CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Roy Williams is preparing his seventh-ranked Tar Heels for its rivalry matchup at N.C. State on Wednesday by putting an emphasis on stopping Cat Barber and limiting the Wolfpack’s offensive rebounding.
“We talk about Cat; Cat is a huge part of their club,” Williams during his press conference on Tuesday.
Barber is the ACC’s leading scorer at 23.1 points per game. In the first meeting between these two rivals, UNC’s backcourt held him to 9 points on 4-11 shooting. That’s in part due to the defensive effort of Marcus Paige, Joel Berry and Nate Britt, but Williams also believes there were factors out of his team’s control that led to Barber’s second-worst outing of the season.
“We were lucky,” Williams said. “He just didn’t some of the shots that he makes.”
The Tar Heels also guarded Barber cleanly, something Williams stresses will be important again this time around.
“You’ve got to keep him off the foul line, because you can’t guard him there,” Williams said. “I think that’s the biggest key is keeping him off the foul line, because again, that gets you in foul trouble, so it’s good for them and bad for us, both.”
Meanwhile, under the basket, N.C. State’s big man trio of Abdul-Malik Abu, Beejay Anya and Lennard Freeman have led the Wolfpack to become arguably the best offensive rebounding team in the ACC with 14.2 offensive boards per game.
“I think they’re first in the league in offensive rebounds,” Williams said, “and that’s the thing we’ve got to really focus on.”
N.C. State capitalized on the offensive glass in the first matchup in January.
“I know they had 23 points off offensive rebounds, and the only team, I think, to get more than that all year was Texas, and they had 27,” Williams said.
Does the ACC race feel different with so many contenders than it used to when it’d be you and Duke at the end of the year, winner-take-all?
“I think so. I can only speak for myself, but it definitely feels different for me. This time at the end of the year, you hope you’re involved and you’re looking to see who’s playing who in which location, but you’re doing it for two or three teams. Now, you’re doing it for seven or eight or nine teams. Seeing the strength of schedule and the imbalanced schedule, is that going to play a big part in it? So I think it is with more teams involved.”
Will Marcus Paige playing point guard become more of a priority for you?
“Yes and no. I don’t think we’re going to do anything to change what we have, but he is a playmaker, and we want to do that. But like I said last night in the radio show, we don’t run a lot of set plays, but we run some, and every set play is designed to get a layup first, and then there’s an option for a guy shooting a jump-shot. Guys, I don’t know what number, but I’m going to say 90 percent of those are for Marcus to get the jump shot. So we’d be stupid to say ‘Oh, okay, you’re going to play the point guard,’ because that means you’re not going to run any set plays because I’m not going ask Joel (Berry) to do that and to learn another spot.
“It didn’t go according to plan, necessarily, when he got hurt and he came back and we’re doing so well. But, he’s in a position, when you think about it, he wasn’t the point guard the last three plays of the Duke game. Wasn’t Joel in the game? The third play for him, we got the ball to him and he penetrated. Next play, we got it to him, he threw it to Kennedy and Kennedy missed the layup. Next play, if somebody screened for him, he would have gotten the shot. So you don’t have to be the point guard to be the guy that the coach wants to handle the ball, and I’ve said that since Day One.
“But I like him at the point guard, but Joel’s doing some good things, too, and it’s just that with missing the time and coming back, and we were winning and didn’t do it as much as we wanted. Is it going to be a priority? Yes. Is it going to be my main priority? No.”
Could you feel a difference when Marcus Paige ran the point in the Miami game in terms of comfort or confidence?
“A little bit, but again, why did he spend so much time at point guard? Joel Berry was in foul trouble. He only played 18 minutes. So it’s not just like, ‘Roy figured out how to do this,’ that would’ve happened five games ago, that would have happened 10 games ago. But Joel Berry had four fouls, and it’s just like somebody says, well, ‘Marquise (Williams), you need to get him out and put in that other quarterback,’ well, Marquise is doing pretty well. (Mitch) Trubisky’s doing pretty good, but Marquise is doing pretty well. Every time any fan or you guys or whatever wants you to put one guy in another place, just ask how that other guy’s doing. If you guys think that Joel Berry sucked, I’d say I probably disagree with you.”
Why did the Doug Gottlieb retirement allegation get under your skin so much?
“Three or four reasons. You asked me about it yourself, and I don’t think I went after you, you asked me if I was going make my decision—And I said ‘No,’ because I’ve been dealing with it for 20 years. Jason Day had vertigo and finished ninth in the U.S. Open. Because he had vertigo and it was national television, did people want him to retire? Before the end of the year at the FedEx Cup, all the discussion was ‘Is Jason Day or Jordan Spieth going to be player of the year on the PGA Tour.’ So that’s what bothered me. It was unfounded. And there’s only one source. There’s only one. And Roy Williams has never said anything about that, never led anybody to believe anything like that. That was just a guy stating his opinion that I didn’t appreciate, because he acted like there was something to it and he knew something. The unfounded part, I got upset because of that.
“And then the second part, and this is the more personal thing, is that it’s my life. I’m going to do what the crap I want to do. I’m not going to be led by somebody like that. But the other thing is, think about what we’ve had to do the last three or four years here. We’ve had to put up with more stuff, more negative recruiting than at anytime in my career and anytime in any other coach’s career that I’ve ever talked to.
“So I’m thinking it’s just something else that we’ve got all that to answer to. It’s been unbelievable, the last three or four years, the negative recruiting because of the stuff going on here that I’ve had to put up with. And I don’t want anything else, don’t need anything else, and if you want to say something is your opinion, that’s fine, but don’t act like you’ve got some information.”
Does the situation you’re alluding to make you want to stay longer?
“I love the place. If I was going leave, I would have left the first day, because I knew I was not involved. With me, I don’t ever want to leave with things—When I leave, I want it to be in good shape, and for me, this would have been a very hard time to leave. But, you know, I’m going to get old one of these daggum days. When I’m 94, I don’t want to be sitting up here saying the same damn thing, that the NCAA and the university need to get the crap over with. Hell, when would 94 be? 29 more years? Half of y’all would be dead by then.”