GREENSBORO, N.C.--- Following North Carolina's 77-58 victory over Vermont Friday evening in the NCAA Tournament's second round, UNC head coach Roy Williams and key contributors Tyler Zeller and James Michael McAdoo spoke with reporters.
The Tar Heels (30-5) return to action Sunday afternoon against Creighton (29-5) with a berth in St. Louis's Midwest Regional at stake.
Coach Williams Opening Statement:
We're one of 32 teams still playing and we're extremely happy about that. It was a tough game. They're a very difficult team to play against. The coach has done a really nice job with them offensively. Offensively they move themselves, move the ball a lot, and you have to play defense for 0 to 35 seconds almost every possession and that bothered us.
But still I liked our toughness. The last seven or eight minutes of the first half, we got it up to 12, and then in the second half ‑‑ I thought James Michael was sensational in the second half. The first half he was 1‑6 and had good shots. But the second half he made a bunch of those and five offensive rebounds and Z kept us in the game early. And then Harrison and PJ and Reggie and Kendall did some other things, so we feel good about it and we're happy that we're one of the 32 that are still playing.
For either, they played you very tough at the very beginning. Was there any chance that maybe‑‑ well, I don't know how to phrase it, that you took them maybe a little bit lightly or how were they able to stay with you so well in the first half?
TYLER ZELLER: I think the biggest thing was Vermont's a team that you don't watch on TV a lot, so you're not very familiar with their offense their players. We had the scouting report, but it's something that we haven't watched them play five or six games over the year. So you got to get adjusted and you also got to give Vermont credit for trying to control the pace of the game, run their offense. And then they did a good job of getting back, so we couldn't get out on the break. So you got to give them credit, but also got to get a little familiar with them. And I think in the second half, we were able to take them out once we knew what they wanted to do.
JAMES MICHAEL MCADOO: A lot like Z said, I feel like we just weren't familiar with them. Coach had told us just watching the film that it didn't really do them justice he told us I think they were a combination of Virginia and Wisconsin. So that's pretty much all we had really going into the game. I feel like once the first half was over, we were able to settle down and really get to what makes us successful.
Your first half the missed shots was that kind of just getting your feet under you and kind of being a little bit too amped up playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time?
JAMES MICHAEL MCADOO: I don't know how much of it was just getting my feet under me. I felt I was taking good shots; they just weren't going in. And seeing that I really just tried to get to the offensive boards, I feel like I was able to get to the free throw line, and I was able to get that dunk. And then just coming back in the second half, I just tried to be aggressive and things seemed to just fall in my lap.
Did that dunk kind of relax you a little bit?
JAMES MICHAEL MCADOO: It did. It felt good. So, yes, it relaxed me.
TYLER ZELLER: It looked good, too.
COACH WILLIAMS: I didn't watch it on the replay, but I'm looking forward to watching it on tape.
It seemed like early you were getting into the paint a lot like trying, you guys were trying to use that size advantage. And was that really kind of the game plan going in or how was that?
TYLER ZELLER: I think the big thing was we're always trying to get the ball inside, whether our guards are dribbling in or it's bigs are able to post, but I think the biggest thing was they're not used to playing bigs as big as us and quick as us, so it's something we knew we had an advantage and we just tried to take advantage of it from the beginning.
I know you've only done a cursory evaluation of Creighton, but you know their program and you know that they're a team that likes to push the pace and the tempo. Can you just give us a quick synopsis of what you're expecting on Sunday?
COACH WILLIAMS: You're right, I do know a little bit about them because I really like their head coach. He's a good friend and really does a great job. And I've even seen them play little bit of two games this year just because of my relationship with Greg. They're really a good basketball team. Doug is a load. I mean, he's really a very, very, very effective player. He's had a sensational year for them.
For us, we'll have a chance to start looking at him, looking at them, excuse me, closely tonight, I know they're really good. I don't care what seed they are or anything and a little bit like the question about once you get in the NCAA tournament, everybody's pretty good. And Creighton is really good.
I've always had a great deal of respect for teams that accomplish a lot regardless of what conference they're in, and they were really good last year. And they're really good this year.
But we hope to get John healthy. We have James Michael playing very effectively right now, and we need John to come and play very effectively and try to see if we can do what we do, which is run and try to pound the ball inside and then just take outside shots when they're open. But we have to defend. And I think that watching Greg's team, they're really intelligent too. They don't just push the pace; they make good decisions with the basketball and I think that's the one thing that we have to be willing to play tough defense for a longer time.
The tempo will be almost diametrically opposed to today. Is this a tempo you're going to prefer or enjoy or like more?
COACH WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah. No, I want it to go as fast‑‑ not as much as I did when we had three more players a few weeks ago or something, but, no, I want it to go up‑and‑down and we enjoy playing that way and it will be fun.
Can you walk us through sort of the procedure? And I guess ruling John out today, just the decision making and how he was doing?
COACH WILLIAMS: At shoot around this morning, I didn't even really want to do a shoot around. We normally have a guideline, if we play three o'clock or before we don't. So today was 4:00, but I decided to have it just because I wanted to see what John could do. He can catch the ball now, he can palm the ball now.
Got him into post and said, all right, let me see you make ball fake drop step where you have to take a two hand power dribble and then lay it up, and he was able to do it and catch it, but it didn't look like he was very comfortable with it. So he went to the other side and did the same thing. And I went to him and I said, John, it just doesn't look like you're comfortable. And he says, coach, not really, but I'm right there. And I just made the decision at that time that I wasn't going to play him. And I said that it's not an easy decision, I'm not holding you out saying that we're going to win, I'm just holding you out because I think it's best for you. If you're always trying to save somebody for the next game, your rear end may be going home.
So it will be the same type of procedure tomorrow. We'll have a short practice. It has gotten a little bit better each and every day, but it hasn't gotten better at the same rate as it was earlier in the week. I would think that if you had asked me yesterday, I would have said it's a little less than 50/50 that he was going to play today. And now, if it continues, I would say it's a little better than 50/50 that he would play Sunday. But if he still feels the same way, I won't play him.
You said you were pleased, but you didn't look pleased. So I wondered how you reacted in the first half?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, that's coaching. I wanted to play the perfect game. I really do. And that's what I strive for every time. Silliness does drive me crazy. PJ, for example, first time I ever heard anybody say this. I thought it was pretty smart. They said shoot the ball and follow your shot. I thought that was pretty intelligent. I wasn't big enough to know what the dickens was going on. And so I said that to our guys, you're a shooter, you know if it's going in or not. And so I got frustrated at P.J. because twice he shoots it and it comes up short and bounces back to him, and he's back doing his dance or whatever.
James Michael jumped him once in the second half because he got soft on me and I can't‑‑ you can't do that; you got to play tough every possession. And he really bounced back and did well. But the nature of the game, it's frustrating when they score in the first half with two seconds on the shot clock and when they score with one second on the shot clock because we talked about playing defense for 35 seconds. But that's just the perfectionist or the stupidity, I don't know which one you want to use, you use either one and it will be all right with me. But I do get frustrated when we make mistakes but I don't know, it's the way I've always been. I'm glad to be one of the 32.
With the injuries you sustained and now the latest one with John, how tough is it to maintain the chemistry that you need to play at this high level?
COACH WILLIAMS: It really is. It's difficult to do and the kids have to keep‑‑ you have to keep asking them and pushing them to bounce back and put it behind us. We've got to play, we've got to play, we've got to play, we've got to play. And I said this week in the ACC tournament, if I would have asked any of you guys and especially myself last June our top six players, I would have given you three guys that are over there in coats and ties, so that's not a comfortable feeling.
But we still have to play and so I challenged the guys to ‑‑ makes no difference, makes no difference. North Carolina is still going to play, so let's play our best. And they have done a nice job of handling more than their fair share of adversity over the last couple years, I think.
You looked displeased before the ball ever went up because I guess Lee made everybody sit down at the bench. Is that an NCAA rule that your team can't stand up for the tip off?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I have to be careful here, but the ‑‑ whew. Basketball rules say can you stand up when the ball's dead. Period. The referee's holding it in his hand or puts it under his shirt or behind his back or whatever the ball is dead.
In March you try‑‑ I can't say something. You got to have more savvy than that. Hell, I can say something and all of a sudden I can get a reprimand when I walk out of here.
I just wanted to know what you said to Ron and John?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, the basketball rules. The basketball rules.