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Chris Mack transcript and postgame video

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports



(Opening Statement) “Feel really fortunate. I think our team played incredibly hard in the second half. We cut down our turnovers, only had 13 for the game after having 11 at halftime. We talked about playing aggressive and confident, when they three-quarter-court press us, and play in attack mode. Sometimes, when teams throw that conservative press at you, it looks like you’re walking across a frozen pond, not sure if the ice is going to fall in, and we played a little bit more downhill and attacked a little bit better in the second half. I really felt like at halftime, our problem wasn’t the defensive end, it was the offensive end. Thirty-three points isn’t a whole lot of points to give up—a few of those were in transition, and now, you’re talking mid-20’s if you take care of the ball. Second half, we did that. I thought our defense was as good as it’s been all year in the second half, and again, like I said, the difference was we played much better offensively.”

(On defending Pitt freshman guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens) “I think their play in game one, and games since then, demanded a lot more respect than maybe our players had for them going in. I also think that I didn’t do what was probably the best in terms of strategy. We had switched every ball screen to the Miami game to start the year, and we felt like that was the best plan against Miami. And then, thinking that, ‘Hey, that should be the plan for the Pittsburgh game because it worked well,’ probably did our players a disservice. So, we did adjust our pick-and-roll defense. I thought they made some good adjustments as well. Their guards are big, they see over the top of our guards when their roll man’s not open, they were springing that weak-side pass and we weren’t giving up layups on the roll. So, it puts you in tough positions. But again, by-and-large, we kept those two guys out of the lane as well as you can. They’re really good players. I know they’re freshmen, they should be seniors, which is even scarier, but physically, they’re mature enough to be juniors and seniors when you look at their bodies. Coach (Jeff) Capel’s got them playing extremely confident downhill, attacking, so they’re tough to deal with, and we’re not the only team who’s had problems.”

(On Louisville’s second-half run) “I think our defense. Again, I go back to what I said at the very beginning of the press conference. Defense was probably what won us the game in the second half. I didn’t think it was bad in the first half, but when you turn the ball over 11 times, you’re going to get Pittsburgh out in transition, they’re going to get some two-on-ones, they’re going to get fouled, you’re not in the right position. When you don’t turn the ball over like we did in the second half, then you’re playing more of a five-on-five game for the most part.”

(On performances of sophomore forward Jordan Nwora and redshirt junior center Steven Enoch) “Jordan (Nwora), he hasn’t shot well the last couple games, but he found his points in other ways. I thought he went to the offensive glass, he found openings in their zone—against their zone press, we got it down the floor a little bit. So, he’s more, as you guys know, than a guy who shoots the ball from three. When’s he doing that, then it’s really hard to guard. I think Steven should be one of the best bigs in our league. He’s got immense size, he’s athletic, he’s got a great touch. (Sophomore forward) Malik’s Williams) playing so well on the defensive end that it’s like a two-headed monster. It’s really good to see Steven…sometimes, transfers, when they sit out a year, they’ve been in a coat and tie or sweatsuit for a year, and it takes a little time. It’s good to see him come along.”

(On the team grinding out the win) ”I think it shows we have some character on our team. It’s easy to win a game when things are going well for you, shots are falling, team isn’t really frazzling you with their pressure, everybody is scoring. But when the ball can’t go in or doesn’t go in. To have the stick-to-it-iveness to believe in what should come first for our team, which is the defensive end. We had seven kills tonight (three consecutive defensive stops) and we’ve done that well in four of the last five games. We didn’t do that in the non-conference schedule. We’re going to have to win games like this. You’re going to have games where your offense struggles. The other team takes away your better players, your shots don’t go in, or you don’t get some call to get you to the free throw line, whatever it may be. Defense can keep you in the game. We have certainly played better on the defensive end over the last four or five games.”

(On Darius Perry’s minutes) ”Darius was late to the shoot-around. That was the second time he was late to something. He’s the only guy who has been late. So I am not going to play him.”

(On Enoch and Williams) ”They’re different, so we have to be cognizant when we are on offense. Defensively it doesn’t matter they are going to be asked to do the same thing were all reactive to whatever the team is running also whatever personnel they throw out on the floor, we can’t control that. We can control how we use them offensively. Steven is different from Malik. They both have a really good shooting touch. Malik is a little more mobile and he’s not as physical. He doesn’t seal and carve out space as well as Steve. We can’t just think one drop-back quarterback is out, let’s put the other drop-back quarterback in. We have to be able to change our attack and how we use them. We have done that through conference play a little bit to try to bring out both of their best on the offensive end. ”

(On the team getting used to playing with a true big man) ”There are times where Steven (Enoch) doesn’t do a good enough job demanding the ball, other times the guards don’t do a good enough time seeing in. Especially when Pittsburgh plays their zone, or man, they get extended, and the further out you extend, the more that he should be in one-on-one situations. Give Pitt credit, when Steven caught it on the block, they doubled him. So, our intention was to try to throw it from the top. It’s a lot harder to double when the ball is coming in from the top. Give Pittsburgh credit. They give out scholarships as well, they’re fronting and fighting and trying to keep it out of his hands. So that’s two-fold, it’s not just on Steven and it’s not just on our perimeter guys. Those guys have to work together. Steven has to be a little more of a jerk to his teammates when he feels he got open. I’ve played with and coached some guys, like David West, if he was open in the post and you didn’t throw it to him, the whole arena knew that you didn’t throw it to him. Steven is such a nice kid sometimes he doesn’t demand the ball like he needs to. I thought in the second half we found him in some good spots.”

(What was the biggest change that you made defensively especially regarding fastbreak layups) “It wasn’t the change. I think our mentality, who we were playing, we respected. I think we all had it for Pitt the second time around. I hate saying that, because every game is an ACC game. Every game counts the same in the standings. They don’t say ‘well they didn’t win a game a year ago, so it’s only going to count for a half game.’ It counts. Unfortunately we put ourselves behind the eight ball at Pittsburgh and we get down 13, 14, 15 points and we are looking around. We couldn’t come back. They pressure. We saw that in the first half. We could’ve given up a lot more points in the second half in transition, had our turnovers been what they were in the first.”

(About using the difference between the two games with Pitt as a measuring stick) “We take inventory after every game. I know that this is the same opponent, but we all try to continue and improve and grow. I do think that we did some really good things against two things that we didn’t do well at, at Pitt. I thought our attack versus their three-quarter court press was much better. Our attack versus their zone today, was much better. So that’s an area of growth. We need to grow in all areas. It’s hard to grow sometimes when you don’t see those things. We haven’t seen a lot of three-quarter court presses until the last couple games. We haven’t been a lot of zone. We got Ryan McMahon out there, and Jordan Nwora out there, and our five men who can shoot it, so not a lot of teams want to zone you. So hopefully we made growth in those two areas.”

(Regarding Darius Perry being late) “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s immaturity. You’re going to have to ask Darius those things. We want him to be a big part of our team. There are standards that we aren’t going to lower. He’s got to learn sometimes the hard way and I’m hopeful that he does.”

(Regarding Jaxen’s Journey Coaches Versus Cancer shoes) “Thanks for asking the question. Obviously, this whole week, for college basketball, is Coaches versus Cancer and trying to raise awareness. Hell, who doesn’t know about the disease. More importantly it’s about raising funds and dollars. Over the years, whether it’s an uncle of mine, friends you had, family members. Maybe it’s because the older I get, we’ve all been affected somehow, in one way or another, from this horrendous disease. Really hurts you, when you start to see kids. Andy’s story is a really tough one. Andy and I knew each other, it wasn’t like we were boys. We went to the same high school. We would text from time to time and I heard from a third party, ‘hey his son has brain cancer.’ Then it was like a few weeks later he had passed away. I can’t imagine what the Kettler’s have gone through. So, we all wore, as you guys know, Matt Stebbins is our equipment manager. He did a great job. I don’t think he personally did it, but got them logoed saying Jaxen’s Journey, which is their foundations they’ve started to raise money for Jackson’s specific type of brain cancer. I thought the least I could do was maybe sign the shoes. I think we are going to get our players to maybe sign the other one. Put four people that we don’t even know, in our suite, for the Duke game. If an autograph basketball doesn’t devalue everything from me, then that’ll hopefully raise a little money that we can throw towards Andy and Kim’s foundation, in Jaxen’s name.”