming out of a weeklong break since winning at UNC Wilmington in a game that saw three players carry the offense and left coach Roy Williams to lament: “We’re not a very good basketball team if we’ve only got three guys that can make a shot.” Things weren’t significantly better for stretches of Friday night, either, with the Tar Heels having to work to make shots while lacking many easy conversion chances. The good news is help could come soon in the form of senior Brandon Robinson, who got in some warmup work as he nears his debut from a preseason ankle injury.
Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs visit Wichita State on Tuesday.
UNC: The Tar Heels host Elon on Wednesday.