Apologies for lag in posts here lately, folks. It’s been busy. Lots of travel. And lots of work on an upcoming special section on Dean Smith that I think you’ll enjoy.
That said, here’s hoping I have some more time to devote to this space – starting now.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who finally had something to celebrate over the weekend in Connecticut, had his weekly radio show today. A few notes and quotes:
Williams described the Tar Heels’ 93-84 victory against then-No. 3 Louisville as a “fun time.” You think? This was the kind of victory UNC needed amid all the drama it has endured in the past several months, stretching back to the start – the public start, at least – of P.J. Hairston’s summer of trouble.
Even when UNC was tied at 44 with Louisville at halftime on Sunday, though, Williams thought his team hadn’t played to its potential. He believed the Tar Heels would have to play better in the second half. And they did. It came down to two things, Williams said: Whether UNC could beat Louisville’s press. And, if so, whether UNC could take advantage of its size on the inside.
We know how that turned out. In the second half, UNC outscored Louisville 28-14 in points in the paint.
Williams said freshman forward Kennedy Meeks on Sunday “was the Kennedy Meeks I hoped that we’d find.”
He finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. And that came after he played just five minutes, and scored just a single point, on Saturday against Richmond. In that game on Saturday, Williams said during his radio show, Meeks was as bad as any player Williams had ever put in a game.
It was a completely different story on Sunday, though.
Williams was asked during the show about whether he thought Marcus Paige could score like he has the past two games. The short answer: “Yes.” Paige set a career-high with 26 points against Richmond. Then he surpassed that with 32 against Louisville.
Williams wasn’t surprised.
“He’s going to be able to score the basketball” at a high level, Williams said.
He noted Paige’s scoring acumen in high school, and said Paige once scored 18 points in three minutes.
UNC used a 3-2 zone defense with success on Sunday against Louisville. Williams employed it especially in the second half.
“I just wanted something different, because we weren’t stopping the dribble penetration,” Williams said.
Williams described the zone UNC used as a “3-2 drop,” because one of the guys in the front line drops back depending on how the offense is attacking the zone. That likely led me to incorrectly identify the zone as a 2-3.
Either way, expect to see UNC use a zone more than you ever have under Williams. A zone defense mitigates some of the defensive disadvantages that UNC has given that it’s short on wing players because of the absence of Hairston and Leslie McDonald.
“Personnel dictates it a lot, the personnel on the other team dictates it a lot.”
Williams said he explained to the team during the summer that Paige and James Michael McAdoo would be the team leaders, and Williams said, in jest, that told the team Paige and McAdoo would be the leaders “because I’m tired of talking to the rest of you idiots.” Maybe that wasn’t in jest, after all. Williams praised Brice Johnson’s scoring ability, but said his defensive limitations continue to be problematic. Williams said Johnson needs “to have a great deal more intensity on the defensive end of the floor.” Isaiah Hicks, the freshman forward, hasn’t yet found a regular spot in the rotation but Williams didn’t seem concerned by it given that he’s still searching for players to solidify themselves for the long haul in the frontcourt. Williams said Hicks will have his chances, but that he’s going through some growing pains while splitting time between small forward and power forward. If you’ve noticed that Williams has been affected more often than usual by those dizzy spells, you’re not alone. But, he said, “I’m doing fine. I wish the dadgum cameras would watch the dadgum game.” Williams said those spells aren’t a result of vertigo, which he said “is a whole different animal.” An interesting tidbit about the Michigan State game on Dec. 4 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Williams said UNC asked the ACC to make that a road game for the Tar Heels. With Kentucky and Texas coming to the Smith Center, Williams wanted a challenging road game and some “balance” with the schedule.
So there you have it.