After extending their record home winning streak against the Clemson Tigers to 57 with their win Sunday, UNC's head basketball coach Roy Williams was in great spirits when he took to the mic Monday night for his weekly radio show.
Williams felt like his team gave the kind of effort he's been asking for all season. It was a rare night where he felt like his team came out and wanted to win the game from the opening tip, something that has been lacking in recent efforts.
"It really was. That sense of urgency that I talk about so much that even I'm getting tired of talking about it, but, I think we had that from the get-go," said Williams. "We did some nice things offensively and one of our best defensive games and would have been statistically except they made, I think, eight of their last nine shots."
Williams gave high praise to his team's leaders, James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige who both had decent outings.
"We really did some good things throughout the course of the whole game. James Michael may have played his best game of the year," said Williams. "Marcus' second half was sensational. Kennedy came through again and did some good things. So it really was a nice performance and it was really fun to see the kids have a little more fun again."
Asked what he felt made the biggest difference in the game, Williams again harped on the effort his team gave and the mental focus they came with against the Tigers. He also stressed that the defense took it up a notch and that they finished plays they previously didn't in games they've lost.
"Well I think we took good shots. We made some shots when we had them open. We passed the ball, shared the basketball, but I think we tried to attack them and some of the shots went in. That's been the biggest struggle that we've had all year is the basketball not going in the basket," said Williams. "I think they did go, I think that Marcus was 4-of-5 in the second half, 3-for-4 from the 3-point line, James Michael was 9-of-13, and you can go down the line and see everybody shot the ball in the hole. But, I think it all became because of our sense of urgency, we rebounded the ball and we finished plays. The first eight minutes they were killing us on the backboards, at one point I think they had us either 6-0 or 8-0 on the offensive rebounds, and from that point on we really did a great job on the backboards."
Williams was oozing over the talents of McAdoo and gave him props for allowing the game to come to him, slowing it down and making the right plays at the right time.
"He's becoming more efficient. James Michael always rushes things and I think that he's settled down a little bit there. We talked to him about shot selection because a guy in his position at 6-8 is supposed to shoot a great percentage because you're going to get some dunks too, which he does. He's shot a much better percentage and has handled the ball effectively," said Williams. "He really has been very efficient except for at the free throw line and I'm just that guy that keeps thinking they're going to start going in even more because his free throw
percentage in conference play is about as bad as I've ever seen. But he's still really played well."
Kennedy Meeks got the start against Clemson after putting together a solid string of games for the first time all year. If he can become more consistent, Williams feels like his team has a chance to rekindle some of their old magic.
Williams shared a story from the Boston College game that might allow fans to understand why Meeks' game has been a little more spirited lately.
"He's done some good things. I think I'll go back to the Boston College game. In fact, I got mad at James Michael because they're driving us to the basket and we're fouling them on the other end and then we're getting the ball in the post and everybody's shooting turnaround fadeaways and avoiding the contact," said Williams. "I took James Michael out and put Kennedy in the and well I threatened him. I was trying to think of a nice way to say it, I told him he got the ball and didn't take it to the basket, I didn't says I was going to kill him or anything like that, but if you get the ball and you don't take the ball to the basket then just come over here and sit down.
"He's shot a good percentage in the last three games. He's gotten better defensively. I think he's worked harder. He was really one of the bright spots up in Charlottesville and as I've said he's probably one of the best passing big men I've ever coached.
Rebounding the ball and giving us a challenge for the other team to defend inside. Last year we went through the whole season basically not having any inside scoring. Kennedy gives us that."
Senior leader Leslie McDonald put together a good game and Williams was impressed with his decision making. McDonald has struggled some since returning from suspension, something Williams thinks might have something to do with his elder statesmen still rounding into game shape.
"I think he's been rushing his shots, been pressing, being a little off balance and not having a good grip on the ball," said Williams. "His shot selection was much better and I teased him a little bit today. I told him he looked like an offensive guard because he's 227 right now and I said it's not that big of a deal but I think you'd be better between 215 and 220."
UNC's next game will be against Georgia Tech in Atlanta Wednesday night. Williams wants everyone to know that they'll be ready for the game and not even inclement weather will hold them back.
"We're aware of it. We're monitoring it. Brad Frederick is in charge of travel and he's already speaking to the people at the airlines. We've made some adjustments so that if we needed to change practice tomorrow and whether we go later or on a bus or whatever so we spent some time talking about it today. We even alerted the team to some possibilities."