CLEMSON, S.C. -- Roy Williams said he was sorry for being a little late coming down to the postgame news conference.
He had to deal with travel issues as North Carolina couldn’t fly back to Chapel Hill because there wasn’t a de-icing machine handy at the airport in nearby Anderson, S.C. The Tar Heels had to instead bus back so the players could be in class Thursday morning.
But being tardy for the media, something the punctual Williams is almost never accused of, was hardly the only thing he had to apologize for Wednesday night.
The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Clemson 83-64, UNC's worst regular-season loss ever under Williams.
“I just coached a poor game,’’ Williams said. “They had a tremendous sense of urgency and tremendous passion. We went down 7-0 and I almost called a timeout and I have never done that in my life.’’
Williams went on to detail how the Tar Heels had seasoned players who couldn’t pass or catch. He talked about how the Heels played with little poise. He was dead on.
Clemson dominated Carolina so much that you would hardly believe that it was UNC, not Clemson, that was picked to challenge Duke for the ACC regular-season title.
Williams was so frustrated at one point in the second half that he benched the five starters and put in his five freshmen. Williams spent the entire time the freshmen were on the court (about 91 seconds of game time) coaching and teaching his veteran players their press offense, never once looking at the court where the freshmen were competing. Assistant coach Steve Robinson handled that duty.
“I was drawing up our press offense because we had guys going the wrong way,’’ Williams said. “I have run the same press offense for 22 years and I love for teams to press because we run right through it, but we had guys going the wrong way.’’
The Tar Heels committed an alarming number of turnovers (26) on the night and allowed Clemson to shoot 57.6 percent in the first half.
This is the second time the Tar Heels have been in the state of South Carolina in the past two weeks and they've lost both games, the first at the College of Charleston (sans injured Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves) and then at Clemson (without injured Tyler Zeller, who had his right sore foot in a walking boot for precautionary reasons).
“Clemson showed what aggressive means,’’ said Williams, who was quite despondent in the postgame media room, about as down as I’ve seen him in recent years. “They had a great sense of urgency and poise and we need to play with that type of aggression and poise. I know that I keep saying the same thing, but I just don’t have a lot to say.’’
UNC has been a drastically different team at home versus on the road this season. The Tar Heels are 11-0 at home, scoring 88.5 points, given up 67.6 and shooting 52.6 percent at the Smith Center. Away from Chapel Hill, they’re an eye-popping 1-5, scoring 74.5 points, giving up 82.7 and shooting just 42.6 percent.
The numbers don’t lie. UNC has become average away from home, a shocking statement in itself. The Tar Heels, now 1-1 in the league, looked rather pedestrian after running past Virginia Tech in the second half Sunday night at home. The ACC is available for the taking, but only to those who can win on the road.
Heck, projected last-place Virginia is the only team undefeated at 2-0.
“The league is very good right now,’’ Williams said. “You have to protect your turf at home and get wins on the road. We have to play with more poise and I have to coach better.’’