CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina got a win, but Roy Williams wouldn’t pretend he was happy.
The No. 2 Tar Heels defeated Wake Forest 83-68 Wednesday night at the Smith Center. Carolina improved to 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the ACC. The Heels have won 10 games in a row, the ninth time that has happened under Williams during his time at North Carolina. But Williams wasn’t exactly beaming from ear-to-ear afterwards.
“Satisfaction is not part of my language right now,” Williams said. “Nowhere close, nowhere close.”
Carolina won big, played a lot of guys, and were in control at halftime, but the Heels shot 26.5 percent from the floor in the second half – the worst percentage of any half this season for UNC. Of the 17 field goals the Demon Deacons scored after the break, 14 of them were layups. The balanced UNC scoring attack only had one player score in double figures. That was senior forward Brice Johnson who led the way with 27 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
Williams said he shouldn’t be complaining considering the Heels won, and won big, but he has higher expectations.
“I’m as happy as I can possibly be,” he said with a hint of sarcasm. “It wasn’t very pretty.”
Not that the veteran coach didn’t see it coming. Williams said the team didn’t have a very good week of practice. At one point, he got so mad during practice that he decide to “see if any of them would qualify for the track team.”
That meant running and a lot of it. According to guard Joel Berry II, the punishment meant they had to run a series of 79’s, full-court sprints and back in one minute and nineteen seconds. Berry said the players didn’t look at the extra sprints as punishment, understanding their coach just wants them to reach their full potential. Williams would probably take delight in knowing the players know the game versus Wake wasn’t their best effort.
“I don’t think we were satisfied either,” Berry said. “We could have played much better in the second half. We were very active in the first half. We took it easy in the second half. I think we were playing to score, instead of just playing. That got coach hot.”
Berry admitted the team relaxed once they got a 20-point lead, taking their foot off the gas a little.
“We thought we had the game coming into the second half,” Berry said. “They just kept playing. They didn’t get it too close, but we can get another that can get on a roll and we won’t be able to stop them.”
Especially without guard Marcus Paige, who only scored two points and has gone 3-25 the last three games. Williams has never had a player the caliber of Paige go through a stretch like this in his coaching career. The veteran coach isn’t worried about his senior star, but he isn’t quite sure what to do to get him back on track.
For now, other guys like Johnson, who posted his 10th double-double of the season, are leading the way, filling in for the role until Paige gets out of his slump.
“I just wanted to help my team win,” Johnson said.
And the team won, even though it wasn’t pretty. They all won’t be, naturally. But Williams is content if the team learns from it and grows. Luckily, the team knows there is room for improvement.
“It’s just something as players we need to fix,” forward Isaiah Hicks said after the game. “Coach loves to win, but even after win and he’s very frustrated, it shows. We need to step it up.”