Cole Anthony’s impressive return ends in painful fashion for North Carolina against Boston College

North Carolina’s Cole Anthony returned to college basketball with a bang on Saturday. But his first game in nearly two months ended in frustrating fashion. The Tar Heels’ star freshman guard shot an air ball on a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer as Boston College escaped with a 71-70 road victory.

Anthony, a projected top-10 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, scored a game-high 26 points off the bench as he found success attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line in his first action since Dec. 16 after surgery on his right knee. He hit 14-of-14 free throws and finished with five rebounds, three assists and two steals. It was an encouraging sign both for the Tar Heels and Anthony, who was rated the No. 4 prospect in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports.

Ultimately, however, familiar issues plagued North Carolina (10-11, 3-7 ACC). The Tar Heels made only 4-of-19 3-pointers in keeping with a season-long trend of poor outside shooting. Anthony, who was a 35.5% 3-point shooter in nine games before his injury, hit 2-of-8 tries from deep.

North Carolina fans held out hope that Anthony’s return could help the program salvage some hope of making the NCAA Tournament for a 10th straight season. After starting out 2-7 in their first nine games without Anthony, the Tar Heels won two straight entering Saturday’s game.

But losing at home to Boston College (11-11, 5-6) could end up being a disastrous Quadrant 4 loss, depending on where the Eagles are in the NET rankings come Selection Sunday. Boston College entered at No. 161 in the NET. A home loss to teams ranked 160 or worse is considered a Quadrant 4 loss, which is a drain on any team’s resume, and especially one with a thin margin for error like North Carolina.

Still, Anthony injected some life into the Tar Heels as he knocked off the rust from his layoff. He entered to a standing ovation at the Dean Dome and looked unencumbered by his knee as he directed the offense. On one occasion, he sent a defender falling to the floor with a behind-the-back dribble. North