Five Storylines to Watch as Carolina visits UNC Wilmington

Brant Wilkerson-New

North Carolina makes the drive down I-40 to meet UNC Wilmington in venerable Trask Coliseum on Friday night (7 p.m., FloSports). Here’s what to watch for as the Tar Heels (1-0) return to the floor less than 48 hours after a home victory over Notre Dame.

Clock In

So, how do you follow up the best freshman debut in the storied history of Carolina basketball?

Moments after dropping 34 points to go with 11 rebounds and 5 assists, Cole Anthony was already thinking about the Seahawks.

“It’s cool,” he said. “I’m going to be happy about it a little bit, give myself a little pat on the back, but we’ve got practice tomorrow; we’ve got to clock back in. We’ve got a game on Friday.”

Anthony played 37 minutes on Wednesday which was more than Roy Williams wanted to give him, but he had no choice as the Tar Heels were outscored 12-2 when the freshman got a break in the first half.

He’ll likely have the luxury of resting Anthony more in a game that shouldn’t be close in the second half, but there was little evidence that Carolina will be able to win games right now without him having a big — maybe not 34 points — offensive night.

“I'm not going to have a guy wearing out early in the year,” Williams said.

Stepping Up

Part of the reason Anthony had to go 37 minutes was a lack of consistency from almost everyone else on the roster.

We cannot depend on him being the only guy that's tough enough to get a rebound, tough enough to make a shot, but that was pretty impressive to say the least.

Leaky Black (2/7 FG) and Justin Pierce (1/6) had poor shooting nights, while Chrsitian Keeling had five turnovers in 21 minutes. Garrison Brooks had 10 points and 9 rebounds, but Williams said he wanted more from the big man, while Armando Bacot only managed 7 field goal attempts in 23 minutes.

Against a UNCW front line that doesn’t have the size or strength to match up with those two, expect Carolina to pound the ball into the post.

“Somebody’s got to step up because I am not going to play (Anthony) like that all the time,” Williams said.

Cleaning it Up

Carolina got the win over Notre Dame, but the Tar Heels shot 31 percent in the first half and turned the ball over 18 times.

For all the positives Williams saw, there were plenty of negatives, too.

Unprompted, he brought up the second-half charge that Brooks picked up on what would have been an easy bucket.

“So we throw it to Garrison, he runs over the guy at the foul line and we do it every day and we will have 105 practices in 32 years,” Williams said. “You can figure it out. So, we got to stop those kind of things…”

Asked about a solid outing from Andrew Platek, Williams pointed to a few defensive mistakes on Notre Dame’s Robby Carmody.

"I'm trying to play the best we can,” Williams said. “Who's got No. 24? That's not acceptable and it's his.”

After 41 combined turnovers between the exhibition game and victory over Notre Dame, the Tar Heels have to find a way to stop making silly passes and overdribbling.

A Loud House

It’s not Cameron Indoor Stadium, but UNCW’s Trask Coliseum is going to be rowdy on Friday night in what has been one of the program’s most-anticipated home games.

Williams agreed to take his team to Wilmington to play his former assistant, C.B. McGrath, who begins his third season as the Seahawks’ coach. From the day the game was announced, there’s been a buzz around the game and getting a hold of a coveted ticket in the 5,100-seat arena.

As of Thursday night, $225 was the minimum price for a single ticket on StubHub.

A small but passionate fanbase will fill Trask and get loud early, making for a great environment for college hoops.

It’ll be the first road game for a very inexperienced roster in a hostile environment with students right on top of the court. Carolina certainly has the talent edge, but there are always hiccups in those first road games.

Defending Guards

The Tar Heels held Notre Dame to 38.2 shooting from the field, but it wasn’t a great defensive night as the Irish committed just six turnovers and guards Prentiss Hubb and T.J. Gibbs combined for 41 points on 14 of 29 shooting.

UNCW’s strength is at guard where Kai Toews, who averaged 7.7 assists last season, will quarterback an offense led by Jaylen Sims (19 points in UNCW’s opener) and Jay Estime (13).

Too often on Wednesday night, Hubb and Gibbs were left wide open on the perimeter, and in the exhibition game, Carolina allowed Winston-Salem State’s guards to penetrate into the lane.

For a team with Final Four aspirations, the defense has a long way to go.

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