Oakes: Roy’s Remarks – “Winning Ugly”

By Matt Oakes Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm

“I’m tired of winning games ugly. It’s better than losing games ugly. We learned those lessons early in the season, but we’ve let them slip by us this year these last couple of games.”
                                                                                                              -Coach Williams

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as enamored by the 12-game winning streak as the next person. But I tend to side with Roy on this one.

These wins are getting more and more rugged as the regular season is quickly drawing to a close. The Virginia Tech game was sloppy at best. The Senior Night Notre Dame contest was adventurous, to say the least. In fact, Saturday and Monday’s contests were the only games in the 12-game run that the Tar Heels failed to score at least 70 points.

Yes, I’m tired of winning games ugly, just like Roy. But then again, so are the players. On Monday night in the locker rooms, Paige, McAdoo, McDonald and the rest of the gang were visibly distressed by the victory. I think I’ve seen them happier after a couple losses this season.

And that’s a good sign for Tar Heel fans. This team is no longer happy with just emerging with more points than the guys in the other color shirts. Nope. That’s not enough. Coach Smith’s philosophy was that he could handle whatever the result may be as long as he was pleased with the way his team played.

McAdoo seems to be taking a page from the Carolina patriarch’s playbook. He told reporters that they treated wins like the one Monday night as losses.

And that’s no disrespect to these ACC teams UNC has been taking down. That’s no small task, but at this point in the season, on the cusp of postseason play, they expect more out of themselves. It’s March Madness, after all – one small misstep can result in a lethal loss. The Tar Heels are well aware of the potential pitfalls of living so dangerously.

It’s not a good time of the season to be trending downward with your play. Have the Tar Heels peaked? Is their best basketball behind them? We’ll get the answers to these questions in due time – try Saturday, for starters.

Cameron Indoor will demand the Tar Heels bring their A-game and avoid any “walk-abouts.” Lapses in focus are as good as a death sentence when you’re facing Duke in Durham.

McAdoo hitting the hardwood (Todd Melet)

McAdoo hitting the hardwood (Todd Melet)

You think scoring nine points in the first 14 minutes of the second half is going to cut it against Duke, or any other Sweet 16-caliber team for that matter? Exactly. No matter how strong of a defense you play, that kind of offensive inefficiency isn’t going to get the job done.

And I know something else: shooting sub-.500 from the free throw line is not going to cut it. No way, no how. Carolina went only 10-22 from the charity stripe against Notre Dame, to the groans of the Smith Center crowd.

It was the fifth occasion this season the Tar Heels shot under 50 percent in free throws. But the difference this time? Carolina won this one. The four previous dreadful foul shooting outings all ended in defeat. Credit the Tar Heels. They’re finding ways to win the close ones in the clutch, despite how painful it may appear at times.

But the debacle from the line has to be addressed, or UNC will find itself on the wrong end of one of these nail-biting games somewhere along the line in the NCAA Tournament. It’s inevitable.

The magic and “luck” (as Roy described in his most recent postgame press conference) will run out at some point, if the foul shots don’t start finding their mark.

Finishing issues have reared their ugly head again for the Tar Heels, as well. They continue to outrebound their foes, but that’s not always translating into points. UNC is struggling mightily to complete the play around the basket – wasted opportunities add up.

Luckily, playing with fire hasn’t burned Carolina yet. But if you play around enough, well, you know what happens.

Tar Heel bench looking on (Todd Melet)

Tar Heel bench looking on (Todd Melet)

I guess you can get picky about the way you’re winning when you go on a run like the one the Tar Heels are currently on. Still, there are some red flags popping up. Carolina needs to batten down the hatches and regain the focus and intensity they’ve lost if they have any designs on a deep postseason push.

So, folks – close your eyes, hold your breath and wait for the “all clear” signal to be given.

But let’s be honest. This “winning ugly” thing – it’s a nice problem to have.

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