You can find video of Mack’s postgame presser here
Obviously, Pittsburgh’s depleted, to have two of their major factor guys being out. We’ve prepared for them to be in there. We knew that it was going to be a hard game to win on the glass. Sure, a big blow for for Coach Capel and his team, but I thought they fought throughout the game. The biggest undoing that we’ve had is just our turnovers. By and large, we’ve been a pretty decent team. I thought, Dave and Sam in particular, were guys that gotta do a better job of taking care of the ball. They become sophomores now, we got to expect a little bit more out of their sureness with the ball. Anytime you can win on the road in front of zero people, you got to feel good about it.
(On why the offense got out of sync for a while in the middle portion of the game)
Well, I really think that we became just casual. A little soft with the ball at times. At halftime, Pitt had 28 points. 13 out of 28 were off our turnovers. So to think that hey, they’ve got 15 points they generated in the half court, if we don’t give them the ball or drive it in there and lose it, then maybe we go into halftime with a much greater lead. Again, younger guys being more staples of our team now, more core players. They have to become more responsible with the ball, with their decision making, being less casual with the ball. Pittsburgh knocked us back, give them credit. They turned us over it was a new game at halftime. I was really proud of our team’s response, but I think that’s where it started. Because we did do a great job on the glass, we were getting second and third shots. We just have to be able to handle the ball better than we did there, especially in the first half, and even times down the stretch here in the second.
(On if he’s pleased with Samuell Williamson & David Johnson’s progressions)
They’re hard they’re hard to block out at their position. David, not too many two guards in the country are going to rebound with the ability that he has. He’s got long arms, he’s got great timing, he’s strong. He certainly gets up off the floor, and we train him to go both offensively and defensively to the glass. Sam, I thought really played with a really good nose for the ball, and we needed that. I think coming into the game, the mindset was we got to keep guys like (Au’Diese) Toney and (Justin) Champagne off the glass. Certainly they’ve got younger guys now when those two go out, but nevertheless we did the job on the glass.
(On if Carlik Jones got tired towards the end)
He did, he got very winded. He didn’t practice for, what, 9-10 days, or 10 days he wasn’t at practice. Then, we have a return to play (process) where even on day 11, he’s not necessarily, I should say day eight, he’s not necessarily allowed to practice for two hours. He’s on a bike for 20 minutes, he’s on stairclimber. He’s a gutsy player, he wanted to play, but we had to make sure that, it was a very tight game down the stretch, his tongue wasn’t on the floor, turning the ball over and not being able to defend because of his fatigue.
(On who stepped up down the stretch to put the game away)
Well I thought a lot of our guys stepped up in different ways. I thought JJ (Traynor), who didn’t play particularly well in the first half, played a lot better than the second half. Part of our talk in the huddle was they were gonna try to bully him with Hughley, the big kid who’s freshman. For the most part, JJ did a pretty decent job - fouled him once or twice. That’s a big ask, as you know, when he’s at the five. Thought Dre (Davis( made a big time post up move in the second half. We got Dave (Johnson) going downhill a couple times, made some big shots. Sam (Williamson) hit a three in front of our bench. I just thought plays were being made by a lot of different guys down the stretch. That’s good to see. It’s a sign of a good team. We’ve got a long way to go, way too many turnovers - 17. We’re not gonna beat really good teams doing that. So we got to be better the next time out.
(On how he feels about his team ahead of the Kentucky game)
I think every time you go to practice, you feel like you got to improve. While I’m happy we won, there are several takeaways that we have from this game that we have to continue to improve. Obviously, worried about your team’s psyche coming out of Wisconsin. To be able to go back-to-back games on the road, and come up with a victory here and the second one after getting drugged, I think says a lot about our players. Says a lot about their character, their wanting to win. We know we’re gonna gonna get a lot better. Kentucky, they’ve been really good in some games. The Carolina game is a perfect example. Pretty sure we’re gonna get their best.
(On if he thought David Johnson played a complete game)
Yeah, Dave has become a lot better defensive player this year. You would expect that from a sophomore. He’s got so much ability with his arms, his timing, his athleticism, his quickness and strength. But he didn’t have the experience a year ago. At times, he’s playing the other teams two guard. Sometimes that can be tough for him to play a 5-11, six-foot, six-foot-one guard. David’s like that big boxer that guys are trying to get up underneath a little bit. Having Carlik out there helps him in more ways than just the ball handling assignments. I think David’s become a lot better defensive player, and a guy that we’re counting on a whole lot on that end of the floor.
(On how he thought his team responded following the blowout loss to Wisconsin)
I mean with a young team, there was some good and there were some bad. Certainly we’re happy with the result, but there’s always things that you can take away. I was worried, I think rightfully so. You come off of the Wisconsin game - and not just the psyche, the physical shape that our guys are in. You just take off nine days of practice in the middle of the season, and you’re trying to get their wind back, you’re trying to execute things offensively, there’s just a lot of slippage over the course of taking that much time off. Then you add in the fact that we didn’t play well at all at Wisconsin. So yeah, we were worried as a coaching staff, but I wasn’t worried about the fact that kids really care. They’ve got high character guys, guys that are improving and learning how to play with one another. Disappointed with our turnovers, but we’re going to continue to get better and use gifts like last Saturday as a learning experience.
(On if their endurance is back up)
I don’t think we’re there yet. I thought our tongues were dragging at the end of the first half, but I didn’t feel that way in the second half. That makes me feel a little bit better than I did at halftime. I know you guys are remote, it’s just an odd feeling. You’re running up and down, you’re an empty gym, there’s some white noise, it’s just - it’s just different. Again, I think you add in the nine days that our guys had off, and we’re all at different stages. Where Carlik Jones is conditioning is, and Jae’Lyn Withers and Josh Nickelberry, is a heck of a lot different than a guy like David Johnson, because David never really missed any time. He was able to get in four or five workouts once he tested negative several times before during that break. Guys are all different places right now conditioning-wise. Nights like tonight will help us continue getting better and better shape.
(On Josh Nickelberry’s performance in his season debut)
Josh was just tale of two halves. It was great to see that shot go in for him in the first half. He lost an assignment on back-to-back possessions, they picked on him a little bit with Xavier Johnson hitting the three in the corner over in action. They were running even when he was out. It’s always tough, having been there myself, it’s always tough. You can visually see what’s going on in the floor, but until you’re in practice every single day, and getting game moments, it’s not an easy transition. I just want to continue to get Josh on the floor, both in practice and in games. The more he’s out there, the more comfortable and confident he’s gonna be. He’s gonna be able to be a great defensive player for us, and he can shoot that thing.
(On if he anticipates the backcourt taking over games)
Well they better be able to, because I don’t know who else we’re going to turn to with ball handling responsibilities. Certainly nobody as sharp as those two guys. So yeah, they’re gonna share the bulk of the ball handling. That doesn’t mean a guy like Sam, who hit a bunch of big free throws and hit a pull up and hit a three. He’s gonna make those plays, and we’re going to expect Dre (Davis) to be able to do the same and Jae’Lyn Withers. But it starts with those two guys on the offensive end for sure. They have to be playmakers and good guards. To use a baseball analogy, they’ve got to be able to close games, as well as playmake throughout.