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Chris Mack, Tony Bennett postgame quotes

Virginia v Louisville Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Louisville Head Coach Chris Mack

(Opening Statement) “Give great credit to Virginia. They’re an extremely big and physical team. In the second half, and really for the better part of the game, we just could not score around the rim. I thought our energy level to start the second half was poor—why that is remains a mystery. To go into the locker room with (sophomore forward) Jordan’s (Nwora) three to put us up 10, and to come out with the type of energy level that we did for the first four minutes, I thought really set the tone. We knew, and should know, that you’re going to have some droughts when you play against Virginia. Their defense is as good as anybody in the country. When we had those droughts in the first half, we didn’t let it affect us at all. In the second half, to start the half, we did. Again, why we lost energy to start the second half is just tough to understand, because it wasn’t like we lost the energy after they went on a 12-or-14-point run, which they eventually did. It was at the very, very beginning. Again, give great credit to Virginia. They’re a great team. They made some good adjustments to our zone in the second half. Obviously, one of them being (Virginia redshirt sophomore guard De’Andre) Hunter being on the floor. He was saddled with two fouls and didn’t play a lot in the first half. They get three, four shooters out there, it makes your zone a little bit more difficult. Bottom line, we’ve got to score around the basket, too. We’ve got to be able to break those droughts. Offensive rebounds and put-backs, some finishes through contact. We’re not there yet. We’re just not there.”

(On Virginia’s post defense) “Well, they’re really, really physical. They’re legal, but they’re physical. I think that in order to try to get those guys out of position, you have to be able to move the ball, move yourself. I think our team got a little fatigued, probably more mentally than physically. I thought we had a lot of movement, both in transition, and then, when we were in the half-court in the first half, not as much in the second half. Some looks around the basket we got, got to be able to convert. Got to be able to convert through traffic, get a three or four-footer. Our bigs have to go better than two-for-16. They just do.”

(On not getting open looks in the second half) “Again, you can’t be a donut for 30 minutes. You cannot just swirl on the perimeter. I mean, we have a good shooting team, those looks are generated by drive kicks, and we want to take those. They didn’t fall like they were in the first half. We’ve got to be able to mix up, getting an offensive rebound or two, getting a put-back. We have to be able to score around the basket. They never doubled us in the post, probably shows their respect level for our big guys. We’ve got to be able to score one-on-one in the post. Again, it doesn’t mean (junior center) Steven (Enoch) or (sophomore forward) Malik (Williams) have to come away with getting 20, 25 points a game. They’ve got to make a few down there so they force at least some type of crowd around the post, and then, we can play a little bit more inside out.”

(On post players being indecisive near the basket) “If you’re one-on-one, a lot of times people talk about being patient in the post. You watch an NBA game, guy catches it under the basket, he wants to make sure his teammates are spaced in the proper way. Our guys were very well schooled, and Virginia could post trap. We’ve got to be able to catch the ball, know where our teammates are, make sure there’s no double coming before we get ourselves in trouble by doing a quick spin move or a quick dribble, and all of a sudden, you’re getting the ball turned over. I don’t think being patient in the post is an issue. I think our ability to score in traffic is.”

(On number of attempted threes) “Well, I think our team started to feel like we couldn’t score at the basket. For the better part of the game, I thought a lot of those threes were good ones. But, when we are driving the ball in the lane, getting our shots blocked, not being able to convert, missing through contact—again, I think that’s what they do to a lot of teams. They wear on you. But, I don’t know if I would’ve settled on a number. If they’d have doubled our post guys, we kick it out, you’ve got to be able to make open shots and try to get offensive rebounds from there.”

(On if he felt halftime margin should have been larger) “To have a 10-point lead against one of the nation’s best teams…we just knew what was coming. We knew De’Andre Hunter was going to be on the floor. We knew we were going to try and mix up man and zone, and I thought we were in a good position. As I said in my opening statement, our first three or four minutes, our energy level, really confounding, just really hard to understand why it wouldn’t be there. Again, sometimes, you have to try to get confidence back in your kids if an opponent goes on a 10-0 run, that wasn’t the case coming out of halftime. So, I thought Virginia really became the tone setter to start the second half.”

(On effect of charge call on Nwora) “It’s a big call—hindsight’s 20-20. Leading up to that, we were having a tough time scoring, so it nice that we got a bucket on an interior play where there’s contact. Official saw it one way, obviously we see it another. They’re the ones wearing stripes, so he got me for it. I don’t know if that was what spiraled us—again, coming out of halftime, our energy level. But, the entire second half was a struggle for us to score, the entire second half.”

(On holding junior guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome to four field goals) “They do such a great job of cutting without the basketball, and we really wanted to be locked in on those guys when we were in man. When we were in zone, we wanted to be cognizant of where they were on the floor, and they did a good job of changing sides of the floor, they didn’t stick one or the other in a particular corner on a particular side of the floor. Ball gets swung, next thing you know, even against our zone, one of those guys would either be cutting at the net or cutting at the baseline corner. I thought our guys did a really good job, especially in the first half. They got the advantage of our staff being four feet from them, being able to tell them, ‘Here comes Guy, here comes Jerome.’ Second half, not as good, but we didn’t play nearly as much zone in the second half. I think if you’re going to beat Virginia, you’ve got to hold those two down as best as you can. We needed to do a better job on some of their other players.”

(On seeking improvement from big men) “Same thing we’ve been telling them every single day. (Assistant coach) Mike Pegues has been working really hard with those guys. Neither one of them were natural back-to-the basket scorers, we’ve got a long way to go. They weren’t trapping in the first half either, outside of one random. So, it really wasn’t…our threes weren’t a direct result of them trapping in the post. We’ve just got to be able to score better one-on-one in the interior.”

(On depth concerns in second half) “Guys have got to play better in order for them to play, and the guys we put on the floor, believe me, they want to win. I feel like we’re putting the guys out there that give us the best chance to do that.”

(On keeping focus during difficult stretch of schedule) “We understand that this league is a monster league. That’s what our guys signed up for. We’ve got to be able to lick our wounds. I thought we took a step forward today. I thought we were much better with our energy level and our readiness to play than we were the other night. We’re going to have to be the same way at BC on Wednesday. Again, this league is a monster, and we know that—put ourselves in good position, feel like we’ve left a couple on the table that we could’ve gotten, but we’ve got to be able to look forward and know that the best part of the season’s ahead of us. We’ve got to be excited about coming to practice and getting better, like we had on Thursday and Friday. If that remains the same, and we continue to come to practice with that same right energy and being positive, then we’ll keep making steps forward. We’re playing really good teams in this league, as we know, and so, we can’t have our confidence thrown. That’s why I was really excited to see our guys come out and play with confidence. We’ve got to be able to sustain that longer.”

Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett

(On if he felt Virginia was in a good place at half due to poor shooting from three point range compared to Louisville’s high percentage) “I wasn’t sure, while they were shooting the ball well, we broke down a couple times. We were a little slow getting to the shooters, but they shoot…I mean it’s in their hands and it’s off, and we’ve seen them do that. At least if we’re there a little quicker and they’re making them, we’ll live with it, but we’ve got to get there quicker. I didn’t know because they’re hard to guard, they’re disciplined, they threw the 1-3-1 at us that they hadn’t showed a lot. They played, I think, only one possession against Duke, so we were a little confused. I thought when De’Andre (Hunter) got in foul trouble, Jay Huff gave us a great lift offensively, and I thought De’Andre was special today. The way he played, that was a special performance. I liked the individual defense on the interior, the individual defense sometimes bothering some shooters in the second half. It was really a gritty second half for us, though we didn’t even shoot it - I think ‘Dre (Hunter) is the only one who hit the 3’s – we didn’t shoot it well, but we took care of the ball and got some pressure with Kihei (Clark) and finished it the right way.”

(On Virginia’s 34 points in the paint and how it helped their low shooting percentage) “We’re such a post scoring team, I don’t know what else to tell you. There are different ways to get it in the paint, and again whether it was drives or tough finishes, Mamadi (Diakite) and Jay (Huff) gave us a lift. I didn’t play Braxton (Key) and Jack (Salt) in the second half. I just went with what I thought defensively with the matchups and the way it was, but the rebounding and the tough play in the lane, some drop passes and pocket passes, nice things happened off the ball screen. We were so much better in the second half and tried to just stay the course.”

(On why he though Virginia performed better in the second half) “I think we got De’Andre (Hunter) back on the floor, he’s a terrific defender. That helped us with the matchup at the four spot. Then when I put Kihei (Clark) in, he was really heating up the ball, and then De’Andre guarded (Jordan) Nwora, who was terrific in the first half. Then we were more mindful, not that we shouldn’t have been, on Ryan (McMahon) because he’s such a good shooter. I just thought we bothered, of course they missed some shots, and we ran some decent offense.”

(On Kyle Guy’s rebounding and how he has been a consistent rebounder all season) “He sure has. Sometimes the other guys just have to get people off, and your guards have to come in and clean it up, and Kyle has a nose for the ball. He’s deceptive with his bounce off the floor and going and getting stuff. Sometimes when he drives, he’s deceptive that way too to be able to get off his shot. With a lot of long threes, and they shot a lot in the second half, there’s long rebounds, so that was important for the guards to clean up.”

(On if he did not trap the post because of the three-point percentage in the first half) “Well, our guys have been doing a good job guarding individually, Jack Salt is terrific, Mamadi (Diakite), Jay (Huff) – they’ve done some good things. We always talk about it, but correct, the way they shot the ball, we thought, ‘Let’s make some plays over the top and score, stay at home a little bit because most teams are planning for our post traps. Not that we won’t use it, but I think maybe they made one or two post buckets off a move, but it helped us with our rebounding and also our perimeter defense.”

(On if there was a moment in the game when he realized De’Andre Hunter was really feeling it) “The whole game. He was so complete defensively, he hit the threes, he was driving and he’s just playing good basketball. You look at his stat-line, 9-11, made 2-2, got to the line. I just thought he was so efficient. That’s about as efficient as it gets and that what’s so valuable. Whether it’s guarding a switch, the perimeter guy, or again, guarding (Jordan) Nwora. We needed his drives, drawing fouls and we needed his threes when we weren’t shooting with the rest of the guys.”

(On De’Andre Hunter’s ability to take over a game) “He’s just continuing to evolve his game, you can see it. He’s improving and he’s just playing at a high level. In practice he shows signs of that, of course, but to do it in games is a little different, when we needed it. There’re some other really good players on the floor, so the spacing and things like that allow him for that. When he’s at the four, he’s a matchup problem. Just like when (Jordan) Nwora is at the four, he can be a matchup problem. That’s the way the game is going with guys like that, at times, playing those spots.”

(On Jay Huff’s performance) “Yeah, I thought he gave us a lift. During that 1-3-1, his offensive skill, his touch around the rim and his length is certainly unquestioned. It’s just a matter of him continuing to be good defensively, take care of the ball, get stronger. All those areas, he’s improving in. There’re opportunities, like I said Jack (Salt) and Braxton (Key) didn’t play in the second half, Jay showed flashes. Jay’s sort of a moving target with all of our guys. Sometimes Kihei (Clark) is it, it’s just what the game requires, but Jay’s offensive skills were there. We talked about the mismatched four, well he’s an interesting five man. What I loved today is that he made some interior jump hooks and shots. It wasn’t just out at the three-point line or a drive. That was exciting to see, and then he used his length to block a couple shots. Those things are all there and they’re coming. He was rewarded for the way he played today, and we were rewarded by the way he played as a team.”

(On how Virginia was able to pull off a comeback win with poor shooting from Guy and Jerome) “Well, like I said, I think we got a great Mamadi (Diakite) and I talked about De’Andre (Hunter), those guys, different guys at different times. That certainly was a good step and a good sign that you have to be able to win in different ways. I thought De’Andre was the catalyst to that, but other guys stepping up. That was hard. If you would have told me, ‘You’re going to be 2 of 17, here are your stats and the first half, this is the way it’s going to be.’ I would’ve said, ‘We might be in for a long one tonight.’ But they toughened up and played well.”

(On Diakite’s progress) “When you color your hair, you kind of have games like that. He’s improved. Like Jay, for bigger players, it’s a process and it’s a hard process to shortcut. It’s just the reality of it – the way we demand people, the way we think we have to play to be successful, holding guys defensively, all those things. You just see them get more and more accustomed to it. Again, it’s really just a process and Mamadi has gotten stronger and better. His athleticism is on display with his shot blocking, his quickness, if he has to show, and be able to close out. That puts pressure on you when their five men can ball screen and separate. That’s a hard action, and we had some trouble with it.”

(On Virginia’s success on the road against Louisville, especially given last year’s comeback victory) “We played well. I have so much respect for the Louisville program, in terms of, Coach Mack and his staff now. The battles that we had with them when it was Coach Padgett, and obviously Coach Pitino. This is one of the more beautiful venues that you’re going to play in. The fanbase, they care, you just feel it. You feel it in the arena. There’s talented players so you know that you have got to play well. Our guys answered the call every time we’ve played them in these games. It was so improbable last year, but this one was the way you’re supposed to come back. Last year, I don’t know, but this year is how you have to do it when you’re in those spots.”