Postgame: UNC coach Roy Williams on win over Miami

accUNC coach Roy Williams and players talk with reporters on the Tar Heels’ win over Miami in the 2017 ACC Tournament.


THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with an opening comment from Coach Williams.

COACH WILLIAMS: We’re still playing. We like that. Second half, I thought we played well. First half, they outrebounded us by one. Second half, we outrebounded them by eight.

One of the things we wanted to do was do a better job on the backboards, to say the least. First half, it was 8-0, them on the offensive boards. Second half, the points was 8-4 for us. At their place, they outscored us 11-0 on fast break points, and I thought we ran the ball up and down the court better today. Bottom line is we shoot 53 percent, and they shoot 35%. They played yesterday and we didn’t have to play until today, and I think that helped us as well.

Q. Coach, you held them to 36 percent shooting with 15 turnovers. On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your defense today? I think I know you well enough to know you won’t say 10.
COACH WILLIAMS: I wouldn’t say 10, but it was better in the second half. It really was. First half, we gave them too many open drives and open shots. Second half, you have to think about their legs first.

No. 4, Vasiljevic — I don’t know how to pronounce his name. He had a few shots and didn’t make them.

I thought we were much better in the second half. I’d go 6 or 7.

Q. Coach, Isaiah had a solid game, 9 of 9 at the free-throw line. What kind of boost does it give the team that he was able to get to the line and knock them down while he was there?
COACH WILLIAMS: If you go 9 for 9, that helps you with anything. I thought Isaiah was active. We needed to get the ball inside. We needed to do a better job in the paint. They beat us badly last time. It was embarrassing. I watched it yesterday. It was the worst two hours I’ve had recently. I think we were more motivated today after the way they manhandled us the last time. But Isaiah was huge for us, and I think that was really good.

Q. Coach, the last 50 seconds going into halftime was an explosive moment for Miami. Among some of the writers, we knew there was a lot of frickins coming during the halftime for you. What was that halftime speech to get the team fired up and take over the second half?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, the first 75 seconds, there were a lot of frickins out there, I guess. I was just upset with the way we had turned it over, given them the basket, the way we didn’t stay in front of the guy and the way we had given them the eight points on offensive rebounds. So we got after them after that, because nobody emphasizes the backboards more than I do. So I got after them a little bit for about 75 seconds, and then I let Coach Robinson talk so I could think of some positive things.

Q. Just wondering your thoughts on the value of having the ACC Tournament in a big city like New York or Washington versus Greensboro? Coach Boeheim, as you may have heard, had some strong thoughts yesterday saying there’s no value to having it in Greensboro.
COACH WILLIAMS: This is America. Everybody’s got the right to their opinion. I don’t agree with that. I love moving the tournament around. I think it’s good. But the Masters was played at Augusta National. Augusta’s not a very big town. We keep taking the tournament back there.

I still think it’s good for us to move around. I loved Washington, D.C., last year. New York is doing a great job. I love Greensboro.

Don’t ever forget your roots. My problem is I try to make sure — not problem. One of my big goals is never forget where I came from, and I think we have tremendous history in this league. But Jimmy’s got the right to have his opinion. It doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. I played golf with him one time, and he thought it was going to make left, and the sucker broke right. So every now and then he makes a mistake too. It’s okay. He can have that opinion. I’m fine with that.

I like the fact that we move it around, and I love being here in New York. I loved being in D.C. last year. And the next time we go to Greensboro, I’ll love being in Greensboro.

Q. Any advantages media-wise or recruiting-wise to have it in the big city?
COACH WILLIAMS: It used to be much more so than I think it is now. Now everybody’s has got social media, and we don’t need “The New York Times” to find out what in the dickens is going on in the country. You know, our president tweets out more bullshit than anybody I’ve ever seen. We’ve got social media.

In the old days, there’s no question it was the media capital of the world, but I’m not sure it is right now. Media capital of the world is sitting right there, right there, right there.

But it has value. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I don’t think we have to go overboard. If you guys have questions for the players, let them answer them so they can get out of there.

Q. Isaiah, second straight game, a lot of points, very few fouls. What’s been the difference between this and a couple of the other games before that for you.
ISAIAH HICKS: Just focusing on the game. Not worrying about nothing else. I had a talk with Coach, just play the game. Lose myself in the game. I feel like that’s the biggest thing that helps me so far.

Q. Just to follow up on what Adam said, the prospect of playing Duke here tomorrow night, obviously, Carolina and Duke is a sacred thing. Does that at all feel odd, this game could take place in New York and not at home?
COACH WILLIAMS: Not really. I mean, we’ve played them in the tournament not very often, though, really for 14 years. I think we played them once or twice in the tournament, and it wasn’t in Durham or Chapel Hill. I can’t even remember where it was. We played them at least once in the tournament.

No, we’re fortunate to beat Miami. Miami’s got 11 wins in the ACC, and I hope that Sunday’s a great day for them as well. But I’ll get to go out and watch the game, and whoever wins is who we’ll play.

Q. For the players, Miami cut the lead to three points early in the second half. What did you guys start doing better at that point and put the pedal to the metal?
THE MODERATOR: Kennedy, take that first.

KENNEDY MEEKS: I think in Miami we had a similar part of the game where we were up early, and they kind of brought it back with their efforts. I just think that was the main thing for us, just to continue having great effort and trying to execute the best way we knew how to.


ISAIAH HICKS: I agree with Kennedy. The biggest thing, we just had to settle down, really focus on defense. Let offense come. We just had to learn from our past mistakes at Miami.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the value of having so many guys involved, getting them in the game at this stage of the season?
COACH WILLIAMS: I always think that depth is extremely important to us. Our guys work really, really hard. As hard as they work, I do want to get almost everybody in every game, and they deserve it.

I do think I’d rather have Kennedy’s backup playing as opposed to Kennedy playing tired, and I think that same thing with Joel. If Joel is tired, I want somebody else in there. I think a fresh player is really more effective for our team, and I also think it makes them work harder and practice every day and helps the morale of the team. But I like having depth, there’s no question.

Q. Isaiah, you shot around 60 percent from the free-throw line for the first two years. Now you’re close to 75 or 80. What went into that improvement there at the line?
ISAIAH HICKS: Just shooting a lot of free throws and just focusing on the process, not worrying about making it or missing.

COACH WILLIAMS: Sweat. That’s what it was, sweat.

Q. In terms of Bruce Brown, who had a great game today, even on a day where you guys are shutting just about everything else down? Not the first time he’s done it against you guys? Curious what your impressions of him have been this year and what you think he can be?
COACH WILLIAMS: He’s all world against us. He’s got 51 in two games. I stopped him in the hallway out there and told him he had a great game and he’s going to have a great career, don’t forget to work. I think he’s been really something against us in both games.

Q. Fans would love any of your numbers, Isaiah, 9 out of 9 or 5 out of 7. As you guys go through your relationship together, does like the one in the foul column mean as much as the rest? How does it work through your eyes compared to the fans’ eyes?
COACH WILLIAMS: One foul also means that he gets to play 25 minutes. I like him playing 25 better than I do 7 or 11 or 9. I have seen some of those. It’s pretty important to me. What about you, big fella?

KENNEDY MEEKS: Are you talking about me?

COACH WILLIAMS: The other big fella.


ISAIAH HICKS: I’d rather be on the floor not worrying about nothing, just playing. Just to have one foul in the game just allowed me to play, not worrying about nothing.

COACH WILLIAMS: Not worrying about anything is better English (laughter).

Q. Based on today, is there anything that you think you have to do to be ready and prepare yourself for tomorrow?
ISAIAH HICKS: I would say we just have to prepare to play defense. As Coach always said, he never seen a team make it that far without playing defense. I would say that should be our biggest focus, and it shows, when we start really amping it up on defense, that’s when we start to make the run. That’s when we start to take the lead.

KENNEDY MEEKS: I think playing together also will help us a lot down the stretch. I think we’re working together and setting screens for each other, not passing up on those opportunities for us setting screens on Justin and Joel for them to get open shots and possibly getting us open shots also. So sharing the ball and setting the screens and having the greater amount of effort is definitely important.

COACH WILLIAMS: 21 assists out of 28 field goals is pretty good. But I do think we’ve got to concentrate on the defensive end of the floor.

Q. How much of a feel shot was that supposed to be alley and it turned into a three?
COACH WILLIAMS: If you’d have heard what he said when he let it go — ooh, ooh. It was comical, but it was Theo. Nobody else could do it except Theo. Somebody else, I’d try to strangle him, but Theo, you’ve got to understand that it’s him.

KENNEDY MEEKS: I’m not surprised at all that the ball went in. Like he said, only Theo can make a shot like that. He’s a funny dude. For him — he didn’t smile after that play. He was serious, but I think everybody else was pretty —

COACH WILLIAMS: He tries to pick up full court like we’re pressing.

KENNEDY MEEKS: Like he meant to make it (laughter).

COACH WILLIAMS: That was a better shot than the one he shot from across the court that ended up being an air ball.

Q. I was actually going to ask about that lob. Who was the intended target? Isaiah, were you the intended target on that?
ISAIAH HICKS: I was to the first one.

Q. The one that went in the basket?
ISAIAH HICKS: That was to Tony.

Q. The look on his face, he looked like he was concerned first about Coach is going to get on me for making a bad pass.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, it was a bad pass. It wasn’t even open. Superman couldn’t have caught that lob and got it in there. All right, guys. Thank you very much.

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