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North Carolina coach Roy Williams cracks his fair share of jokes during his weekly news conferences.
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Such as the one Friday, when he mentioned that redshirt freshman Will Graves and junior Mike Copeland needed to "get their butts in gear" for Saturday's game against Virginia Tech.

"The way I phrase it right there is almost exactly the way I'm going to phrase it to them," he said as the press room cracked up.

But Williams wasn't joking about the main point.

"I don't mind putting a little pressure on them," he said later. "It's time to put up or shut up."

Apparently Graves and Copeland listened carefully to the slightly revised message at practice as both added solid contributions to UNC's 92-53 shellacking of the Hokies.

Graves finished with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting and notched up two rebounds and a steal as well.

While Copeland started off shakily with a turnover, he ended up with two points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a surprising 15 minutes of play - allowing the Tar Heels to ease the burden on Deon Thompson, who played only nine minutes with a hyperextended knee.

While Tyler Hansbrough noted their contributions, too, Williams highlighted the duo's play after the game.

"I challenged them about doing some positive things for us when they got in," Williams said. "I think they did that."

Graves was a factor almost the moment he entered the game. Gathering the ball on a fast break - one of many UNC was able to run on the afternoon - he used his right shoulder to clear out the defender closing in on him before laying the ball up for two points.

His next time in, it was a 3-pointer to give UNC a 29-13 lead as the game began to get out of hand.

"Everybody will think of the 3-point shot," Williams said. "But he got a defensive rebound - that was a big-time rebound - and he also sprinted back on defense one time and got in the lane. Those kinds of plays were more important than the shots going in."

Graves continued his scoring production in the second half with a smooth bank shot and another three-ball as he posted the second-highest scoring total of his young career and his top mark in ACC play.

But defense has been a focus with Graves since the start of the season, and his answer to a question about shooting eventually moved to the other end of the floor.

"Having a three made - yeah, it felt good," Graves said. "But it was just being out there, just giving it all on defense and just trying to make the simple plays."

The surprises with Copeland came both in blocks - including one that led to an emphatic alley-oop dunk by Alex Stepheson - and some nifty passing on an assist to a cutting Quentin Thomas for a layup during the second half.

"(Williams) just told us we need to step up and be big-time players, like we're capable of being," Graves said. "He has faith in us, we have faith in ourselves."



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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