Five Takeaways from UNC's Victory Over Oregon

Brant Wilkerson-New

That’s more like it.

North Carolina bounced back from its first loss with its most complete performance of the season, holding off Oregon for a 78-74 victory on Friday morning in the Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game.

Armando Bacot registered his fourth double-double in the past five games with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Cole Anthony was efficient, making 6 of 13 field goal attempts and all six of his free throw attempts on his way to 19 points and five rebounds.

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Takeaways from the victory:

Offensive Progress

Carolina (6-1) came out playing with the type of energy and attention to detail it needed to win a game against a good opponent, leading to the Tar Heels’ best offensive half of the season, shooting 48.5% from the field, including 5/14 from 3-point range.

Shot selection was better, along with off-ball movement and passing.

Most importantly, Carolina attacked the offensive boards at the level required to create easy second-chance buckets, with 11 offensive rebounds leading to 15 points.

Second-half shooting wasn’t quite as good, but the Tar Heels made them count, including going 20/21 at the free throw line.

The pieces are there for this to be at least an average shooting team and it looks like those numbers will start averaging out.

Steady Senior

Brandon Robinson had another big day, finishing with 13 points and three rebounds. Most importantly, he had Oregon’s final play sniffed out as he blew up a set that would have gotten Payton Pritchard a wide-open look from the corner.

Moving into a bigger role for the first time in his career, Robinson averaged 11.3 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 29.3 minutes over three games in the Bahamas—a valiant effort coming off a sprained ankle that caused him to miss the first four games of the season.

Even after briefly aggravating that injury on Friday, Robinson returned to the game and ultimately had Carolina’s final inbound pass drawn up for him, hitting the clinching free throws.

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Aggressive Armando

Roy Williams wasn’t pleased with Bacot after a soft effort against Michigan, finishing with six points and six rebounds on 3/10 shooting.

The big man looked like he took the message to heart on Friday, attacking the rim every time he got a touch and attacking the ball every time it wasn’t in his hands, wrapping up his fourth double-double of the season while also blocking six shots.

There’s certainly some finesse in Bacot’s game, which adds a dimension to it in knocking down mid-range shots and using his feet to create better looks. Still, that can’t be all he relies on, and he showed exactly why on Friday when simply attacking resulted in his best performance of the season.

It’s going to be Anthony and Bacot leading the way on offense, with everyone else playing off them.

Handling Injuries

Leaky Black got dinged up on Thursday and left in the first half on Friday with what Carolina called a sprained foot, delivering a setback after Black spent the past nine months getting healthy after the sprained ankle he suffered in January.

The Tar Heels couldn’t afford another injury, and they definitely couldn’t afford one to their best perimeter defender, backup point guard and a player with the versatility to affect every area of the game.

K.J. Smith provided a solid eight minutes as his replacement, handing out two assists with one turnover.

It could be worth giving Black some time off, if it means he’ll be able to come back fully healthy after Christmas. His presence as a defender is irreplaceable.

Good Grads

It wasn’t the finest performance of either player's career, but Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce both did a better job of getting involved.

For Pierce, it was his four offensive rebounds and a block that helped get him going, finishing with seven points. The more active he is without the ball in his hands, the better things tend to go.

Activity was again the key for Keeling, who had five rebounds, two assists and a steal to go with seven points. His 13 field goal attempts were his most at Carolina, and a sign that the Tar Heels believe in his ability and want him to keep putting it up. Averages say they’ll eventually start falling.