North Carolina coach Roy Williams addressed the media before the Tar Heels headed to Michigan State for Wednesday's game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
• Williams attempted to explain why the Heels have had such huge swings the past three Sundays – from losing at home to Belmont, to beating Louisville, to losing at UAB.
“Our margin is really small. In '09, we could play really poorly and still win a lot of games,” Williams said. “… As a coach, you would like to have that margin where you could win by 30 or lose by two. Right now our margin is not really big and it’s not really good on the positive side. We have to play really well.”
• Part of that small margin revolves around how involved Marcus Paige is in the offense. He was the focus of the Blazers’ defense as they played him tight on the perimeter and sagged on everyone else.
“Those other guys have to step up and make a shot to help him. At the same time, we have to have better ball movement. Marcus has got to move better without it himself,” Williams said. “We have to do a better job setting screens.”
Paige, who leads the team with 20.8 points per game, is the only player who has scored in double figures in every game. Brice Johnson had his streak snapped at five games on Sunday when he netted eight points.
“The biggest thing is we can’t just be one-dimensional,” Williams said. “Against Louisville we scored 93 – yes he scored 32, but we had some other guys who scored for us and that’s what we lacked against UAB.”
• Johnson admitted that if the Heels play with the same lack of intensity against Michigan State, they’d get “blown out” on Wednesday. But Williams added that the Spartans’ toughness couldn’t be replicated in practice.
“You can’t [replicate it], and that’s the bottom line,” he said. “James Manor is a great kid, but he’s not [Adreian] Payne. Wade Moody is not Gary Harris. You can’t simulate it, you can explain it to make sure they’re not surprised by it.”
• The Tar Heels’ last loss to the Spartans? That would be their last trip to East Lansing, Mich., in the 2000 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Carolina is 6-0 against Michigan State under Williams, but this is a different Spartans team than the Heels have seen in their last few meetings.
“They play faster, I think,” Williams said. “They’ve never played slow, but to me this one appears to be playing even faster. The first part of that Kentucky game, Kentucky needed a bicycle.”