“Kansas presents more problems for us than anybody we’ve faced all year by far,” said UNC coach Roy Williams. “They have tremendous perimeter players who can score and defend. They have tremendous post players who can score, defend and rebound. The problems they pose for us is that we really have to play our best defensive game of the year, and it’s not focused on just one guy. “
Williams said it will take complete focus for ‘Carolina to
beat the well-balanced Jayhawks.
“You’ve got to play your man and be aware of what
is going on,” he said. “I’ve always felt
like when the other team has those five guys who can score at any time,
that’s the most difficult defensive assignment.”
While both teams love to run and score, Williams isn’t sure
just how this game will play out.
“You never know what these kind of games are going to be
like,” he said. “Could be that everybody is hitting
on all cylinders, going up and down and it’s pretty. But it
can also be an ugly game because of how effective the defenses
One element is for sure: Williams will have his game face on. A fierce
competitor, Williams has even taken his intensity up a notch since
postseason play began.
“Coach has been more fired up,” said sophomore
guard Ty Lawson. “You see a little fire in his eye. He showed
us two or three times he’s getting goosebumps before
practice, how excited he is. Biggest stage. Two games away (from
winning the national title).”
“He sent us a message right before the ACC tournament ...
that practice, he got on us,” added sophomore guard Wayne Ellington. “We all understood from there. I think that set
the tone for our team this postseason. I think that’s why
we’ve been so successful so far.”
Lawson elaborated on Williams’ message to the team.
“(He was) just basically getting on us for little things,
because he says every play is important (in the postseason),”
Lawson said. “In the Final Four, it’s much more
important. Things like rebounding, not getting a steal in the passing
lanes, he just wants everything to be perfect. He’s been
getting on us, yelling.”
The yelling seems to be paying off. UNC has beaten its four opponents
in the NCAA tournament by an average of 25.3 points per game, and even
scored over 100 points twice. But don’t expect
‘Carolina to score 100 points against KU’s sound
defense, though both teams will try to run at every opportunity.
“They have such a good ability to get out and run the ball,
which is what we want to do as well,” said junior forward
Mike Copeland. “With Kansas, we are willing to run, but we
have to be willing to get back on defense as well. That is where a lot
of this game is going to be played out, on who can get back on
North Carolina is definitely hungry after losing in the Elite Eight
last season to Georgetown.
“No one wanted to let that happen again,” said
sophomore forward Deon Thompson. “No one wants to win more
than Tyler Hansbrough. When he gets serious we all get serious. Tyler
is a beast on the floor and draws so much attention. It’s
hard to hold him down but when people focus on him too much, we have a
number of other options. We have the best point guard in the country
(Lawson) and have a number of guys who can knock down shots. We have a
lot of weapons.”
Like Williams, the ‘Carolina players have great respect for
Kansas. In fact, the players say the two teams mirror each other.
“They have good guards and we have quality guards,”
Thompson said. “Their bigs are good and so are ours. It is a
good matchup one through five on the floor. Kansas is a well-balanced
team. I expect them to play fast and push the ball and try and pick up
(our) guards early to slow us down. Both teams work the ball inside-out
and have great guard penetration.
“We are equal in so many ways. Rush shoots over 40 percent
from three-point range and that’s tough, plus he has the
ability to get to the basket. He is hard to contain. I do not know if
we have played anyone who has KU’s balance one through
Lawson added: “They don’t really remind us of a
team we played. Maybe they remind us of ourselves because
they’re so deep and they have balanced scoring. I feel like
this is probably the best team we played against all year.”
With such an even matchup featuring two up-tempo teams, this game will
likely come down to who wants it more.
“We feel like we’re the best running team in the
country,” Ellington said. “For a team to come out
and run with us, somebody’s going to give in. And
we’re pretty sure it’s not going to be
Heels Prep For KU
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