Press Conference: UNC after win over Louisville in ACC Tournament

storylogo2UNC basketball coach Roy Williams and players Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige talk with reporters after the Heels’ 70-60 win over Louisville in the 2015 ACC Tournament.


COACH WILLIAMS: I’d like to introduce you to our two players, Marcus Paige is the first one, Brice Johnson is the guy that showed up in the second half. I don’t know who was out there in the first half, but Brice was there in the second half, and that was a huge part of our win. I think I told them at halftime I was about as lucky as I ever felt in my life to be down five points, because I thought we had not played as hard as they had. We were not as aggressive as they were. I didn’t think we had done a nice job of sprinting back on defense. We had turned it over on silly turnovers. Again, to just be down five, I told them, I told my staff and I told the players, that is about the luckiest I’ve ever felt. We got off to a good start in the second half. To be honest with you, I thought we shot even better than 50%, but we were able to put the ball in the basket, and then we were lucky too. I don’t mind saying that. When we went zone in the first half about either 7 or 9 possessions, I thought it was good. But we just didn’t do a very good job rebounding out of it. But played a lot of zone in the second half and they missed a lot of shots that they normally would make. But they’re a little like us. They’re challenged at points about making shots, and it worked out well for us. But really happy to still be here.

Q. Coach, you called a timeout there in the first half and were pretty animated. I was curious, you seemed to play better after that time out when you got into Brice and J.P. What was the message there?

COACH WILLIAMS: I think that gives coaching too much credit. I was really mad. I didn’t think we’d hustled very hard, and I thought we made silly turnovers. I guess I’d had enough at that point. Besides that, it was really hot out there in the first half, and I wanted to take my coat off. Brice keeps wanting to wear one of my sports coats. I started to give it to him and let him sit in the stands there, and he’d feel better at that point. But coaching is coaching. You try to do everything you can to try to get guys to play, but at that point it wasn’t a coaching ploy. It was just that I was extremely frustrated.

BRICE JOHNSON: Well, it’s kind of my fault anyways. I didn’t sprint back on a few possessions before he did snap. I mean, he kind of deserves to do that, so I really can’t say much about that. It’s my fault, and I had to pay the consequences for it.

COACH WILLIAMS: I like the way you said it the second time. Did you hear what he said the first time? He said it was kind of his fault. The second time he said it was his fault. I love him to death. He drives me crazy, but I love him to death. I thought I was going to have darker hair.

BRICE JOHNSON: That’s not my fault. That’s not my fault.

COACH WILLIAMS: There were a lot of players before you Brice, that’s right. He had 18 points from the second half. He was 8 for 8 from the foul line. He played a big time game. He messed it up defensively one play about as big as I’ve ever had him, for sure, much less anybody else. But he played his tail off in the second half. I couldn’t be happier with his second half play.

Q. Brice, between Roy and the way Harrell was playing, did you feel like you were challenged today in a way to be a better, I guess did you feel like your manhood was challenged to a certain extent?

BRICE JOHNSON: Yeah, it definitely was. My manhood was definitely challenged. All the coaches were coming at me, even myself. I mean, it’s just I just wasn’t playing the way I should have been playing in the first half, and in the second half I decided to man up and just be able to come out and play.

Q. Along those same lines, what was the key for you in the second half? You got a few good looks early in the first half, and then kind of vanished and were much more active in the second half?

BRICE JOHNSON: Just be a man. That is the biggest emphasis throughout the entire halftime. Conversation and Coach Davis pointed it out and Coach Williams pointed it out too. He said it he doesn’t care when it comes to anybody’s manhood, so I had to step up and be a big time player.

Q. Brice, yesterday you said in the second match up against Louisville they wanted it more. Do you guys want it more today?

BRICE JOHNSON: You have no idea. Just the way that we came out and were killing them in the first half over there, and in the second half we kind of let up on them, and they decided they wanted to go down without a fight and we ended up winning. That was one of the things we were emphasizing throughout last night and this morning. We just wanted to be able to go out there and give it our all.

Q. Couple things, at 5’11” versus 6’11”, how hard is it to get into Bryce’s face?

COACH WILLIAMS: He was playing about 5’8” at that point, so I was looking down on him at that point. No, the other guy that I got after was J.P. for the turnovers. If you look at J.P.’s line, he’s 1 for 4. He had three assists and three turnovers, and I’m not taking credit for getting mad at him and changing his play. But he was really big for us. I mean, he really was. The defensive job he did on their jump shooters, the rebound that he got when it was up there and it was either a two point game or a four point game. The steal on the out of bounds play, I mean, you look at that and say two points, 27 minutes, he didn’t do a lot. But I was really, really pleased with what he did in the second half.

Q. Your zone offense, it wasn’t very good in the first half. What made it better in the second half?

COACH WILLIAMS: We got our big guys to move a heck of a lot more in the second half. You know, I think we made two or three threes. We made one I can’t find it. We made three in the first half, two in the second, but we got the ball inside more. Brice and Kennedy passed it better inside. We got it inside a couple times by Marcus dribbled, Joel Berry dribbled in there one time, Justin made a couple of good passes. First half I thought our big guys were really sort of hiding behind the zone. I think I was right, Joel, Kennedy and Brice were like 3 for 15 in the first half. They were 8 for 13 in the second half. Brice was 5 for 8 because we got better shots, and we found that open area in the zone in there. But kids just, I’ll use Brice’s terminology, they manned up and decided to play better in the second half.

Q. Coach Williams, you got some big minutes from Kennedy especially down the stretch. I think you had back to back baskets and then a big block. What was your assessment of how he showed up today, especially through the illness?

COACH WILLIAMS: Got more out of him than I thought I was going to get. 19 minutes from him, 4 for 9, that’s not what you usually get because he’s shooting 56%, 57% for the year. But I think he did some good things. His passing is important to us. I said to Adam Lucas before the game, Kennedy is more, probably more important against a pressing team like Louisville than he is against somebody else because he does make good decisions out of bounds. But I think Brice and Kennedy and Justin, Marcus all of them made good decisions passing the ball against the zone.

Q. Marcus, there have been several games in the last month where the team has kind of wilted down the stretch and not made the plays they needed to wasn’t the case today. It seemed much more in control. Was there anything to that?

MARCUS PAIGE: Yeah, like I said, we’ve been in so many of those games that it’s good we’re starting to figure out how to be more poised in those games. You talk about the Duke game, the Louisville game. We did a good job in the Miami game. But we’ve had some games where we’ve done poorly and some games we’ve done well. Aside from the possession where we ran go late clock and I missed the lay up and they came down and hit a three, I think we executed perfectly down the stretch. That was the only one. We didn’t get a great shot, and they came out and hit a three right away. But we’re just more poised and doing a better job of making the defense. We even got a shot clock violation, but even then it’s a dead ball turnover and you’re still killing 35 seconds off the clock. So we’re not rushing quick shots any more as much, and we’re taking care of the ball for the most part. So those are the two biggest things we’re doing differently down the stretch.

COACH WILLIAMS: If you look at the Louisville game, we had two air balls and two turnovers in four straight possessions because we rushed it. And I think Marcus is right, I didn’t like the shot clock violation, but it did take 35 seconds off and we were able to get our defense set. Also I think Brice and Marcus and Justin stepping to the free throw line and making their free throws at 64 60. I’m not sure if we had we may have had one field goal after that, but the last six points were all free throws, six for six.

Q. Roy, going back to Kennedy, when did you find out that he was going to play and you decided you were going to play him? And, Marcus, how important in a game like this and tournament like this where you hope to play four and four, to have him give you what he gave you today?

MARCUS PAIGE: It’s very important. Every body is important. He had to have depth at this time of the year. We’re playing back to back to back, so we needed his minutes to help our big man rotation out. Even if he couldn’t give us full Kennedy Meeks, he’s still a big body that can compete and rebound down low. So whatever he could give us today is what we needed, and he did a pretty good job considering he’s had such limited time in practice. Coach said yesterday he hadn’t been running or anything. He’s just been kind of sitting around waiting to feel better, and he did a pretty good job. So it’s very important.

COACH WILLIAMS: This morning at pre game at 10:00 the doctors told me he was medically cleared to play. He came up to my room last night and tried to lobby before the snack, and I told him I said I’ve got to get the okay from the doctors first. Talked to the staff at pregame meal a little bit. And then thought about it between 10:00 and when we came over here, and decided that I was going to give him and I told him last night, I’m not saying I’m not going to play you the whole tournament, but he hasn’t done one drill since the Duke game. Not one live thing. Not one of anything. He may have shot free throws over the side, but I didn’t even see him do that. So I thought it could be three or four minutes, but no more than that in any stretch. The first time he missed a lay up and then tipped it and tipped it again, and he was jumping about as high as I jump, so he wasn’t he’s never a high jumper anyway, but I think he got his legs underneath him a lot better in the second half, and he was a lot more effective for us in the second half.

Q. Marcus, can you tell me, what did you learn from the first meeting with Virginia and that defense? And Roy, do teams adjust and adapt the second time they face that pack line?

MARCUS PAIGE: I think it was within a one possession game at halftime that we played at home against Virginia. Both teams were battling and competing. We didn’t think we played great but we liked where we were within the one possession of the number two team in the country, we were all right. Then we came out and returned the ball five or six times and rushed some shots, and then they went on a pretty big run and that was the game. So we learned you’ve got to stay disciplined and stay the course against a team like Virginia that’s not going to beat themselves. They do a great job getting the shot they want. Taking care of the ball and slowing the tempo down. So we have to be extremely disciplined tomorrow. That may be the biggest thing we learned from that game.

COACH WILLIAMS: I’d agree with him. I mean the discipline factor. It’s not that they just want to wait until they get the shot they really want and we’ve got to be disciplined and patient enough to guard and make sure we get a good shot on the other end.

Q. Coach, what is it about the two teams that lead to such high octane games? And Marcus, how fun is it as a point guard to play in those kind of games?

COACH WILLIAMS: I think it’s ability, first of all. Coaches that like to go up and down the court. I like to play a full court game. Coach Pitino likes to play a full court game. They press a little bit more. We tried to do our pressure in the half court, but both of us like to run the ball. Both of us would like to make more three point shots. But I think it’s just high level players that enjoy competing. Every game has been so much different. The first game they led basically the whole game and we stole it at the end. Second game we’re up 18 and they played great down the stretch. Today they’re up 10, and we just kept playing. So I think it’s just two groups of kids that like to compete, and I felt very fortunate to be involved.

MARCUS PAIGE: Yeah, I mean, it’s fun. There are a lot of athletes on the floor in this game. I talked about it yesterday how big rebounding would be. A lot of plays were made above the rim today. It’s fun for a point guard because we don’t get to do that very much, ever, really, be above the rim. It’s fun to have guys like Brice that throw the ball too. In terms of being a guard in this league, this year our guard play was fantastic throughout the entire league, from Quinn Cook, Olivier Hanlan, Grant, Rozier, the list goes on and on. So it’s really fun to get those different types of match ups every time.

Q. Coach, what went into your decision to play as much zone? How did you evaluate how you all played it?

COACH WILLIAMS: Two things. We played it against them at their place. I think seven possessions or five, and I don’t think they scored a single possession against it. Our man wasn’t working very well. I thought Rozier was really just taking people. J.P. was in foul trouble. So it maybe slows them down a little bit and makes it easier to find the shooters, makes it a little easier to stop the dribble penetration because we’ve got our center in the middle of the floor there. But I was just trying to find something that worked.

Q. Not to jinx you, but your team is shooting about 41%, 42% from three over the last seven games. Sorry, guys.

COACH WILLIAMS: Look over your shoulder the rest of the friggin’ night, okay. Let’s understand that.

Q. Is that a matter of getting better looks? Is that a matter of the shot just going?

COACH WILLIAMS: It’s more selective shooting. I mean, look, guys, we talked about it in the locker room before the game. The coaches we’re I think third in the league in three point shooting percentage, but we’ve taken the 15th most attempts. There are how many teams in our league? 15. All right, so we’re taking better shots is what it is. So if we shoot a poor percentage tomorrow your butt better not come in here.


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