CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina head coach Roy Williams challenged his team’s effort on the backboards during his weekly radio show Monday night.
“If you’re a big guy, there’s no doubt, if the shot is taken, you have to box out,” Williams said at Top of the Hill Restaurant. “If you don’t, you’re just saying the game’s not very important to you.”
UNC was outrebounded 19-1 on the offensive glass by Pittsburgh during an otherwise dominant game on Sunday afternoon.
“We got one more offensive rebound as a team than Wanda did,” Williams said, referring to his wife.
The Tar Heels are one of the best rebounding teams in the ACC (2nd in rebounding margin at plus-7.4), but several times this season poor rebounding on the defensive end after getting stops has burned Carolina, most notably in losses to Texas and Notre Dame.
“If you play your tail off, go ahead and finish it by getting the box out and getting the ball,” Williams said. “Just give them one opportunity, don’t give them multiple opportunities.”
Of course, it’s hard to gain ground in the offensive rebounding category when your team shoots nearly 60 percent to your opponent’s 38 percent. Williams believes that’s still no excuse for such a disparity in rebounding figures.
“They’re going to have more opportunities to get offensive rebounds, but we had some breakdowns on our box-outs,” Williams said. “Probably Brice (Johnson) and Kennedy (Meeks) more than anybody else.”
And if boxing out comes down to how important the game is to the players, as Williams alluded to, Wednesday night should reveal a lot about how good this North Carolina team can be with Duke coming to Chapel Hill.
Two wins in conference action, this was a very good week for your team.
“Well it was, and I agree with you. It’s probably the first time since that Maryland game that we’ve had that defensive intensity on the floor. If we just finish the defense with a better job of boxing out, it would have been something, but I was very pleased for our kids. They were invested. They were invested in that game, and they slipped by up at BC, and yesterday afternoon they were good. Hopefully we can keep building on that.”
Was it nice to see Justin Jackson have a few nice games?
“It was and it gives him a little more confidence that he can build on that. Sometimes we score okay inside, and sometimes Marcus (Paige) plays and gets you some scoring, and if you have a third kind of guy like that with Justin, it was so important to us down the stretch last year, and hopefully it will be the same way this year.”
Did you notice anything different in how Justin Jackson was playing against Boston College and Pittsburgh?
“Just being a little more aggressive. But, basically everybody acted like there’s some kind of secret potion, but it’s just the ball’s got to go in. If it goes in, it gives you a little more pep in your step. You jump a little higher, you run a little faster, all those kind of things. He’s put in a lot of time shooting the basketball after practice, before practice, he’s put in a lot of time getting the ball to go into the basket for him.”
UNC shot a season-high 59.5 percent from the field against Pittsburgh. Just a really impressive shooting day for your team.
“Pitt’s good defensively, but we passed the ball very well. That’d be the next thing you say is 26 assists on 32 baskets. It is something that we got great shots, we didn’t take many bad ones, and that always helps. But it does still have to go in.”
There’s been a lot of talk about N.C. State’s Cat Barber potentially winning ACC Player of the Year despite the Wolfpack struggling this season. Do you have any thoughts on if that award should go to the best player on the best team or just how that should be awarded?
“Yes, I do, but I’ll tell you what, kids, if they have a great year, they deserve it. Also, think about this, Jones: Why in the crap are you asking me that kind of question when we’ve still got to play State? You think I’m going to stand up here and say ‘No, Cat doesn’t deserve it’? Come on, now. You think about what Cat Barber’s done. It’s been like six games in the 30s. It’s unbelievable. Gosh, in ’91 or ’92 at Kansas we had the best team in the league and Rex Walters was the best player in the league, he should have been the MVP. But they had a guy at Colorado, who finished 7th, but he also led the league in scoring and rebounding. How can you deny a kid like that? So I don’t get involved in those kind of things, but I’m definitely not going get involved and say anything negative about Cat Barber when we still have to play those guys.”
Does the team still practice if classes are canceled due to winter weather?
“Yes. The regulation with the university, if it’s a certain category, we do need to go pick them up so they’re not driving in and those kind of things, and whatever we’re supposed to do, we do. But we did practice, they came in and lifted at2:55, and we started practice at 3:30.”
What is your favorite memory of the Carolina/Duke rivalry and some of the thoughts that come up when these teams come together?
“It’s been a tremendous rivalry. They’ve beaten us three times in a row, if I’m not mistaken, and that doesn’t make us feel good. We’ve had some great wins, there’s no question about it. I still say, and I’ve always bragged on Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas about it being a fantastic place and the best home-court advantage, the single loudest moment I’ve ever experienced in a gymnasium or whatever you want to call it was when Marvin Williams put the ball back in the basket against Duke at the end of the 2005 season. Not only was the crowd that loud, but it was a big, big moment for us as well.
“Tyler Hansbrough walking out on senior night before that game was something I’ll never forget, and I wished I’d had that every year. Some good wins at Duke, but there’s been some big, big, big hurts too, some big times that I’ve left the game and felt like I was going to die. That’s what makes a rivalry. But they got us last year both times, and both games we had the lead at some point in the second half, so it was like somebody reached in and grabbed my heart and shook it right in front of my face, taunting me, that kind of thing. If that’s a little dramatic, I’m sorry, but that’s the truth, that’s exactly how I felt.”
Duke is playing well again after a mid-January slump. Your thoughts?
“Two big-time wins (against Louisville and Virginia), they’re really hard to guard. The most difficult thing in basketball to guard is the penetrate and dribble, and they drive the ball to the basket, Grayson Allen has a unique combination of being able to jump very high, handle the ball really well, being really strong and he can go in and draw contact in many different ways and still finish the play. Brandon Ingram is just getting better and better every single game. He has that extra length or size, he can shoot the ball from the outside, take it to the basket. Marshall Plumlee has just really gotten to be a fantastic player for them inside, shooting about 70 percent for the year. A lot of the other guys can step up. Luke Kennard scored 30 one night. Matt Jones makes a bunch of shots from the outside. They’re really, really a good basketball team, and we have our hands full.”