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Everything Chris Mack said after Louisville’s win over Western Kentucky

Spoiler: He was pleased.

NCAA Basketball: Wade Houston Tipoff Classic-Western Kentucky at Louisville Louisville Courier-Journal-USA TODAY Sports

You can find video of Chris Mack’s postgame presser here

(Opening Statement)

“We felt like this was going to be, in our opinion, the biggest challenge that we have faced so far in the early part of the season, simply because they have been playing games. They have had some success. They have a veteran lineup. I am well aware that our second game, Seton Hall, is one of the best teams in the Big East, but they were not able to practice for 14 days. For our guys to come out and face a team that probably will lose their entire starting lineup, whether to the draft or because they are loaded with seniors, was impressive. We have a lot of freshmen, sophomores, and are down four players right now. I told our group I couldn’t be more pleased with what the game meant to them. I thought when we were first to the floor in a few of the situations I thought we were locked into the details of what Western Kentucky was trying to execute. It only limit them to eight offensive rebounds, two of their got seven of them, but we knew that’s what we were going to face. I thought our defense was excellent. We took care of the ball well until we got threatened the first time, we haven’t been in that situation, but we will be better as we move forward. I was really happy with our group. We have one more game in the bubble, knock on wood, fingers crossed. We’re going to try to get better from this game as we play UNCG here in a few days.”

(On Dre Davis’s performance tonight)

“Dre (Davis) is a great defensive player. He doesn’t know right now, what he doesn’t know. He’s been through four scouting reports at the college level. The great thing is he’s getting all this experience, whereas, most years he would be still playing, but he has certainly been an impact player on our team, but if you have eight or nine guys out there, his minutes would be down. I mean he’s got to play through mistakes. He’s battling. He’s a warrior. It’s what we saw from him at Lawrence Central, he moves his feet incredibly well on the defensive end, and when you are out there for an extended period of time, he starts to feel a little comfort out there. I think David (Johnson) and Carlik (Jones) do a great job of sucking in defenders and finding him and he should shoots it with confidence, he’s a really good shooter. He does not play like a freshman, he plays really poised, and his body certainly isn’t freshman level.”

(On the Louisville defense tonight)

“I thought he (Charles Bassey) was dominant in the first half with his rebounding. Not necessarily his scoring, I mean he’s going to. He just so strong and quick to the rim and he’s going to get a few of those dunks, especially with the playmakers on his team and we’re with some of our young guys. Jae’ Lyn (Withers) has played just four college game and Aidan (Igiehon) didn’t play much at all last year. I thought they did a great job of trying to force his catches a little further out, we got him to turn the ball over. I think at times he ended up settling for threes. We liked for him to shoot threes. I think he’s got a really good touch, but his touches are a hell of a lot scarier three feet from the basket than 23 feet from the basket. I thought our guys did a really good job of having the presence of mind off the ball to make his catches difficult in the paint. Same with Carson Williams.”

(On David Johnson’s performance tonight)

“I don’t want him to find his groove only because of his shooting. I want him to use that body of his to find his groove. I thought tonight he played well in the post a couple times, scored the ball through double teams. He can rebound. He is like a small forward at the point guard position. Do we want him to continue to make shots? Absolutely, yes, but draw fouls, get in the lane, use his size to his advantage. David is starting to play a little bit more like I envisioned him playing as time goes on, every guard doesn’t have to play the same. He’s got the gift of size, athleticism, and quickness. I want him to slow the game down, when he does that, he is hard to defend at his position.”

(On what confidence this win gives his team moving forward)

“I believe it will give our players some confidence. I am a huge believer in not feeling overly good about yourself after a win, but remaining focused on the next opponent. I don’t know if that was the case, no disrespect to Prairie View, but we got young guys. We beat a veteran tough grizzled Seton Hall team and we didn’t play very well the other night. So, while it gives us confidence, it can’t give us a false sense of entitlement. We were locked in tonight. Our guys understood the details and they executed, and they weren’t perfect. We have to continue to get better at that stuff. We are going to face a team in UNCG that’s won 30 games and been in big games before so game confidence yes, overconfidence better not.”

(On challenging the team this week)

“I’d like to think I always challenge my team. I think that it is your job as coach to stretch expectations and not lessen your standards for your players. I wasn’t very happy after the way we played against Prairie View. I knew that Western Kentucky was going to present a much greater challenge, so if we didn’t execute those details and we weren’t ready to play and we were lack luster a few days ago, then we got our heads handed to us. I think that’s my job is to continue to give my team reality as I see it, and tonight I feel like we were the harder playing team and we earned that win again as we move to Greensboro.”

(On the defensive effort tonight)

“I think defense is all about effort. Certainly, experience helps because as an older player, you’ve seen flex duck ins, you have seen surprise back screens, you have seen the center slip a ball screen and catch it at the rim at this level, but our freshmen are learning some of this stuff for the very first time. When they’re in a film session, we have got to have their eyes and their ears, they have to understand that you can’t relax when your man doesn’t have the ball. We are still learning that. We didn’t learn it all at once, we’re learning it a little bit each game. I wasn’t surprised by the effort our players gave. They really care about one another, they care about winning, but I am surprised that it became a 20-point game down the stretch. I can’t worry about the lead; I can only worry about the psyche of my guys and continual improvement.”

(On additional preparations after Prairie View positive test)

“We were tested yesterday, no, this morning, these days run together. We were tested this morning, everybody in our program from student managers, to players, to coaches are all negative. We are very thankful for that. I felt like it was going to be that way, not to point guys out, but the kids that they got it for Prairie View didn’t play much last game, if any. We are very fortunate; we know that may not be what it’s going look like down the road as you can see around the country.”

(On David Johnson’s all-around effort tonight versus Western Kentucky)

“David (Johnson) hit a couple shots; but, I thought he was juiced from the very beginning. We got the ball into him in the post. He was able to split before the double team came down, he used his size well. I thought he played really slow, which is a good thing. David is a really, really good player. I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself, like a lot of good players do, to be really good every night; but you know, it’s not like David played 35 minutes a game last year. He joined us almost the beginning of December, maybe very end of November. We watched as a staff, our Western Kentucky game from a year ago and you should have seen the mistakes he made last year. He has come a long way and he will continue to get better and better. I love coaching him. He’s an awesome kid, never said two things about sharing point guard responsibilities with Carlik (Jones) here and a really, really coachable player and smart player, a good guy in the locker room, and a great teammate.”

(On the chemistry of the team and Carlik Jones’ role in that)

“I think that Carlik has helped a lot. I think the unusual circumstances that we all find ourselves in has really helped our guys bond. We were all brought together here, maybe earlier than almost any school in the country, on June 1. Our guys were in the gym on their own working out, and then the NCAA changes to rule in late July. They spent a lot of time in the dorm together, there’s not a lot of “hey let’s go to the mall” because you can’t. I think they’re really, really high character people and they were forced, because of the pandemic, to spend a lot more time with one another, more than they might normally have. It has been fun watching guys like Dre Davis develop a relationship with a guy like Carlik Jones, who he didn’t know six months ago. It is a really special thing about our group. I think when you don’t have a lot of subs, sometimes you can grow even tighter, and they get on one another on the floor. It’s been good. It’s been fun to watch.”

(On the team’s resiliency and ability to close out the game)

“I think that when you have really young guys in your program that haven’t been on the game floor with three minutes left, in all different situations, maybe you’re down a point or you’re up 12. As you know, at this level a guy can hit back-to-back threes and that 12-point lead becomes six points, and the game feels a lot different. So, the details needing to be executed have never really been important to the guys right out of high school because they were always the best players. You want to be able to feel like Carlik and David, guys that are really good ball handlers, can make solid decisions. We haven’t been in a lot of situations before, being pressed, short-handed, putting guys in different spots, but we will get better. We will get better. We will put guys in the right spots. We will learn to pass fake. I think the last three minutes were great, we won that last three and a half minutes, and we got some breakaways and layups, and we broke the press after we call the timeout. I thought our composure was really good. I think there was only one time in the last three minutes where they drove in and we fouled them, and that’s a way that you can really make the game a lot longer. I know there was one at the end with a couple of our walk ons I, but you can’t have guys just drive-in foul, go to the free throw line and keep setting up their press, and we were pretty good at keeping them off the line late.”

(On Samuell Williamson’s availability versus UNC Greensboro Friday)

“He gave it a shot tonight. He went through shootaround, I am a lot more hopeful this evening about his return than I was this morning, and I don’t say that to point to Greensboro. I just mean it as in Sam (Williamson) being able to get back. I don’t know if that’ll mean that he can be able-bodied enough to play on Friday; but he ran through our shoot around. He had no problem getting up and down the floor shooting, jumping. It was a little bit of the lateral stuff, which is way his dislocation occurred, that was expected by our trainer Fred (Hina). We will see. If he makes the same improvement that he did from yesterday to today, then we may feel good about him playing some against UNCG, but with our luck he probably be out for more 12 weeks.”

(On impressive effort that he noticed tonight and throughout the first three games)

“I think that play was awesome. I think us taking a couple charges at the end, Carlik Jones stepping in, Dre Davis stepping in to take those charges, those plays of sacrificing your body, whether it’s diving on a loose ball, whether it’s taking a charge, that it shows how much the game means to you, how much the result means to you, and how much your teammates mean to you. We are getting there and it’s great to see plays like that from young players who haven’t been here before.”