Marshall: North Carolina Never Learned to Close Out Games

Posted by mpatton on February 15th, 2012

When talking with the Herald-Sun‘s Harold Gutmann, Kendall Marshall said that Roy Williams brought former Tar Heel Shammond Williams who asked the team, “Has anybody ever explained to you all how to manage a game? You know, how to win a game?” Marshall’s response: “And as weird as the question sounds, no.”

There’s no doubt that people are going to misinterpret this quote. Some will use it to condemn Roy Williams’ coaching; some will go farther and use it to say that Marshall condemned his coach. Neither is particularly valid. Shammond Williams’ talk with the team can only make sense after the Duke game.

Roy Williams' Team Needs to Learn How to Close Out Games. The Duke Loss May Help.

Closing out games with fairly comfortable leads isn’t easy. You’re facilitating what should happen, so people take it for granted. But North Carolina is far from the only team to struggle with closing games this year: watch a Duke game with the Blue Devils up 10-15 points towards the end of the second half. The Blue Devils’ games against Washington and St. John’s are extreme examples but showcase Duke never putting its opponent away.

You can talk about not turning the ball over, using the full shot clock and avoiding empty possessions all you want in practice or from your couch. But until you have that team breathing down your neck, knocking down big shots and pressing you with everything it’s got, you’re still just talking.

Closing out games–especially against good teams–is very difficult. Generally, you’re using as much of the shot clock as possible, taking your team out of its offensive rhythm. Even the defense is different: never foul; it’s better to give up a semi-contested two than an open three or shots from the free throw line. This is why you won’t see me ripping Roy Williams or North Carolina for not knowing how to close games. It’s an experience. What matters most is how the Tar Heels learn from that experience going forward.

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Introducing the ACC Vault, Another Great Way to Idle Away Hours of Your Time

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2010

Matt Patton is an RTC contributor.

Everyone has a first memory as a fan.  Mine came in 1997, the day before my seventh birthday.  I’m sure I went to college basketball games before this, but none of them stand out.  I was in first grade, headed to the ACC Tournament championship game.  The game was between N.C. State and North Carolina.  The Wolfpack were the electric underdogs, if you can call a team that runs a modified Princeton offense electric.  They were the eighth seed in a nine-team conference, having put away Georgia Tech, Maryland and top seeded Duke in the process. 

How Cool is This? (photo credit:

My most vivid memories from the game were Ramses and Mr. Wuf (the mascots) getting into a fight ending with a one-horned sheep and a victorious wolf; N.C. State losing the game; and my younger brother switching his allegiances to the Tar Heels for the rest of the day much to the chagrin of my parents.   A surprisingly thick head of hair topped Herb Sendek’s head, as he led a team of overachievers to the conference championship game in his first year of coaching.  But the real history was held by the man coaching the Tar Heels.  I’m embarrassed to say this, but until yesterday I never knew that was Dean Smith’s last ACC game.  I had no idea. 

This game, along with dozens of “full-length, classic Tournament and regular season men’s basketball games from all 12 ACC member institutions,” is now available online at the ACC Vault.  You’ve likely seen the NCAA Vault (another must-visit site for any college hoops fan), and the ACC and Raycom Sports have followed suit.  The site features games from 1983 through the present with some really cool features that make the viewing process more user-friendly.  I’ll list some highlights for each school after the jump, but seriously, how cool is this?

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