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March 26, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and student-athletes Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson. Coach, an opening statement.
ROY WILLIAMS: We're ecstatic to be here, getting ready to go out and have a little practice, try and get ready for third round with Notre Dame. We did some very good things last night. I wasn't pleased with our defense in the first half, but other than that, I thought we did some really good things, and it was a fantastic time to be a basketball coach in the locker room last night with these guys.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Marcus and Brice, just the preparing for Notre Dame the third time, is it an advantage already having played them twice and considering they were really two different games?
MARCUS PAIGE: Well, I would say it's an advantage, but they also have the advantage of playing us twice as well. So I think it kind of cancels out. I think it is better than not having played a team, because you at least know what to expect and you know the athleticism and the size and the shooting that they bring. And you've played against it.
So that's one thing we need to prepare for is how they space the floor and how good they are at getting in the lane and creating opportunities for their shooters. So it will be a challenge, but having played them a couple of times, I'm sure they feel comfortable with what we do, and I think we feel pretty comfortable with what they do.
BRICE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, it's definitely an advantage just because we can learn from both games. And the first one we did play very well, but then we kind of let up on them. And the second game we kind of blew them out there at the end of the first half. We've just got to learn from those mistakes in both of those games. We didn't play well defensively in some parts of each of those games.
Q. Marcus, you said in your senior night speech that Coach often had a lot more confidence in you than you did in yourself. Was that more of a thing early in your career, or was it even a thing this year when you were going through some of your shooting struggles?
MARCUS PAIGE: Yeah, a lot of that was early in my career as a freshman, kind of being thrown into the fire, having to play a lot of minutes early where I wasn't necessarily prepared to be a high level ACC guard right away. But even throughout this year struggling, I still had some confidence. But I don't think his confidence in me ever wavered, and I think that helped me get through a lot of my issues.
Q. What kind of things did he do or some of the other assistant coaches do to sort of keep your confidence up try to get it to a place where their confidence was?
MARCUS PAIGE: They were just reminding me it didn't matter how many shots I missed they always thought the next one that would go in, and to not to lose confidence in my shot and stay aggressive because it's important to this team. SO those kind of things go a long way when you try to get yourself going and that's been able to happen these last couple of games.
Q. Brice, I think it was you at the ACC Tournament who said that you thought that the turning point really was the second half of the Notre Dame game in South Bend. What did you guys learn from that, and what have you taken now to get on this roll?
BRICE JOHNSON: First thing we've learned is that defense wins championships. We've really played well defensively especially at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. And that's basically what we learned mostly out of that game. We can't let up on them because they're a very good team and they will make runs during the game. And that's pretty much it.
Q. Kennedy and Joel, can you guys please discuss your matchups with Auguste (pronounced as Ogoost) and Jackson and --
ROY WILLIAMS: Is his name Ogoost? Because if it is I've been mispronouncing the name for three years (laughter). Let's go with Auguste. (Laughter). Scare me to death. I'd rather you mispronounce it than me. He can get back at me; he can't get back at you.
Q. Can you guys discuss those matchups? And also the nature of that blowout and the level of confidence that you can take from that going into this game?
JOEL BERRY II: I just know Jackson is a great player. He's very explosive. So we're just going to try our best just to keep him out of the lane so he won't attack and either get all the way to the hole or try to kick out for the 3-pointer. That's what we want to do. That's what I'm going to try to do is just try to stay in front of him.
JOEL BERRY II: It was good to beat them like that, but you know like we said earlier, we beat them -- they beat us three out of the last four. So we've still got to get some revenge to them, too.
KENNEDY MEEKS: Zach is a great player. He's very aggressive. Coach McGrath mentioned this morning that he's averaging more rebounds than Brice, and Brice has been playing better than anybody else I think. So that's big for their team.
My goal going into that game is really to lock down defensively and really focus on that for the entire game and however long our play is, it is what it is, I'm just going to try to go out and give it my best effort.
Q. Joel and Marcus, you just mentioned revenge. How much do you anticipate Notre Dame coming out with something to prove after you guys did what you did to them in the ACC Tournament? And, Marcus, you touched on their familiarity with you guys just as you are familiar with them. How much of an advantage is that for those guys?
JOEL BERRY II: Yeah, we know they're going to come out aggressive, especially at this time of the year. You've got to be the ones that come out and attack first. So especially with the way we beat them, they're going to come out pretty aggressive. But like I've been saying, if we focus on what we want to do and just focus on our efforts and our defensive intensity and all that stuff, everything else will take care of itself.
MARCUS PAIGE: And in terms of familiarity, like we know what worked and what hasn't worked against them. And they feel the same way. Obviously they're going to try some different things from the tournament. And I think we're going to try some different things just to not give them the same look. Because it's easy to prepare for something you've seen a bunch of times.
But, yeah, I guess if I was them, I would try to use that ACC game -- like if it was us that got blown out, we would be talking about that nonstop up until the game, trying to get ourselves fired up for revenge. And I'm sure they're feeling that way. But at the same time revenge can't be the only motivating factor in a game that gets you to the Final Four. That's the biggest thing. This game is to go to the Final Four. I don't care what happened in the past. And I'm sure they don't either. This is a one-game opportunity to change your season.
Q. Marcus and Brice, I think for a while people questioned the defensive fortitude of this team. I'm wondering how you guys kind of responded to that, and just sort of how you grew into the defensive team we're seeing these days?
BRICE JOHNSON: That's just the one thing Coach has been emphasizing all year. We haven't really been playing well defensively. We've just been outscoring a lot of teams. There was the one game we played against Maryland, we really played very well defensively and Coach has always been emphasizing we need to play every game like that.
That's the biggest thing, we've been trying to get better every game. I mean, the last couple of games we've been doing pretty well.
MARCUS PAIGE: We learned through some of our losses this year that a lot of times we go back and review the tape and it's the lack of concentration and effort on defense that caused the other team to get the win. It was never us not shooting the ball well or anything, because we usually get a lot of our points from the paint and do well in transition and stuff like that.
And then Coach, like I've been saying the past several weeks, Coach has reminded us several times he's never had a championship team that hasn't been great defensively. He said the '05 team was great defensively, and the '09 team kind of turned it up the end of the year and was terrific on that end of the floor. And I think that hit home with us because that's where wasn't to be, that's where we want to get to. If that's what we need to do to get there, then I think that's why we've seen the change in our defense.
Q. Question for whoever had the most turnovers in the last two games against Notre Dame, you guys can figure that out.
ROY WILLIAMS: The head coach. (Laughter).
Q. The role of turnovers in this game, when you guys lost at Notre Dame you had 13. They had 19 points off turnovers. And in the ACC Tournament you guys forced them into 17 turnovers. What does the role of turnovers play in this game tomorrow?
THEO PINSON: (Pinson entered room). Where's my chair at? Where my name at?
ROY WILLIAMS: You guys don't have to put up with him. I have to put up with him every dadgum day. You're doing a nice job, Theo. I appreciate you. Like I told you, I never have to congratulate him. He congratulates himself. I've been coaching 28 years I've never had one friggin' player walk up in the middle of a damn press conference (laughter). That's the guy who mimicked Coach Larry Fedora last might in the locker room. You guys want to see something funny, you ought to see that.
All right, Justin, now that your classmate screwed your whole thought process up.
JUSTIN JACKSON: I think the best thing, we took care of the ball a whole lot better in the second game. We were able to force them into a whole lot more turnovers which got us out in transition, which is when we're at our best -- first game I think they turned the ball over twice. We can't get them the turn the ball over -- they got a whole lot of offensive rebounds, which made us not be able to get out in transition as well. That's the first thing, whenever we can force them into one shot and get out in transition, that's when we're at our best.
Q. Justin, when Marcus gets started the way he did yesterday, how much did the rest of you guys feed off of that? Because I think you made, as a team, the first six or seven 3-pointers, and is there a contagious effect to that?
JUSTIN JACKSON: Yeah, whenever somebody comes out like that on your team, you've got to pick up your game even more. The amount of confidence he had, I think he hit his first four and then hit a jump shot at the free-throw line. Whenever you see that, you just kind of -- you feel like you have to pick it up.
So it was great to see him play like that. I mean, it's what we're used to him doing. And then at the end of the day we need him to do that.
ROY WILLIAMS: Anybody have any questions for Theo? We'll send him back up here. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. I think you went to this level of the tournament six out of the first nine years at UNC. It's been a bit now. Do you have a greater appreciation for reaching this point?
ROY WILLIAMS: I had a greater appreciation for it my second year at Kansas. Because the first year we didn't get a chance to play in the tournament because of problems that happened before I got there. And I've always appreciated every single day in the NCAA Tournament.
To each level you go, the stakes get a little higher, you get a little more excitement, a little more intensity level in your practices, a little more attention from the players. Yesterday was one of the worst best days I've ever had. The late, late starting time. I watched three tapes of Indiana during the day. I mean, that's a little bit overwhelming because there's only so much you can learn, but you're sitting there you think you're stupid if you watch the same thing over again but you don't want to leave any stone unturned kind of thing.
So with each level it goes the excitement level with the kids is the thing that I noticed the most.
Q. Playing a team for the third time in the season happens fairly often for you. Are there things in common across the time or is it just a matter of each team presents its own challenges?
ROY WILLIAMS: Each team does present its own challenges. And each team changes from one week, one game, one month to the next. We go up to South Bend and they kicked our tails. And they were more aggressive, greater intensity, greater effort. More concentration.
And we get them in the tournament and it flipped. And both teams are familiar with each other. I don't think there's any advantage either way because it's the same for both teams. If I had a spy inside the Notre Dame office that told me what they did in practice every day that would be an advantage. But we played two games out in the middle of God and everybody. So it's the same thing.
What's going to happen the biggest factor in tomorrow's game is who is going to play the best tomorrow. And who is going to have the concentration and the focus.
Q. So much talk about the ACC and how well the league is performing, guaranteed a spot in the title game. Are you one of the people who do measure league relative strength by the NCAA Tournament performance?
ROY WILLIAMS: Depends on which side of the fence I'm on. Yeah, I think it's the best choice right now. But the reality is there's a lot of good teams. There's a lot of good leagues. I happen to think the ACC is the best league from top to bottom, the depth we have. Boston College didn't win a game, they almost got us and they had State at State by one with less than two seconds to play.
The top part of this league has just been, I shouldn't say top part, the top half of the league is just off the charts this year. There are other good leagues. How you evaluate it -- there's only one way that you can really evaluate it, and that's if you have personal competition from one league with the other or the NCAA Tournament.
The Big Ten, I think -- ACC challenge, we as the ACC, we won it like 10 years in a row. I think they've won it the last four or five years. But, so that's one way to measure it. And the other way is the NCAA Tournament play. And we've done pretty well this year.
Q. I know for the Carolina family it's been a difficult year with the passing of Coach Smith, the passing of Coach Guthridge. At this point of the season as someone who is close to them and they were some mentors to you obviously, do you find yourself thinking more about them or the lessons they taught you?
ROY WILLIAMS: There's not a day goes by that I don't think the lessons I learned from Coach Smith doesn't come up in my mind. And Coach Guthridge to some degree, too. I mean, Coach Guthridge was an even different relationship because 1968-69 school year, I played on the freshman team at North Carolina. He was my coach.
And those two guys, in basketball, to me, there's not a day goes by, but with those two there's not a day that goes by that I don't think of some other things that they taught me.
My high school coach, Buddy Baldwin, is a great mentor still is. Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge -- and I stole a lot of things from Coach Bob Knight, he was great to me. Coach John Thompson, Jerry Tarkanian, all those guys have been great influences on me. But Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge, I think about those guys every day.
Q. Brice is closing in on the single season rebound record at Carolina. What has allowed him to just have that success on the glass this year?
ROY WILLIAMS: He's always been a good rebounder. At times he's been a great rebounder. He rebounds in his area really well. And sometimes he can go and get it outside of his area. It's times that he can get a guy that's fairly close and get a body on him and box him out he gets to the unbelievable stage. That's where he falls down sometimes, because he doesn't put a body on them and get it.
But one of the top two or three rebounders I've ever coached in 28 years -- the quick jump, the being willing to go after the ball and the pride he takes in rebounding the basketball, I think those are all important to him. And not just how quick he jumps but how high he jumps, too.
Q. With the top half of the league off the charts and the fact that we have four in the final eight, what does it say about your team that you were able to win the regular season and the tournament?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, I'm really proud of what we've done. And I think doing that in the ACC is something that we'll be even more proud of as time goes along because I do believe it's the best league in basketball this year. And I think it will stand the test of time. When we first went to 15 teams, you take the first 10 or 15 years, I think, it will surpass anything any other league has ever done. But, no, it's a feeling of pride for us, there's no question about that.
Q. How much have you watched the tape from the ACC Tournament against Notre Dame? What have you taken out of it? Is there a psychological challenge to get your players to take out without sort of having them take for granted a similar outcome, because it was such a big --
ROY WILLIAMS: The second part of your question is a really good question. The first part, how much have I done, hell, I got home at 2:00 in the morning. So we haven't done a lot of tape-watching today. I watched a tape of their game last night is the only thing I've watched. I haven't watched our tape against them yet.
No, it is a challenge. You try to watch the tape. You try to pick out some things that you say, hey, we've got to do that better because it's really important. If it's not important, don't worry with it. If it's out of your control, don't worry with it. I set up in some kind of room like this in 1991 before half of you guys were even born and they said do you think it's your lack of free-throw shooting is going to catch up with you, because at that time there were 64 teams in the tournament, and University of Kansas was 64th. I said, well, you know, there's only two teams left playing so we've got those other 62 suckers without shooting free throws very well.
But what you do is figure out what's important and what has a major factor in the outcome of the game. So when I'm looking at that tape I'm going to say, well, that was because things were going really for us. That's because it was really going bad for them. And that's not going to be part of the game tomorrow. And then I'll try and look and see, okay, now we've got to be careful because that's going to be a big factor in the game.
And I'm sure that Mike will be doing the same kind of thing. We'll look at the tape, look at all the stats, frontwards, backwards, upside down, and everything you possibly can because you don't want to leave any stones left unturned as I said earlier. But the game is going to be played and won, not just played, it's going to be won tomorrow. And all the other stuff in the past -- we talked about revenge a little bit. In 2012 we had a really good team. If Kendall Marshall and John Henson don't get hurt at the end of the season, I think we had the best team.
I've told Cal that -- I'd like to have played them on Monday night. They beat us at Kentucky by one when Anthony Davis blocked John Henson's shot. So we were really good. If I I'm not mistaken we got beat at Florida State that year by 33. I wrote the No. 33 on the board. It stayed up there from the day we played Florida State until the day our season was open. We played Florida State in the finals of the ACC Tournament that year, and they still beat our butts.
So you can't just get caught up thinking that's going to do everything. We've got to prepare and say again what's most important. If -- I'll use Indiana as an example. If 3-point shooting is the most important, we've got to try to do a great job against them. But if that's going to be the most important, that's going to be a negative for us. So we try to do everything we could to make the inside game, the rebounding, be the most important, tried to make sure we outscored them in the paint.
So you're always playing little games like that. And you know what? Sometimes you hit one right and sometimes you screw it up and it has nothing to do with the game. But still it's what we do.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Jerod since he got hired at Stanford? And much like you were talking about how Coach Smith and Guthridge were influences and mentors, do you have a sense some younger coaches like Jerod looked that way at you?
ROY WILLIAMS: I've talked to Jerod several times this week. And he's sensational. I'm extremely happy for him. And yes he's been one of those kind of youngsters that says great things, and says that I mean more to him that it really does. He knows I'm getting old, makes me feel better, that kind of thing. But we've had some great conversations. I talked to the athletic director of Stanford. We had some great conversations. And I'm really, really pleased for him. But I feel fortunate. I'm watching Mark Turgeon play, or his team play, and I get fired up just watching him. Turg sent me a note one time said, "This is hard. You always made it look so easy." I said, "You know that's not true." But I feel very fortunate to have had some great youngsters, some not as young anymore. But guys I played with and coached with are doing well.
Q. With the '09 championship team, there was a refuse-to-lose mentality that Tyler had that really was contagious to his teammates on this floor. Through this tournament, especially last night, do you see a similar quality in Marcus?
ROY WILLIAMS: Marcus has those great leadership qualities that he can say it verbally and do it. Tyler Hansbrough just led by example. When he said something, everybody shut up and listened. But he didn't do that very often. He just played.
But that team Tyler carried us for a couple of years. But that year itself, Tyler carried us and he had a little bit less, a little bit less. And at the tournament, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, Danny Green, all those guys jumped right in. Regardless of what people say, we were a great 3-point shooting team. And they carried the load for us.
Tyler scored 17 points in the national championship game. And Wayne scored 17 in the first half, I think it was. But those guys, Tyler, particularly, and to a lesser degree Wayne and Danny and Ty, they sort of adopted Tyler's thing, he came back just to win a national championship.
That's the only reason he came back. He loved college, but he wanted to have one more chance to win a national championship. So those guys sort of fell in line.
But we got so much better during the course of the season. And then at the end of the year we really locked down people defensively. So that was just an extremely talented team, much less the motivation that they had.
Q. What were your expectations of Notre Dame when they joined the league, and have they surpassed that? And maybe a second thing to that is just with them being in back-to-back Elite Eights, should they have a higher national profile or reputation than what they do?
ROY WILLIAMS: I guess it would depend on what you thought of before. I thought they were pretty doggone good before. I don't think -- I think they had a pretty significant run the last couple of years in Big East. Their program was at the highest level.
So my expectations were that they would continue to do that and would make the ACC even more competitive and another big-time team that had a chance to win national championships and play on a major level and in a major picture all the time.
So I didn't have that big a difference. Now, if somebody had a lesser opinion of them to start with, then they could really change, but I've always thought they've been really a big-time program anyway, and even going back when I was an assistant and Digger was there. But I think Mike has just really done a great job. I happen to like Mike a lot, so it's easy to say those kind of things, too.
Q. Some of the players have mentioned -- not the Virginia loss, but really the film session after the Virginia loss as the kind of wake-up call for them. Do you remember going in there and kind of going through that film session? Was there anything unusual you remember about that or their reaction to it?
ROY WILLIAMS: I remember it. There's no question. There's been three or four times this year that we've set them down and had everybody watch every single play the entire game. And I think the effort, the intensity that Virginia played with and the precision, the execution, not just the effort, the execution of what they did, I can still remember, gosh, I think it was Wilkins, the sprint-back he did, when Malcolm made this great play and knocked a pass away that we had thrown about three-quarters of the court. And Malcolm made a great play, who can't be a bigger fan of Malcolm Brogdon than me, but I showed him the Wilkins kid who sprinted from under the goal and he was right there if Malcolm hadn't knocked it away.
We talked about that a great deal, said this is the team that won the last two ACC championships, regular season championship two years in a row, that's what you have to do. You have to do it not just at home, but have to do it on the road as well.
And with each and every loss this year, I think our team's learned a lot. But I think the way that we came back after the Virginia game, and as I said the other day, playing Syracuse in a very emotional Senior Day and play Duke at Duke, I think that we did gain a lot from that film session that day.
Q. You mentioned 1991. And then to feed off your answer to Andrew's question I've heard over the last few days coaches say that the most pressure is on the final eight game because you have to win it to get to the promised land. Now, you've been there seven times. You've been in so many of these games. Is the pressure in this game more pronounced for you and the team that you feel, or have you been there so many times it's just another big game?
ROY WILLIAMS: It's another big game, and I'm glad I've been in a lot of them. But I really -- who knows what I'm going to feel like tomorrow. Yesterday I felt about as much pressure as I've ever felt. And going back, I felt that same way before we played Providence. So I think it is just perhaps it gets a little bit more -- I've never taken away the difference between Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. And I've heard a lot of people say that that's the most pressure, trying to get in.
I've always thought that the most pressure is trying to win the championship. I've been there twice and lost in the championship game. And there was a heck of a lot of pressure because the feeling I had was drastically different from what Jimmy Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski had.
And for me that's where the difference is. Yeah, everybody talks about their Final Four teams. You can talk to anybody at Kansas, they'll say we went to the Final Four in '71, '74, '91, '93. They remember the Final Four years. It does get a lot of attention.
But from a coaching perspective, I don't think I'll feel any more stress. Hopefully I don't feel any more stress tomorrow than I did yesterday. The game's an hour earlier, so maybe that will take away some of it.
But I understand the question. And there is a drastic difference because, again, it wouldn't take me very long, I could sit here name you every Final Four team that North Carolina had since '67. I don't think I'd miss it.
Q. You referenced the 2012 team that came close and had the injuries and didn't make it. And obviously it's been a difficult time for you and your program the past several years. Would a win tomorrow provide some sense of vindication for you or would it mean for more you?
ROY WILLIAMS: Not vindication. Attacks have not been not, oh, that Roy can't coach a lick, the attacks have been in other areas kind of thing. I think coaching is getting your kids to do what you want them to do, to know how to do it more than the other coach does, gets his players to get his players, what he wants them to do. But vindication, I'm never going to get over this junk. But it's been my salvation at times that I've been able to go out on the basketball court and moments like in the locker room last night, I can assure you I didn't think about any of that other stuff in the locker room last night. So it's just great feelings and great times.
Q. You've been putting numbers on the whiteboard again this season. What's the significance or symbolism behind the numbers you put in the white box after games and why did you start doing it?
ROY WILLIAMS: I started doing it in 1991 when we made it all the way to the national championship game. I've done it ever since. I'm corny, but the significance is pretty easy: If you write a 32, maybe there's 32 teams playing and you're one of them.
If you write 16 up, there's 16 teams still playing and you're one of them. I guess that means we should keep your all's butts out of the locker room so I didn't have to answer these questions, because that's something that we should be able to keep to ourselves. It's one of the things I despise about what's going on now, you can't have anything personal or private to your team, but we'll go behind the shed and do some different things just to see if we can keep something away from you guys.
Q. The last time this program was in this situation, you were forced to play a guard, Stilman, and we just talked to him. And he said I had no clue what to expect, had no clue how I was going to play and I was petrified. Recall that and how you guys went into that and tried to put up a good showing against Kansas?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, you know we played the game before without him, without Kendall. And Stilman started -- I'm drawing a blank, Ohio University, Miami of Ohio, I can't remember who it was. That's bad for my brain, I guess. But it really went down to the last play of the game that game. And so he had the one game under his belt that he did it, but he was petrified and so was I. It was a mutual feeling kind of thing.
But he really did some nice things. I mean, if I'm not mistaken he had five assists, zero turnovers. I told him the biggest thing to do was don't hurt us. But the fact of the matter is if you're playing an elite team like Kansas to go to the Final Four, just going in the game and not hurting your team is not enough, because the difference between winning and losing is so small.
If you have a Kendall Marshall who doesn't really hurt you, but also makes so many plays for everybody else, you're better. I said if we could have won that game that could have been truly one of the great stories, here's Stilman White, nobody ever heard of, starting playing 40 minutes. He was as bad as his back-up was Justin Watts, who never played the point guard in his life.
And when he got in most games he was the back-up 4-man. So we brought him back there as a point guard. But Stilman -- and the good thing is this last week or so, I mean we let Stilman be Yogi the last couple of days in practice and he ripped those guys a new one. I'm telling you he made every shot right in Joel's face, Marcus's face, Nate's face. He's gotten a lot better. If he continues to get better he's going to play a lot of basketball for us next year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports