CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina head coach Roy Williams shared some insight into his team’s schedule heading into the ACC Tournament this week in Washington, D.C. during his weekly radio show on Monday.
“We practiced this afternoon for about two hours, we’ll do the same thing (on Tuesday), a little bit less, maybe, try to get up a lot of shots,” Williams said. “We’ll go up late Tuesday night.”
From there, the team will have to split practice time with other ACC teams looking to thwart the Tar Heels’ attempt to win their first conference tournament title since 2008.
“Wednesday morning, we’ve got a 45-minute period in the arena,” Williams said. “We’ll shoot there and then we’ll go to another high school and have another hour-and-fifteen-minute workout there.”
The ACC Tournament poses a unique challenge in preparation in that it forces teams to play consecutive games in rapid succession. UNC will open tournament play against the the winner of No. 8 seed Pittsburgh and No. 9 seed Syracuse.
“We still won’t know who it’s going to be, but we’ll try and pick out the things that are unusual about those two teams,” Williams said. “And work, for example, on zone offense in case you’re playing Syracuse.”
Elevating the challenge is that both the Orange and the Panthers are sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a desperate need for a significant win at the Verizon Center.
“I think both of those guys should be in the tournament,” Williams said. “I think both of them are in the top-68 teams in the country. But they’re selling their kids on ‘We’ve got to win a game in the tournament to make sure we’re in the big tournament,’ so we realize their want-to will be way up there, and so should ours.”
UNC will tip off the quarterfinal round on Thursday at noon.
Coach, can you share your story about the bus ride back from Durham Saturday?
“It was funny, because Brad Fredrick showed me these pictures of what Franklin Street out here looked like, and all of the people and everything, so I told Marty, I said ‘We’re going to Franklin Street.’ So we pull up down on the other end and you can see the patrol guys and the police cars and the whole bit, and I said ‘Everybody may have gone home guys, let’s just check and see.’ So I told Brad to jump out, and he found the policemen and they said they’d run everybody out, but there were a few people still around. So I said ‘Tell them we’re coming through anyway,’ so they moved the cars and it was an amazing number of people who started coming out of the restaurants, and as I said today at the press conference, the ‘establishments,’ so by the time we got to this corner right here, I’d say 500 or 600 people were probably on it, and now they were out in the street, trying to get them back, we’ve got to keep moving kind of thing. But it was a neat deal and our players really enjoyed that. I’m dumb enough, I really wanted to have some fun, I wanted to go back to the Smith Center, turn those lights on and cut them daggum nets down with nobody there. I thought that’d be a little silly, so we didn’t do that, but hopefully we’ll have a chance one of these days to do some more things. The team really enjoyed it.”
The rebounding seemed to be the storyline on the court during the game.
“Well, it was. That’s where we thought we had the advantage. We’ve got to get it in there, we’ve got to take it in there by dribble or pass. We’ve got to go get the shots and try to treat it like every shot is a pass to you and the big guys go get it. Marcus (Paige) had six rebounds, Joel Berry had seven, and then you’ve got Kennedy (Meeks) with 14 and Brice (Johnson) with 21, so that was a huge part of the game because we needed that. They scored 39 points from the 3-point line and we get 12, so we had to get some advantage somewhere else. So it was 20-of-23 from the foul line and then the big rebound margin.”
How important was that play after the timeout at 49-49 where Theo Pinson tipped the ball back in?
“Theo had turned it over on a pass that I didn’t want him to make anyway, so getting it coming right back and then scoring, and then we got a stop and scored again. We scored four in a row after they got it tied at 49-49, and the weird thing is that’s what we did at Virginia. We got it tied at 49, and then they went on a little run. There were a lot of plays that you could talk about, but Brice Johnson 18 and 21 is just off the charts, Kennedy, 14 rebounds and 12 points, and Kennedy hadn’t been playing very well.
“Again, missing your first 11 shots (of the second half) and only losing two points of your lead, that was a weird thing, but the crowd was so loud. It was one of the loudest, if not the loudest, opposing gym I’ve ever been in. I’m trying to talk to the referees and, you know, they can’t understand one daggum word I’m saying, so I said a lot of things I’m glad they didn’t hear.”
What was your opinion on the play in the Duke game where Justin Jackson caught an elbow to the nose from Brandon Ingram, yet was called for the foul?
“I did have a strong opinion, yes. Very seldom do you see a guy foul another guy’s elbow with your nose. That’s basically what happened there, but I did ask the referee, I told him I wanted him to look at the play to make sure, and they go and look at the play. I just had a great angle, because there really wasn’t any contact, in my mind, much of anything, until the elbow got Justin in the nose. At that time, they go over, and what the referees did was they did the right thing. They go over and look, and I agreed with them after I saw it, I don’t think it was flagrant or intentional or anything like that, and he said ‘We can’t do anything about what you think what it was, because we didn’t call an offensive foul. The only thing we can do is go to the monitor and decide if it was flagrant or intentional, and it was not.’
“And I agreed with that, I had no problem with that. I said, ‘Well, that’s the bad thing, because you called the wrong foul.’ But once they made the foul call on Justin, the only thing they could look at the monitor for was to decide if it was flagrant or unintentional, and my guess is they looked at that and said, ‘whoops,’ but they couldn’t do anything about it. I wanted a push-off two or three different times during the course of the game, but as I’ve said before, shoot, it’s a hard game to officiate, and I think when they go over and look at that and see that, I do think they probably had some second thoughts, but the bottom line is they’d already made the call, and they had to stick with it.”
Brice Johnson was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team by the league’s coaches. I have to imagine you got a smile out of that.
“Yes, but there’s one thing that I don’t talk about enough. A guy that gets defensive rebounds takes away two- and three-foot shots from the other team, and he’s one of the best defensive rebounders. I think he’s leading the league in defensive rebounds, which is a huge part of the defensive end. I get frustrated because I think he can be a great defensive player as well. He blocks shots, he rebounds the ball on the defensive end of the floor. At the start of practice today, we got everybody together and I told them that and it was very humorous. It was very humorous.”