CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Kenny Williams doesn’t mind getting down and dirty. In fact, he prefers it.
The 6-foot-4 guard who came to North Carolina with the reputation of a perimeter shooter has spent this season reshaping his identity. Williams hasn’t held back from letting it fly from beyond the arc, but he also has a newfound love for pouncing on each and every loose ball within his grasp.
This was put on display in UNC’s 90-82 win over Boston College on Saturday. With seven minutes left in the game and the Eagles’ offense gaining momentum, the Midlothian, Va. native dove on a loose ball to save a Tar Heels’ possession. The recovery ended with Kennedy Meeks getting to the free throw line on a shooting foul.
Williams ended the game with only four points, but he wouldn’t let the stat sheet tell the story of his performance. “I kind of like it that those plays don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Williams said after the game. “That’s one of the beauties of those kinds of plays; some guys do stuff that doesn’t show up on the sheet. That’s what makes a complete team. You have to have a couple of guys who don’t know their numbers and will put their body on the line for your team at any time.”
That sequence from the sophomore earned the appreciation of his head coach.
“It’s not all points and rebounds, it’s not all assists,” Roy Williams said on his radio show on Monday night. “You’ve got to have some people doing the dirty work and doing the work that’s not appreciated as much.”
It all comes down to Williams’s demand of players doing their job to the best of their ability. Nobody has taken to that more than the sophomore guard, who is averaging 6.9 points and 3.4 rebounds in his first season as a starter.
While hustle plays don’t get accounted for in the official post game stats, those types of efforts have helped Williams earn the Defensive Player of the Game honors for the Tar Heels three games in a row.
The win over Boston College on Saturday seemed like a nice road win for your team. What did you think of your team’s performance?
“I like wins…. They’re better than they were last year. Ky Bowman and Robinson were a load force. We didn’t do a very good job of cutting their percentage down, but we made some plays that we needed to make and got out of there with a W and got out of town.”
It felt like your post players were a big part of the game. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks combined for 34 points and 14 rebounds. They 13-21 from the field together. Very nice game from your top two post guys.
“It really was. I think if you look at the rebounding offensively than that stretch where they cut it to three and we scored the next four possessions all on offensive rebounds. At halftime our rebounds were 22-22 and at the end of the game it was 42-30, so we outrebounded them by 12 in the second half. Rebounding is so crucial to the way that we like to play because it’s going to be a lot of possessions and I think it’s crucial to anybody.”
BC’s Ky Bowman had 33 points in the game and Jerome Robinson finished with 18 points. What did you think of those two players?
“They really are good…. (Bowman) was a load. He’s gotten over 30 three times this year. Two games before us I think he had seven and nine or something like that, but against Duke he had 19, against State he had 19, against us he had 33 – he’s telling all three of us schools that we messed up.”
Theo Pinson had a big impact on this game with a couple of key offensive putbacks. He seems to find ways to help you guys win.
“Well he does. I’ve said this: if we can get him to buy in to being a really, really tough defensive player than we’ve really got a player. He hadn’t really balled into that yet where he can become a stopper but he does so many other good things for us. His assist-to-error ratio is the best on the team, he’s had double figure rebounds in one game, he’s a playmaker. He had two tip ins and then he got another offensive rebound where Isaiah got fouled.”
How was Tony Bradley in his return game?
“Tony did some good things. We gave him yesterday off and I said, ‘you know watching you make that play halfway in the second half’... where he loses his balance and falls out of bounds and it’s a turnover. I took him out right after and I didn’t put him back in because I thought it was something with balance because I said, ‘Tony, we’re going to show you that play this afternoon and I want you to look at it.’ He did and it wasn’t anything with his concussion, just lack of coordination. I said, ‘okay, I can buy that.’ We’ll start giving Tony more minutes now because he is healthy.”
You seemed to get some big shots at the end of the game from Joel Berry. He seems pretty comfortable taking those types of shots in big games.
“He does. He’s a tough kid mentally and doesn’t mind trying to make the big play. He was a little frustrated by his offense and he was frustrated because he spent most of his time guarding Bowman. In the defensive grades he had 37 good defensive plays, which is a very high number, and had 19 bad. So you’ve got to be 2-to-1 to qualify for defensive player of the game, so Kenny (Williams) was defensive player of the game. I think Bowman scoring affected Joel a little bit but at the same time that was a big time three to go from a six point lead to a nine point lead with a little over a minute to play.”
How much of a challenge is it with teams seemingly playing up to a higher level when they face you?
“I like that. It helps you prepare your team and it means you’ve been beating them for a long time. I remember a hundred years ago I told Coach Smith against Notre Dame when they beat us and stormed the court, ‘I wish one time, just one time, that we’d have somebody beat us and they not storm the court.’ It showed how stupid I was because Coach Smith looked at me and said, ‘If they’re storming the court it means they haven’t been beating you a lot.’ I tell our kids that that’s the way it is and it helps you prepare. You need to prepare and nobody is going to lay down and lay an egg.”