CHAPEL HILL --- Following North Carolina's 88-72 season-opening triumph over Florida International Monday night in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, UNC head coach Roy Williams spoke briefly with reporters.
"Okay, we're glad to get a 'W.' It's fun to get that first game under your belt," said Williams.
Despite shooting well for much of the game and out-rebounding Florida International 44-29, the Tar Heels committed a whopping 26 turnovers, which is perhaps the biggest reason why the final score wasn't more out of hand---that, and the fact that Williams played his bench liberally over the course of the game.
"Needless to say we don't like 26 turnovers, and I even chewed the last five guys out (at the end of the game) because we had four turnovers in the last two minutes of the game," Williams said. "I told them they work their tail off in practice, and if you want to get in the game don't turn the dadgum ball over when I put you in there."
"But I like the way we rebounded, particularly in the second half," Williams added. "If you look at the halftime stat sheet, the rebounds were 20-20, and they had 10 points on offensive rebounds and so did we. We ended up 44-29."
Williams was a little frustrated with the way Florida International seemed to get possession on loose balls, along with the fact the Tar Heels shot so many three-pointers early in the game, but the fact the team persevered and won the game is something naturally to be glad about.
"I didn't like the way that they (FIU) came up with all the loose balls it appeared," Williams said. "And I didn't like the way we had the ball so many times and all of a sudden they take it away from us. The first half we shot 12 threes, which is probably a little too much for this team."
UNC only shot one three-pointer in the entire second half, but making two-thirds (16-of-24) of their two-point field goal attempts worked fine.
"Larry (Drew's three-point shot) from the top of the key, I guess was the only three (in the second half)," said Williams. "One of the reasons we did that (shot so many three-pointers) was because in the first half was that they (Florida International) had eight team fouls, and we've always been a team that did a great job getting to the free throw line more than the other team. But just because they play zone does not mean we have to take the first outside shot we look at."
Williams was pleased with the way his veterans played, particularly starters Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, and Marcus Ginyard, and Tyler Zeller, who combined for much of the team's production.
"I thought that Deon and Ed and Marcus and Tyler, the experienced players, really did some nice things," he said. "When you look down there (on the stat sheet) and Larry has six assists and two turnovers, you'd like for it to be that every game---you'd take that."
"For the most part I thought we were active. We were trying hard," Williams continued. "We just weren't very sharp. But that's what you should expect at this time of the year. (FIU head coach) Isiah (Thomas) probably didn't feel like his team was very sharp either. I was impressed by how they kept trying to play and they kept battling for every loose ball and that kind of thing."
Florida International used a blueprint against the Tar Heels that several teams will likely try to employ---utilizing a zone defense and trying to spread out Carolina's big men on the defensive end of the floor to create some space to operate.
"They (FIU) tried to spread us and drive the big guys, and basically what we faced tonight we'll face a lot this year---teams playing zone on one end and trying to spread and drive our big guys on the other (defensive end of the floor), so it was a great experience for us," Williams. "They played so much zone that it helps in the long run. We've got to do a better job with our movement, but I thought that helped us."
Williams was satisfied with the way the Tar Heels played defense for the most part, and overall he's optimistic that this group could be very strong on that end of the floor.
"I think they will like to play defense," Williams said. "I don't know if they like it right know as much as I want them to, but I do believe this will be a very good defensive club. John (Henson) is 6-10, and getting out and guarding a guy 45 feet from the basket is hard, but it's what we're going to be faced with so we'll have to do it."
"I do like the fact that we can challenge shots at the rim, so let's get out and pressure.and see if we can get them (opposing players) to go to the rim and not let them have open shots without getting a hand up out on the perimeter," Williams added.
The UNC coach was satisfied about another thing immediately after the game---that his postgame press conference lasted for just three minutes, which might in the running for an unofficial record as shortest in history if reporters kept such a statistic.
"Easy press conference---that's great. Thanks guys," Williams said to laughs from the journalists. "Let's do this every night."