CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For the second time in three games, Roy Williams was intensely critical of his seventh-ranked Tar Heels following Wednesday’s 83-74 victory over Davidson.
Whatever good will this North Carolina team produced during its run through the Maui Invitational was apparently left at baggage claim on the return trip home from Hawaii. Eight days after blasting his players for failing to match Indiana’s intensity at Assembly Hall, the 14th-year head coach was back at it again at the Smith after UNC held off a late rally from the Wildcats.
“It’s been a lot of fun watching this basketball team at certain times this year,” Williams said. “It was not fun tonight. It was as frustrating as I can ever remember, to be honest with you.”
The highlight of UNC’s first half was the 10-0 boost the bench provided, although Williams interrupted a question about that particular lineup to detail how starting post players Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks offered nothing of value early and the starting backcourt tandem of Nate Britt and Kenny Williams made miscues.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut your question off, but we sucked, okay?” he said, before pondering the consequences of his words. “… Now my wife’s going to be mad at me.”
Williams skewered his team during his postgame press conference at Indiana as well, although that’s where the similarities ended. The issues in Bloomington centered on aggressiveness and intensity, while this time he harped on a lack of preparation.
“We just did some not very intelligent things,” Williams said. “I’ve loved coaching this team. Sometimes we’ve been really sharp, really into it. I think we thought it was going to be easy. We played them here last year and got off to a great start and beat them pretty easily. In my opinion, we weren’t ready to play.”
Ten games into the season, UNC has already lost 16 games due to injury, including 11 starts. On Wednesday, point guard Joel Berry joined wing Theo Pinson and forward Luke Maye as Tar Heels to miss a game due to injury, and his absence has evident early as UNC was defensively inconsistent and offensively inefficient.
Williams, however, had no interest in blaming the performance on Berry’s sprained left ankle.
“I say all the time: you know who had to play tonight? North Carolina,” Williams said. “Regardless of who was available. If we use that as an excuse, then we’re not being tough enough mentally or physically as what we should be.”
His postgame message was simple. His players needed to decide if they wanted to become a good basketball team, and once they had an answer to let him know, according to Justin Jackson.
“We just didn’t come out to play,” Jackson said. “I know we’ve got a big part out in Joel, but guys just didn’t come out to play.”
A lack of adequate preparation served as the postgame talking point, from Kenny Williams to Isaiah Hicks to Kennedy Meeks.
“I just don’t think we were as prepared as we should have been,” Meeks said. “I don’t think we took them lightly because we’ve been playing them for four years straight and we know what type of team that they are and who they’re coached by. I just think that we definitely have to do a better job of preparing.”
Williams made his point in the Indiana aftermath that his team had not been anointed as the nation’s best, despite the escalating hype following Maui. This time around, he refused excuses and removed any notion that off days were acceptable.