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Gonzaga-North Carolina key matchup: Tar Heels’ frontcourt tandem become bigger options with Cole Anthony sidelined

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 17, 2019

The Cole Anthony-Ryan Woolridge matchup was a shoo-in for No. 1, but that changed with North Carolina’s star point guard out 4-6 weeks with a partially torn meniscus.

That forces UNC (and us, to a way lesser degree) to move on to Plan B. Minus Anthony, the Tar Heels’ next-best scoring options become forwards Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot.

Brooks, a bouncy 6-foot-9 junior, has been a steady contributor at 12.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Brooks scored 17 points on a gimpy ankle in Sunday’s loss to Wofford. He had nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks in North Carolina’s 103-90 home win over Gonzaga last season.

Bacot, a five-star recruit, posted 23 points in a win over Oregon. He averages 10.3 points and 8.6 boards. Bacot was shooting 58.2% before a 2-of-14 effort Sunday dropped his accuracy to 50.6%.

Brooks and Bacot are strong rebounders, particularly on the offensive glass. Arizona stung GU with 17 offensive rebounds Saturday. UNC leads the nation in rebounding (46.3 per game) and ranks second with 15.2 offensive boards.

Gonzaga’s frontcourt options could be limited. Killian Tillie sprained his ankle against Arizona, and Anton Watson is contending with the effects of a shoulder subluxation.

Some combination of starting center Filip Petrusev, Tillie and Drew Timme will match up against Brooks and Bacot at both ends of the court. One thing to monitor: Which frontcourt can stay out of foul trouble? Gonzaga, particularly Petrusev and Timme, has applied foul pressure on opponents, something that could have a major impact in Wednesday’s game.

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