Undefeated Talk Inevitable For Carolina

By Josh Herwitt - January 12, 2008

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Roy Williams doesn't want to hear about it.

In fact, he doesn't even want to think about it.

But the North Carolina coach knows that if things continue the way they have so far this season, it's inevitable that talk of an undefeated season will materialize with each win that his team acquires.

So how does Williams and his players deal with that sort of pressure hovering over their heads?

"We don't deal with it at all," he said after No. 1 North Carolina dominated in-state rival N.C. State, 93-62, Saturday at the Dean Dome.

Of course, no team wants to ever deal with that sort of hype, but it's something that Williams' players understand comes with the territory of being 17-0, the first for a UNC team since the 1997-98 season.

"I know what our team is capable of," junior Danny Green said, who put up 13 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four blocks against the Wolfpack. "Everybody else on this team knows what we're capable of, and we just want to keep playing that way.

"We want to win every game we come out and play."

If the Tar Heels do keep winning like the way they did Saturday, there's no doubt that an undefeated season will eventually come for Green and his teammates.

That's especially true if they can hold teams like they held N.C. State, which made just six field goals (17.6 percent) in the first half before going down by 30 at halftime.

"When we play defense [and] are doing what we are suppose to do, I think we are pretty doggone good," Williams said during his post-game press conference. "They had a lot of shots that they normally make that didn't go in for them today, [but] I think our defense had something to do with that."

Even so, Williams wasn't the only one that felt that way about his team's defensive effort.

"This is probably the best defensive effort we've had all season," sophomore forward Deon Thompson admitted after tallying a career-high 16 points in addition to five rebounds and three blocks. "I don't think anyone can beat us if we play defense the way we played in the first half."

"It's both them not knocking down shots and our pressure," explained point guard Ty Lawson, who finished with 16 points (all in the second half), five assists, two steals and no turnovers. "We just tried to make it hard for them to make shots."

But when it came down to it, the Tar Heels couldn't have played much better than they did.

"We played against a very good ball club," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe maintained after the game. "We played against the No. 1 team in the country. Their defense was excellent, but we weren't patient enough mentally to fight through it."

Whether it was a mental handicap for the Wolfpack or just a poor shooting day -- including a 3-for-23 mark inside the paint -- there wasn't much that N.C. State could do with five UNC players scoring in double figures in front of a sold-out crowd of 21,750.

Lowe, however, understands as well as anyone that it won't get any easier for his squad.

"This is what it's going to be like," he asserted. "This is how the conference is going to be played. This is the type of environment we're going to be in and we are going to have to execute."

That started to happen a little more for N.C. State in the second half, but at that point, the game had already been decided awhile ago.

"I am a little disappointed in the way we played in the second half," Williams added. "They shot 58 percent, and we can't have that. But it's hard to maintain the kind of play we had in the first half."

Try the rest of the season, which is certainly possible for a team that has the depth and talent to run with Memphis, Kansas, UCLA or anyone else in the country.

Because, after all, this is North Carolina, where nothing comes before college basketball and where the expectations are as high as any place else in the country.

"Everyone's going to give us their best shot because we're North Carolina and we're No. 1," Green remarked with a group of reporters surrounding him.

That's the way it's been since Nov. 12, the day the first AP poll released, and that's the way it will be early next week when the new set of rankings come out.

And if all goes according to plan for the Tar Heels, it could still be that way after the final weekend in April.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 03:52 PM on January 12, 2008

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