Roy Williams looked relaxed, maybe even relieved, as he addressed the assorted media members on Monday night. He even had time to crack a few jokes, including one where he referenced Bill Belichick.
Around this time last season, Williams and the North Carolina men’s basketball team traveled to Blacksburg, Va., on Jan. 22 with a 16-4 mark and a 5-2 record in ACC play. The Tar Heels left later that night in defeat, falling 80-69 to drop to 5-3 in conference play. Williams had sat through that press conference in Blacksburg looking frustrated. That particular loss was followed by two more defeats in a row as UNC watched helplessly as its ACC regular season title hopes slipped away.
On Monday night, 364 days after that disheartening loss, No. 11 UNC looked like it might suffer a similar defeat. Down 22-13 against the No. 10 Hokies, the Tar Heels allowed six made 3-pointers in the first 7:33 of play and seemed lost on the offensive side of the ball. It looked like they were in position for another demoralizing loss at the hands of Virginia Tech. Then, as if a light turned on, UNC came alive for a 103-82 win that saw five players score in double figures.
Maybe it was the play of first-year guard Coby White, whose 13 first-half points were crucial in establishing a 20-0 run in the opening frame to give his team a 14-point advantage at halftime. Or perhaps it was the added defensive pressure on Virginia Tech's shooters that led to only one made 3-pointer in the final 12-plus minutes of play in the first half. Certainly it was in part due to winning the turnover battle by a plus-three margin on the night. Or it could just be that every team looks better when the ball falls through the net.