RALEIGH — North Carolina made it interesting late but Roy Williams wasnt interested in talking much about that, or about much anything his team did well. In the moments after the Tar Heels 91-83 loss at N.C. State on Saturday night, all Williams could focus on was what his team didnt do well and there were a lot of those things.
Transition defense. Rebounding. Playing with a sense of urgency. Williams criticized the Tar Heels in all of those facets, and more. And so it didnt much matter to him that UNC, once down by 28 points during the second half, fought back and trailed by just five with 28 seconds to play.
When he met with media members, a frustrated Williams used the first sentence of his postgame press conference to say he didnt know what to say, really. He used his second sentence to describe the game as a butt-kicking.
And he went on to bemoan the notions that his teams ill-fated second-half rally could be construed as a moral victory, or that a disastrous first-half could have been a learning experience.
I dont care about learning experiences, Williams said. Learning experiences thats for babies. By God, youve got to play. Weve had enough learning experiences. Weve got to play.
Later, on the topic of moral victories, Williams plainly said, Im not into moral victories, guys, and Im not into this pansy-kind of crap. We stunk.
Especially during the first 20 minutes. During the first half, UNC couldnt escape from its own mistakes, couldnt make shots and couldnt get back on defense. Known for their running, up-tempo style, the Tar Heels, who shot 30.3 percent in the first half, couldnt keep up with the Wolfpack.
N.C. State during the first half out scored UNC 20-0 on fastbreak points, and 39-19 overall.
Williams said the Tar Heels spent a lot of time practicing transition defense, focusing on it and talking about it. But the way the Heels played, it didnt look like theyd done any of those things.
I really dont know, James Michael McAdoo, UNCs sophomore forward, said when asked why the Heels struggled so badly to defend the Wolfpack in transition. I mean, we practiced it, we drilled on it. And we knew that they wanted to get out and run
I feel like our shot selection really catered to them getting out and just filling the lanes.
For long stretches on Saturday night, UNC looked equally lost on offense as it did on defense. Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels freshman point guard, had progressed in recent weeks but he struggled in all aspects on Saturday.
On defense, Paige had a difficult time keeping up with Lorenzo Brown, the N.C. State point guard who finished with 20 points and 11 assists. Offensively, Paige forced shots he missed his first eight and he struggled to lead UNC into its sets.
Paige admitted that he and his teammates became rattled in the first half that they were overwhelmed in the moment.
I can learn a lot from watching the first 30 minutes of that film just trying to keep our team under more composure in a hostile environment, said Paige, who finished with seven points, four assists and three turnovers. Thats my job as a point guard. I think I can definitely do better in that regard.
Paige didnt have a lot of help from backcourt mate Dexter Strickland, though he did finish with six assists. Still, Stricklands performance was underwhelming given his critical preseason comments of the Wolfpack.
Strickland said then, among other things, that N.C. State was the least of UNCs worries. He made two of his seven shots and finished with six points.
I wasnt really trying to trash talk, Strickland said. But its whatever. Im not going back on my word or whatever. But were playing them again. Thats the beauty of it.
When the teams meet again, on Feb. 23 in Chapel Hill, Williams will hope that UNC doesnt take more than 30 minutes to get going, as was the case on Saturday night. The one positive, though, was the Tar Heels eventually did.
Not that Williams cared much, after what transpired before.
Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter