UNC-SU: Roy Williams Postgame
“Guess what I’m going to lead my comments with? Everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket. That’s the bottom line. Nate was awesome. I feel so good for him. He had a death in the family, his grandfather on the night of the North Carolina State game, 15 stitches in his mouth against Wake Forest. He’s been battling, battling, battling. Marcus 22 points, but the most impressive thing was 8 assists and zero turnovers, when the rest of our team was throwing it everywhere that Syracuse was standing. I thought Gbinije for them was really good, but man, oh man was Christmas and Cooney, they were really something. The first half I thought their team outcompeted us. And our turnovers led to 16 points, and you can’t have 13 turnovers in a half and have a team outscore you 16-2. I challenged them with the toughness in the second half. We still turned it over a couple of times but I thought we were much tougher mentally and physically, probably more so mentally. It helps when the ball goes in the basket. Brice was 1-1 at half, but ended up 6-6 and I told him we needed him to get involved because he was a non-factor in the first half and I thought he was really good in the second half. We had three guys get 17 and another guy that had 22 against a defense that is really tough for us. We don’t shoot the ball exceptionally well to say the least, but 9 out of 16 tonight I’d take that every night to say the least. Again, congratulate them. They played Saturday at their place and they had to come all the way down here. Maybe we were able to play a few more people than they were and maybe that helped at the end, but maybe you’d have to ask Jimmy that. I feel very fortunate to win, and we had a lot of guys making some good plays for us to be honest with you.”
Does Nate ever shoot with that much confidence in practice?
“He’s made a bunch of them in practice. Not recently because he hasn’t made anything. He’s had some practices where he really shot the ball well. We have a couple of shooting drills where he has done as well as anybody in those shooting wells. 2-14 for the three games prior to last game. I think he kept shooting and kept working and needless to say his mouth felt a little bit better so that may have helped.”
Have you ever doubted him switching from shooting with his left hand to shooting with his right hand?
“No. His release looks good and his left-handed release because of the hitch he had never looked great. I never doubted that decision. I was so proud of him for going along with it immediately and so proud of his father for going along with it, but he said 'Coach, I was kind of thinking about the same thing.' And he has been struggling, but the little rascal was a big time player for us tonight.”
Why were deflected passes less of an issue in the second half?
“I think we had better movement from our big guys trying to get them more involved. And I told my guys we were either dead or stupid if you don’t listen to one thing: you can’t just throw the ball across the court. They’re big, they go get it. You can’t just soft pass everything because they deflect it. 13 turnovers in the first half, that’s about all we talked about at halftime. I told them, I preach all the time, your hands are extremely important to you on the defensive end deflecting passes, not trying to reach in and steal the ball. So I think we learned something from Syracuse tonight, and I hope we get better with our hands too.”
Was this maybe Marcus Paige’s best performance of the year? And were the questions that you were getting a few weeks ago no longer valid?
“I really don’t care about the questions. I really don’t. I don’t care if it’s you or the Pope. And I’m not Catholic, so I’m not making the Pope mad. I never questioned him. I never questioned him, so I really don’t care. I got the same kind of questions his freshman year and the same kind of questions at the start of last year. ‘Do you really think he’s as good as you say he is?’ So that didn’t bother me in the least. You’ll have to ask him, but it didn’t bother me, because I know basketball.”
But he seems to be playing better.
“His shot is going in and he’s getting a little more healthy is a big thing, too. But he’s getting a little more help now, too. I told you guys more than once that if Marcus was my biggest concern, [then] I’ve got a really blessed life. Justin Jackson has really been playing well and tonight he was sort of out of it a little bit, but he was big for us for three games. Brice and Kennedy… I got really mad at Brice defensively a couple of times and then he got every defensive rebound it seemed at the end. But when they’re playing Christmas on the low post and Kennedy’s doing a pretty good job and they’re getting pretty good pressure on the ball and they can’t get it to him, and Brice lets his guy cut to the foul line and he gets the ball and dumps it in, that’s not very bright. I put Jackson in so I could show that to Brice on the clipboard and I think he understood it and got a little better at it, too.”
It seemed like Brice and Kennedy were more efficient in the second half establishing position in the post -
“Yeah, in the second half. Kennedy was 2-for-7 at half, and he ended up 6-for-13, so that’s better, 4-for-6 in the second half. But you know, Christmas is a load. They can’t go for too many blocked shots because they’ve only got five or six guys. Jimmy’s had some terrible losses. Coleman and McCullough are two guys that they were counting on and so that doesn’t give them much depth up front. I don’t like to talk too much about the other team, but those injuries have really been big for Jimmy. His guys have to stay out of foul trouble.”
Was there a certain area of Syracuse’s zone that you wanted to attack?
“I think the way they play it, with the long athletes, with the hands, it makes it difficult to skip pass and all of that, but there is a hole right in the middle of the zone. But they cover up for it better than anybody. Last year up there, we were really good the first five or six minutes and then they just closed it off and we didn’t get it there anymore. Brice and Kennedy in the second half, I thought they got much better movement and got the ball in there.”
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