Press Conference: North Carolina coach Roy Williams at ACC Tournament

north carolinaNorth Carolina coach Roy Williams and players Brice Johnson and Joel Berry talk with reporters after UNC’s 88-71 win over Pitt in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.


THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions for Coach Williams, or did you want to give a brief opening statement?

COACH WILLIAMS: We’re happy with the outcome. I think the last four or five minutes of the first half we got active defensively. We were able to score. Up until that first five or six minutes, I was not pleased with the way we played in the first half. I thought that was big for us.

Second half, we did a much better job of getting stops, not like the six in a row that we got at the end of the first half. But we got more consistent. Got more shots. 62% in the second half. That was good.

We had a difficult time keeping Jamel and Michael off the free-throw line, shot 17 free throws between the two of them. I did think the second half, shooting 61 and a half percent, doing a better job of rebounding, moving better on the offensive end is what it was.

I’ll say this. We got a big lift from our bench, too.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Roy, the end of the first half, the energy that the team showed defensively, how critical is that to sustain at this time of the year?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, we feel like we’ve gotten better defensively as the year goes along. The intensity that we had there in that stretch was really important. There’s no question about that. I’d like to see that for 40 minutes, but that’s pretty hard.

I do think that basically got us back in the basketball game.

Again, I’d go back, Theo with his pass and his defense, Kenny Williams can really slide his feet, he’s been good for us defensively all year. He hasn’t been able to throw it in the ocean. He made his shot, too. That was big for us. But I’d like to have those kind of moments a lot.

Q. Pitt countered the energy that you showed in the end of the first half. They tied the game up in the second half. Michael Young had a spin move to make it 57-55. After that you completely took over the game and did it with a couple of different lineups. Your thoughts about the lineups? Did you have a premonition that Kenny Williams would not only slide his feet, but get his first three-point shot?
COACH WILLIAMS: I had a big enough premonition to put him in the game there.

I’m not sure exactly when you’re talking about, but one time the score was tied. Marcus made a big three. Then we go on a 9-0 run. I’m not sure exactly if that’s when it was 57-55.

Kenny defensively is really good, really slides his feet, so it was important. I wanted somebody in there, I wanted to get some guys some rest. At the same time wasn’t necessarily pleased about the way things were going.

I think our depth was huge. Theo Pinson, if I’m on the right line, he has seven assists. We’re not saying that Kenny is going to guard Jamel Artis like that the whole game, but he never got to the basket three straight possessions.

Q. Coach, talk about the end of the first half, ending on that roll, the 6-0 run.
COACH WILLIAMS: It made me not go crazy as I was going to go at halftime, that’s for sure. We did stop them on six straight possessions. Joel came up with it on one steal, took it down. In the first half, Joel Berry was our offense. There’s no question about that. That’s a pretty impressive line, 7-8 from the floor, 4-4 from the line, four steals, Brice’s five blocks. All those things, they do help you defensively.

But there’s no question, about the third or fourth time I said it, but the last few minutes before the first half was big. We could talk about what we did during that moment, not what we had failed to do. That was going to be most of the talk until that point.

Q. Brice, I know you’ve probably heard the 2009 story that he told you at halftime a few times. How many times have you heard that as a senior? How did that resonate when he said to be a Final Four team you have to be better defensively like the ’09 team was?
BRICE JOHNSON: That’s the big thing for us. He’s said that all year. No, I cannot count the number of times he told us that story, nor do I want to think about it.

COACH WILLIAMS: Be careful, I’m still coaching (laughter).

BRICE JOHNSON: I understand that.

It’s a great story for him to tell us. He sees some similarities in the team. We got to be able to lock down like we did in the last five minutes of the first half.

Q. Joel, what was the key to you guys shooting so well, jump shots particularly?
JOEL BERRY: We were able to get the ball inside. Brice gave us a big lift. Isaiah came in, gave us a big lift. Just having the balance of the inside-outside attack, that helped us out a lot. When Brice is scoring in the post, that helps us out a lot.

In the second half, I think we got better movement than we did in the first half. That was a big key.

Q. You’re going to turn around and play the winner of this next game. You’ve done a million of those quick preps in your career. What is the difference between a good one and a bad one?
COACH WILLIAMS: The difference between a good one and a bad one is how you play the next day. Something works or it didn’t work.

We realize it’s going to be a quick turnaround. We played Notre Dame once. We lost. We played Duke twice and had two great games. Went down to the end in both times. We split with them.

We’re going to allow the guys to enjoy this for three or four hours. After the game is over tonight, we’ll get together and do our preparation for the team we’re getting ready to play.

We do know these teams because we’ve seen them play all season long. It’s not as bad in the early-season tournaments when you don’t know anything about the guys.

We’ll try to give them the three or four most important things and let it go at that. We can’t give them 25. Make sure we allow them to get their rest and get their legs back so they can come back and do it physically again tomorrow.

Q. Pitt has been the hottest offensive rebounding team in the league of late, along with you guys. How did you limit their second shots? Guards were a factor in keeping them off the glass. How did you do it?
BRICE JOHNSON: That was the biggest emphasis for us this entire time. We got to remember that they out-rebounded us 19-1 offensive rebounding category at home. We can’t allow teams to do that at home. We were still able to win that game, but we can’t allow them to do that. Some teams are able to score off of those, we probably lose in a situation like that.

That was the biggest thing we were just talking about. We want to be able to box out, get all the rebounds, not allow them to get second-chance points.

JOEL BERRY: As a guard, I just tried to get in there and help them out. They’re boxing out and trying to get the big man out of there. Sometimes if we can sneak in there and get a rebound, that helps them out.

Like you said, that was our biggest emphasis. That’s what we did today. They got a couple of offensive rebounds. Majority of the time we were able to box them out and get a defensive rebound and get out on the break.

COACH WILLIAMS: Let’s be straight and make sure you understand. Joel did not get any rebounds. But he did get in and try to box out some bigger guys. He had seven rebounds in our last game, but zero tonight (smiling).

Q. Coach, the unbalanced schedule this year. It benefited you guys having the easiest strength of schedule in the ACC this year. Do you think it benefited you at all getting the No. 1 seed going into this tournament?
COACH WILLIAMS: Depends on how you evaluate that. You know what we didn’t have the benefit of, to make somebody say we didn’t have the easy schedule, we didn’t get to play North Carolina. All that is a bunch of horse shit. In the ACC you get to play everybody, some of them two, some of them one. For the past couple years, I’ve always said the greatest thing would be to play everybody twice. But we don’t do that.

I can get a Carolina fan to make that story up and it won’t be that we have the easiest schedule in the conference. All right?

Would you agree that Louisville would probably make the tournament? We played at Louisville.

Would you agree that Notre Dame is going to make the tournament? We played at Notre Dame.

Would you agree that Virginia is going to make the tournament? We played at Virginia.

Would you agree that Duke is going to make the tournament? We played them twice.

Northern Iowa is in the tournament already. Do you think Texas makes the tournament?

Let a North Carolina guy make that philosophy up. Did I solve that one (smiling)?

Let’s go watch the other game, guys. Thank you very much (laughter).

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