CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Roy Williams has paced the sideline for 972 games during his 28-year head coaching career, yet has never seen a team in as bad of a shooting funk as his current one is right now.
“This is the worst shooting period I’ve ever gone through,” Williams said during his weekly radio show at Top of the Hill on Monday night. “This is the first time I’ve ever had a scenario like this.”
The Tar Heels have hit just 38 percent of their shots over the past three games, including a paltry 17 percent from the 3-point line. Despite UNC being in the midst of an 11-game winning streak, Williams expressed concern over the shooting woes.
“We need to shoot the ball in the basket,” Williams said. “You’ve heard me say at least 3,000 times everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket, and right now, we can’t throw it in the ocean from the beach.”
The most noticeable Tar Heel to slump has been senior guard Marcus Paige, who has scored 15 points in the last four games combined. His struggles have been especially bewildering to Williams.
“Four games ago, the kid had 30 points, five assists, no turnovers, played maybe as good of a game as anybody in the backcourt has ever played,” Williams said, referencing Paige’s stat line at Florida State.
UNC will look to get back on track against a Boston College team that is still looking for its first ACC win this Saturday.
It hasn’t been pretty, but your team is winning games.
“You’re exactly right, it’s not very pretty until you realize okay, that goes in which column? That part’s pretty nice. There’s no question, I like the part of it that we still compete, we’re still playing hard, we’re doing a good job on the backboards. And that’s the reason we’re winning. We were 3-for-23 from the 3-point line, the third straight game under 40 percent, but we had a plus-13 advantage on the backboards, plus-12 advantage on offensive rebound points. I’ve always said that that’s the most important thing, but I’d like it a lot better if we’d make a few more baskets too, and not just rely on the rebounding part of it, but it’s what it is. We got to practice today, we worked on our shots quite a bit [and] talked to them on the bus after we got back last night. We’ve just got to figure it out.”
How did the poor weather change your team’s travel plans and ultimately the time of the game?
“I’m one of those guys that—I don’t enjoy travel. Bad weather. In an airplane or on buses, either one. You see all of the stuff about the storm and it’s what, two feet in Washington, D.C.? You’re watching The Weather Channel and you see it, and it’s ‘Where is Blacksburg?’ And it was right on the way. So Friday morning, I started watching The Weather Channel, and there’s no question that when I got up even Saturday morning, it said Roanoke is still going get one to three more inches, and they’ve had 14 inches, and this kind of thing.
“So we did start having conversations with the conference office, and we did start some conversations with Virginia Tech. There was some mild discussion about trying to move it to Monday night. It was going be more difficult for Virginia Tech, there’s no question, because they play on Wednesday. In the league, like we play Saturday and (Monday) a couple of times, but we did those discussions with them, and the Virginia Tech people were fantastic. I should have said that at the press conference yesterday. They were concerned, they kept giving us the right people to get the right information on what the roads looked like. So we changed Saturday morning’s practice and changed our departure time, and Clint Gwaltney was on the phone quite a bit, I was watching The Weather Channel and calling my underground sources and everything like that trying to find out what was going on.
“One thing that I was very concerned about was that Saturday was supposed to be much nicer, and a lot of it was supposed to melt, but Saturday night it was supposed to freeze again. So, I was worried about leaving that late after a 6:30 game. You talk about getting out of there at 9:30 and getting here at one o’clock in the morning, so we asked them, through the conference office, and they agreed to move the game to three o’clock. So at least, when we left, it wasn’t as late, the temperatures weren’t as bad, but the Virginia Tech people were really good and accommodating with us.
“It was a tough time trying to make a decision. It wasn’t clear-cut. If it had been ‘Oh, the roads are perfect,’ I wouldn’t have worried about it, but if they’d said ‘There’s no way in Hades you should try that,’ then I wouldn’t have worried about that part, either. We had to make some decisions, and luckily everything worked out.”
It felt like North Carolina’s frontcourt depth was hurt by Joel James’ absence.
“It was, and if it had been an emergency situation, a high-high-high degree, and to be honest with you, I can’t figure out how high it would be. Doug [Halverson] and I discussed it, and Joel did dress, did go through the warm-ups, and I said if it’s an extreme emergency, I’ll put you in the game. But I thought it was a lot better off if we let him take off that day, yesterday, and today we did run and shoot and did some drills, and he didn’t do that, and tomorrow’s an off-day, so we thought we’d be a lot better off getting three more days. So we fully expect him to play against Boston College.”
Would you consider putting Marcus Paige back at point guard moving forward if it would help him with his offensive struggles right now?
“So, what does [the caller] have against Joel? Joel Berry’s played exceptionally well, and his shooting percentage is better right now than anybody else is in this time period. Marcus, right now, if the ball is rebounded on the right, if Marcus is closer, we throw the outlet pass to Marcus and Joel takes off. If it’s rebounded to the left, and Joel is over there, then we outlet the ball to him, and Marcus takes off. It’s really not any difference, if we have to take the last shot, guess who I’m going want to have to take the last shot? I don’t give a darn if he’s playing the one, two, three, four, five, Marcus is going to be the guy I want to take the last shot. You always say, ‘Well, what if somebody plays this spot?’ You’ve got to sit somebody down, or take them out of that spot, and I happen to like the way Joel Berry’s playing.”