GREENVILLE, SC - North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams met with the media following his team's 72-65 victory over Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Here is what Williams had to say about his team's victory:
COACH WILLIAMS: We feel very fortunate. I even told Mike that we were awfully lucky. I think we were. I thought the moon and the stars weren't aligned properly, the shot clock was winding down and they make a 3 over a good defense.
But inside the four-minute TV timeout, I think, it was 3:47 to play, I told our guys we hadn't won one like this all year long. That would be great for us. We've got to be tough. It's gotta be with our brain and our heart both. We've gotta get stops and we've got to get shots.
And Joel got fouled when it was 55-60 and made two free throws, cut it 55-62 and then we got a stop. And then we come down and C.B. McGrath, one of my assistants, had made a suggestion earlier, and I'd remembered what he said. So when we had a stoppage of play for something I told him, next time we run secondary -- run secondary break slip, and that's when Isaiah got the basket made it 65-64.
Then we get a stop down there and Isaiah gets fouled, and goes to the free-throw line with a 1-1 and makes two big free throws. And then we get another stop and we come down and I thought Joel got fouled. I'm sure Mike thought that Joel fouled. But he throws -- gets it up on the board and Kennedy tips it in, and that gave us 3 and then we got another stop, and I think Isaiah made a couple of free throws again to make it five.
We had some fouls to waste. The last play of the game, we were actually trying to foul when we came up with the steal when Justin got the layup there.
But two things enter my mind. One, what I just talked about, is how tough and how focused we were to go 12-0. And I don't mind saying, too, we were awfully lucky. But I thought we were very unluckily there in a stretch. But to go 12-0 -- and the other thing is the little rascal over there.
I wasn't sure when I went to bed last night that he would play today. And the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning was wondering how he felt. You can look at his stat sheet. It doesn't look great when you're 2-for-13, but he's a tough little nut out there today and helped us in every way possible. The ball didn't go in the basket for him. But I thought he was something.
And Kennedy with 11 rebounds, and I think -- that said in the locker room that gave him over a thousand rebounds for a career, can't say anything negative about anybody on my team. I love the way they competed and feels awfully nice right now. And I don't mind saying I feel a little lucky. Every now and then I knock in a long putt, too.
Q. Roy, Theo was saying in the locker room that the team learned that it can win this type of game and hadn't been in a game like that where it needed to do that. What are those lessons that you learn from your team when you win a game like that?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I think it gives you confidence, first. I think it also teaches you to play every single possession. I told them don't look at the score, just play every possession. Let's get the best shot we can get. Let's get a stop on the defensive end and let's do it again.
And I did, I pushed a little bit. I was a little fired up about being involved. You lose yourself in the game. There's so much time to play. And, again, I think it was 3:47, you guys may have a play-by-play, I think it was 3:47 on the clock when we had the timeout. But I think you gain so much from that because the more you focus, the more you concentrate, the harder you play, good things are going to happen to you.
And then, again, we got good shots except for that one possession. And we work on tips every other practice. We've done it 46 times this year because we've had 92 practices.
And Kennedy could have caught it with both hands. It would have made me feel a heck of a lot better if he hadn't just tipped it with his left hand but it went in.
Q. We hear a lot about Joel Berry and Justin Jackson and their leadership on this team. But Kennedy Meeks has come up big. Can you talk about his leadership and his role on this squad as a leader and senior?
COACH WILLIAMS: Kennedy does see the big picture. He's very, very bright. I was very upset with him at half because he had all kinds of shots around the basket and he was hurrying his shot like he was being intimidated, missing the easy ones around. So and I jumped him a little bit at that time.
But I thought he did do a better job and was much better defensively for us in the second half, particularly the last three or four minutes. But when you think about it having over a thousand rebounds in your career, he's been a big-time player for us for a long time.
Q. I was wondering what you thought of Macon's play. I guess he cramped up and had to leave for several minutes. Maybe how you think that impacted the game when he had to go out?
COACH WILLIAMS: The guys said it well. He was hurting us. He made ten points in three possessions. He made the 3 right in front of me. He got fouled because we didn't get him picked up. We had a mistake on the matchups. Then Kennedy fouled him and he made three. And then Kennedy didn't get up to him and he made three. So he scored ten points on three possessions. So we talked at halftime, he had 12 points but we gave 10 of them on three possessions.
We needed to get up to him, and you can't allow somebody to jump up and shoot it in your face. And you can't foul if a guy is shooting a 3-point shot.
I noticed he was out at that point. I didn't know he was cramping up or anything like that. But I think that early I think he made two or three baskets, the first four or five minutes of the second half, too. So late he didn't make much. And that was probably because of his legs.
And for us I can't worry about somebody else's problems, because I was worried about Joel Berry going 2-for-13 because he didn't have his legs under him either. But it was big for us that he got hurt.
Q. In the first half you shot 43 percent from the 3 and second 14.3 percent. What led to that change?
COACH WILLIAMS: Neither one of them are very good. 4-for-10 is not what we say -- if we could do that and make it 8-for-20, I'd take it. But you've got to credit Arkansas' defense. I think they were the dominating factor until the last four minutes of the game. To me I think their defense was stronger than their offense. They got us rushing shots.
We had a couple of wide open there. I thought Justin missed a wide-open one from the corner. Then they go down and make a 3 immediately. So we missed some but we made some too. As a matter of fact I was looking, it says that Nate Britt was 0-for-2. I thought he made a 3 from the far corner, but I guess it was a 2.
Q. The defense the last three and a half minutes, what did you see as kind of what changed your defense? Was it just because you guys finally realized the season was on the line?
COACH WILLIAMS: No we were more active. We did a better job of screen on the ball. The big guy was getting up there. We did a better job getting over the screen. Mike knows this better than I do because I don't coach his team. Maybe they got a little conservative and then when the shot clock's winding down, then all of a sudden the shots get to be more difficult.
And we did have -- I don't think anybody had a wide open shot in the last four minutes. Every shot they took was challenged. I thought they went to the monitor to see if we had partially blocked that when it went out, but Kennedy said he didn't touch it and it went out. Okay. Guys, thank you.