CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina head coach Roy Williams discussed the high stakes that await his team in Saturday’s showdown against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium during his radio show on Tuesday.
“It’s extremely important to us,” Williams said at Top of the Hill Restaurant. “You have a chance to be the ACC regular season champion. It’s playing Duke, period. They beat us last time, period.”
Those rewards won’t come easy, though. Williams expressed his concern for stopping the isolation attack of sophomore wing Grayson Allen and freshman forward Brandon Ingram.
“If it’s just penetration with little guys, then pack it in, but those other guys can play too, and you’ve got to be able to get out and cover those,” Williams said. “Because (Derryck) Thornton can make some shots outside. If Brandon is penetrating, Grayson’s standing outside, and if Grayson’s penetrating, Brandon’s standing outside.”
That, on top of a raucous environment in Cameron Indoor Stadium, will be what stands between UNC and its first regular season conference title since 2012.
“We need to play well, it’s going to be their senior day, Marshall’s last game, but it’s really going to be a big-time game, big-time atmosphere for them,” Williams said. “We’ve got to play great.”
Why did last night’s win over Syracuse mean so much to you?
“It’s just because some of the things I’ve said, and you already know anyway, it’s just the last three years or so haven’t been very comfortable. Every day, it seems like just stuff was coming around and junk and I felt like it wasn’t fair, because I knew what we had done, and we hadn’t done anything wrong, and knew that a lot of negative recruiting was going on against us. I thought there was quite a bit of sensationalism going back and forth. Nobody’s integrity was questioned except mine.
“It was tough for me, yet every single day, when I go out there on that court, for two-and-a-half hours I didn’t give a darn about any of that other stuff. Marcus (Paige) and Joel (James) and Brice (Johnson), particularly, being seniors and being through all of that, it was not a rose garden everyday, but as we said last night, they’ve won 99 games in their four years. Almost every team in the country would take that, for sure. It was emotional, there’s no question about that.”
Some big plays from your guys down the stretch got you that win against Syracuse.
“I’ve gotten a little ticked off listening to people. Most of the time I try not to do that, but everybody acts like you struggled, you just barely made it. Well first of all, it’s the ACC. Second of all, it’s a Syracuse team that went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and beat Duke. They were 7-3 in their last 10 ACC games, so to me, they’re pretty doggone good—I’m sorry, 9-3 in their last 12 ACC games. I mean, that’s pretty good.
“They’re acting like they’re chopped liver, and probably the one most difficult matchup in the league for us, because we’ve been struggling with shooting the ball, and what do they do? They play zone and make you shoot it. We did. We shot more 3-pointers than I thought I’d ever have a team shoot, probably. It was a difficult game, and I was pleased with the outcome. If you’d told me yesterday morning that we were going to win by one, I’d have been ecstatic. I didn’t care. I didn’t care how, I didn’t care if it was 101-100 or 1-0, just give me a one-point win and get my butt to the talks at the end of the show, and I’d be fine.”
Will the black uniforms make another appearance, or was that a one-game deal?
“It was a one-game deal. Our colors are Carolina blue and white, and I happen to like Carolina blue and white. If you’d tell me it’d make Brice go 11-for-11, hell, I might think about it, then. All I’m concerned about is winning, I don’t care how we look.”
Does going through the ACC, with the different styles of play from each team, prepare your team for the NCAA Tournament?
“It does, there’s no question. Not just the different styles, but the quality of the teams, because once you get in the NCAA Tournament, you’re playing really good teams, and that’s what we’ve been doing for six or seven weeks right now. There’s a wide variety of styles in the league, and we’re probably the fastest up-and-down tempo. Virginia, people think they slow it down, and they really don’t, they’re just really particular about the shot they take. They don’t care. If they get great shots, they’d just assume win 90-80, but they want great shots.
“Syracuse’s zone, Louisville’s full-court press, Duke’s half-court man-to-man stuff, Florida State’s half-court man-to-man defense is really good, Clemson’s half-court man-to-man defense is really good, so you do see a variety. The guys on the other team, Coach Smith used to say, they get scholarships too. They are really good players, and they guard you, and if you see a team that’s statistically, their numbers are better in league play than they are in the preseason, you’ve really got a big-time basketball.”