Carolina will face Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada. This will be UNC’s first top ten match up of the season, and their first ranked opponent since Indiana last month. There are a few key storylines headed into this game. One of the biggest is the question of Joel Berry II’s health and status for Saturday. Another is Kentucky’s speed and athleticism, and how Carolina will respond. Junior Justin Jackson and Coach Williams sat down with the media on Thursday to discuss these topics and more.
Notes and quotes:
- On Joel Berry II playing on Saturday: “I would expect him to just because of the type of competitor he is. He seems like he's pretty upbeat about playing.”
- Not only is Carolina missing Berry’s leadership and production on offense, but according to Justin Jackson, “it’s a two-headed monster.” He mentioned that like Nate Britt, Joel Berry is really good at getting to the opposing team’s point guard.
- When asked about looking back at his poor shooting performance on Sunday, Jackson said “Honestly I didn’t watch the Tennessee game. I don’t even remember if we played that game or not. Just one of those nights"
- On defending the Kentucky dribble drive:
“It will be huge. I know against [Tennessee] I did a terrible job on [Robert] Hubbs as far as him getting into the middle of the paint and being able to score. We all just have to take a stance, and take responsibility for ourselves. They also have some pretty good shooters. It will be key to keep them off the paint so Its not a bunch of drive and kicks for threes.”
Justin Jackson, averaging 15.5 points per game through eleven games, will look to shoot the ball effectively and defend well against a powerful Kentucky team.
Notes and quotes:
- Much like his junior forward, Coach was immediately asked about Joel Berry II’s condition. He responded with “I haven’t seen him.” When pressed about whether he was optimistic, he responded with, “I’m not optimistic at all. But i’m not pessimistic. I haven’t seen him, I have no opinion.”
- However, Coach Williams did say that he was on the practice plan for Thursday, and that he participated in running and shooting on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Williams on Kentucky’s defense and shot-blockers: “You have to take it inside strong. Gotta pump fake once and take it right at a shot blocker’s face. We’ve got to be able to not just shoot it inside. We've got to be able to make some of them inside.”
- Like Justin Jackson, Coach Williams acknowledged some improvements as a team with guarding one on one in the backcourt. He said, “We’re getting better, but its easier if Joel is one of those guys. We work on it an awful lot."
Roy being Roy...
Coach Williams made it very clear that he would not change his game plan, just because Kentucky plays fast as well. He said, “I think they’d all drop dead if I started in the delay game. So it’d be bad for their five players to still be alive and my five to be dead. I really don’t think thats going to happen.” He also mentioned that it will be important to get back on defense quickly to guard against Kentucky’s transition offense.
Later, keeping with the adamant yet light-hearted theme of the press conference:
“If you see me walking it down and holding it to the last second, then I saw something I should not have seen. They’ve got me in a witness protection program somewhere and it’s somebody else coaching that team that ain’t me.”
“Thats the only way guys, I’m telling you. If we walk the dagum thing up the court you’ll say, 'God I wonder where they’ve got him stashed.'"
It’s good to see Coach Williams cracking jokes ahead of a big game on Saturday. But then again, when is he not? If there’s anything we can take away from Thursday’s press conference, it’s that Roy Williams is treating Saturday’s game like any other. While it is a huge match up, Carolina is focused on themselves and using whoever is available to play the best basketball they can. It doesn’t really matter who the opponent is. They are going to stick to their same game plan, and focus on playing better than the previous two games. We’ll see what the Heels can do on Saturday at 5:45.