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Everything Chris Mack said after Louisville’s win over Notre Dame

Kentucky v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Video of Chris Mack’s postgame press conference can be found here.

Chris Mack

(Opening statement)

“I thought it was a team effort tonight to have five players in double figures. Two guys get double-digit rebounds. Obviously, it’s great to see Malik just being out there in longer stretches than he was on Saturday. The guys really stepped up for us to shoot the ball better than Notre Dame, who’s one of the most proficient teams on offense in the country. It was a good thing for our team. They came in, I think, winning seven of their last nine games in the ACC. Down 20 at Duke, they come back and we knew their firepower. So really, really happy for our team. To find out that David wasn’t playing around noon today, we didn’t really have the opportunity in the last couple days to practice with guys in different positions. So Dre Davis played a lot of the two, Jae’lyn Withers played a lot of the four, which again, he’ll play a little bit more now than Malik’s back on the floor. Sam played at the two, Quinn played at the three. Guys were doing a little bit of everything. So it was a great win for our team after the bad loss on Saturday and, you know, we needed this type of response.”

(You had a lot of things you can be pleased about. You held them to 36% shooting and dominated the backboards. I think that rebound total was 45 to 30. You shot the ball pretty well in stretches, which of those things was most pleasing to you?)

“Well, for me personally, it was the defense. To hold them to 36 percent from the field, and 7-of-28 from three. I mean, like I said, they’re a prolific three-point shooting team and we changed ball screen coverages depending on who they were playing at the five. Prentiss Hubb has four times the amount of assists than any player on their team and creates so much for them, I thought Carlik really stepped up to the challenge of guarding him and defending him. But we really talked going into the game, besides doing what we needed to do to get back our defense… getting on the glass. We felt like no matter whether they were playing zone, or if they end up playing two-three, one-three-one, box and one, we had to make opportunities off second shots. We did it, probably a lot better in the first half than the second, but we had 14 offensive rebounds and that I think sealed the deal.”

(Speaking of offensive rebounds, how big is that play when they cut it to five. You missed that shot, Sam goes and gets the rebound in traffic, kicks it out, Carlik makes the three. That was like a light switch in momentum)

“Huge offensive rebound. Great presence of mind by Sam. Sometimes you get an offensive rebound and you feel like you’ve earned it so you just go up in traffic sometimes and the ball doesn’t bounce in. So, he had the presence of mind to find Carlik who’s calling for it. Dagger shot. When a team’s trying to come back, come back from double digits, and they get it to five and then you quickly hit one like that off an offensive rebound, that can take the wind out of your sails. And the good thing was we kept the foot on the gas pedal after that play.”

(Early in the year you would make a lead on somebody and then they would make a run back in the game and get back to even. Tonight you won the first segment of the game by seven, and then you did a terrific job, kind of keeping them at arm’s length for most of the rest of the game. Is that a sign of maturity, in your mind, for your team?)

“I hope so. I know that at one point, there was a stretch where neither team was scoring, and we were getting really fatigued. Then, you start to add in that Mike [Brey] was changing defenses and now, not only do we have to execute, you got to recognize what they’re in to figure out what we’re running. And so I thought it was great that our defense held during that time when we were tired. Then, eventually I think in that second-to-last four-minute span, we had three offensive rebounds that I thought cracked the game open and sort of put it away.”

(Did you tell Carlik coming into the game to be ready for 40 minutes? Because he’s running so many ball screens. That’s a lot of effort. Did you tell him that coming in?)

“Fortunately, he’s one of the guys that I don’t worry about a whole lot with his conditioning level. He’s just a baller. He’s always been like that. I think he’s smart enough… I did not, to answer your question, say ‘you’ll have to play 40.’ I told every assistant coach that I have that he’ll have to play 40 and they started asking me who’s going to be our backup point guard if he gets in foul trouble or goes out. I said he’s not going out. He’s not going to have foul trouble. He gets five fouls, I’m going keep him out there and get a technical foul, keep them out there until he gets six.”

(On what Malik Williams brings to the team)

“I thought his mobility got a lot better from Saturday to Tuesday. We’re going to it need to jump up even more coming up this Saturday. Every day that goes by every practice he gets under his belt, I think the more confidence he gets the better conditioning he gets, and the better timing he gets. So, obviously the whole team played so much better today than we did on Saturday, but I thought Malik was a lot better as well.”

(On Jae’Lyn Withers dunking the ball…)

“To Jae’Lyn’s credit. He didn’t hang his head, he might have at the moment, but he did a great job defensively because he was guarding Nate Laszewski, who is their leading scorer. I know he didn’t play very well, but I thought Jae’Lyn had a lot to do with that. We asked Jae’Lyn or anybody that was guarding Laszewski to make sure that if he had the ball screen we were switching. So on (Juwan) Durham, we’re jumping out there and hedging, Laszewski we’re switching and if you’re not all in on the defensive possession, you’re thinking about the layup that you just blew and two points that you lost, letting down your teammates, then you let them down again. And Jae’Lyn, that’s the maturity right there for him to continue to play defense.”

(The team has not been at full strength for any game this year. Do you think in any way that it’s good for the team having that resilience to have to play down key players?)

“Well the resilience part is good, but no it’s not good to not be at full strength. I’ve never been and nor will ever be and I don’t want to be around people that are ‘woe is me’ and feel like there’s a rain cloud, but it’s just been wild. To be at a Dunkin Donuts drive thru to get my coffee, and my phone buzzes. I looked down and Fred Hina saying David (Johnson) has a temperature and achy and all this and I just, I don’t know. It’s wild, to say the least, but they tested him for COVID and did a PCR test. He’s negative, so that’s a great thing. Who knows… we’ll figure out what he has and hopefully get him back and probably lose someone to the Spanish Flu here in the next 48 hours.”

(In your opinion, how do you think your team did offensively tonight compared to defensively?)

“Well, I thought we got a little tired. We talked about it at halftime. I thought a few of our turnovers in the first half, we got the ball in the lane whether it was an offensive rebound or a drive and you could see it, our guys were fatigued. Then they’re getting the ball stripped out of their hands. It’s like, if you’re that fatigued, then don’t make a play. Throw the ball to a teammate if you get an offensive rebound, throw it out so we can get another 20 seconds on the shot clock. Don’t give into fatigue. And I thought a lot of our turnovers in the first half, we were weak with the ball and I think the fatigue part had something to do with it. Second half, quite honestly, more of the same. There was a lot of up-and-down, with no one scoring for two-three minutes and you could just tell everybody was winded. The ball never went out of bounds. And again, we don’t have the deepest team in the world, David is out. Ten turnovers is good for us. It’s not necessarily great against Notre Dame, they don’t really turn you over, but to have five guys in double figures, we’ll take that every single night.”

(On Samuell Williamson’s offensive rebounding and how he impacted the team tonight?)

“He’s amazing in the lane. He does not think about that 15-foot pullup. Whether it’s him playing in the high post against a team zone. We always feel like, obviously we didn’t have David tonight and that’s a place that we put him there a lot, we always feel that those two – that’s a real weapon for us. And when Sam has the ability to go get offensive rebounds, he usually finds himself in that range. And he made an aggressive move tonight. Sometimes when he spin-dribbles, I think he loses sight of the rest of the floor and we’ve talked about that. If he doesn’t get it knocked out of his hands and he gets in that lane, I really feel comfortable that it’s going in, and I should.”

(Will David Johnson and Josh Nickelberry be back against Duke this weekend?)

“I would like to think so. God willing they’ll get the meds that we need to get in them. Josh has a little bit of a head start more than David, because we just found out about David today. But yeah, we’d like to see those guys sort of turn the corner and hopefully they can be on the floor for us on Saturday. I don’t know that yet.”

(On Malik Williams, what is realistic going forward? How much conditioning can he get in before the tournament?)

“We don’t play our center more than 30 minutes. I just felt in the first half I think he played a lot more minutes than he did in the second half. We’ve got to be careful with his conditioning, but he says he feels good. And in the second half, he was out for an extended period of time and we felt comfortable going back to him. He’s healed, it’s just a matter of him not making mistakes out of fatigue. Just like everybody. We’ve all had that issue because of a few of the pauses and stoppages in practice. But he’s put a lot of time in - on the bike, on the elliptical, on the court. So I thought he was extremely effective. He had 10 rebounds tonight, he did a great job defensively.

(How does Malik change your team at this late stage of the season?)

“Well, he’s a mature guy. He’s a senior. He’s been through a lot of big games. He’s comfortable on the court and now he’s getting comfortable with new teammates. I think he’s, at his best, one of the top three big guys defensively in the conference. He’s not at his best just yet, but he’s getting there. He took a big jump from Saturday to today.”

(What has it been like the last few days at practice? Was there extra motivation to respond after North Carolina?)

“Yeah, I saw that in our offensive rebounding effort, I saw it in the defensive effort that we gave tonight. You’re right, we said ‘hey let’s get back to practice,’ but we didn’t have a week to prepare. And it’s not really about the preparation. Two days is plenty, that’s about usually the time you get in between normal games. But it’s the conditioning factor, it’s the timing, it’s the rhythm, it’s adding Malik Williams, it’s adding two guys that had 17 days off return to play. It was a challenge. Other teams have done a much better job. But we’re not the deepest team in the world, we’ve also dealt with injuries, we’ve also dealt with different sicknesses. But we told those guys when we left on Saturday, ‘we’re going to get back at midnight, we’re going to have a hard practice on Sunday. It’s not going to be a 60-minute practice. We’re going to be out there for two, two and half hours. We have to get better.’ A little bit of the same yesterday, maybe not as long. But we’ve got to get back in shape and we have to get sharper on offense and it paid off tonight.”

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Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey

Opening statement: “When we made a little bit of a run in the second half, we had a few open looks in transition that we’re going to have to make to beat Louisville. We made those in Durham to make it interesting, and we couldn’t make them here. They are a great defensive team that’ll athletically guard you and take away stuff. It was hard for us to score against their set defense. Some guys made threes to start the game that I didn’t expect. That was kind of a hole we could never really dig out of.”

(When you don’t have those seven guys all making shots, or getting rebounding, or defending, or taking care of the ball, how difficult is it to win a game?)

“You’re not going to beat a team as talented as Louisville and as gifted as Louisville. We need all seven of them playing well to beat anybody, because seven have to be in a pretty good rhythm. We had some guys who just didn’t play well. I think you have to give, offensively, that is, Louisville credit. They couldn’t really cut and move and take it off the dribble, so we were left with Prentiss Hubb being the only guy who could do it. When we get into that mode, we’re just grasping at straws.”

Obviously Nate (Laszewski) was compromised physically after the fall at the end of the first half, but I think that’s seven out of eight games where he hasn’t had double-digit shots. To what do you attribute his inability, because he’s shooting such a high percentage for you?

“Great point. The reason he’s shooting a high percentage is he doesn’t take any bad shots. He can’t go get his shot off the dribble, and that’s kind of a good thing because then he can’t force anything. What has happened is that they’ve switched ball screens with him. When athletic teams switch ball screens with him, and that had the feel of a Virginia Tech kind of defense, and then there’s an athletic guy up in him, he has kind of got nowhere to go. I feel for him there. We tried to run a couple of out-of-bounds things for him to get looks, and he got a couple of looks but didn’t make any of them. When they’re switching everything and there’s an athlete up in him, it’s hard for him. To his credit, he just swings the ball and doesn’t force anything and then tries to defend and rebound on the defense. I think that’s why his percentage is so good; he doesn’t force anything. You’ve got to play around him. You have to try and get some other guys going around him until he loosens up. I think that’s the result of athletes switching ball screens and he can’t breathe.”

(When looking at shot selection, do you look at it as having some open shots that guys couldn’t make? Or situations where they kind of bottled you up and made you take more tough shots that usual?)

“Probably a little bit of both, but I thought we got some pretty good looks. Again, I’ll go back to the Virginia Tech feel of an athletic defense, you’re so harassed by the time you get the open look, your feet aren’t very calm, and I think that causes you not to shoot it as well. But the ones we needed, when we were hanging around and we got it to five and then to six and seven were transition ones. Those were clean ones that we have made before that helps us, but we didn’t make any of them. Their athletic ability on the backboard is freakish and we have hard time controlling that some nights.”

(About watching Louisville take advantage of the backboard)

“Yeah, it’s hard. We were subbing differently; we went to four guards. We didn’t play the two big guys much together but at least we got Juwan (Durham) on some rolls though. We had some guys who could drive and get fouled. You’re hanging on for dear life and it’s a real mental test because you can’t see a bucket go in but then, yet you have to go back down on the other end and defend and you have to block out some athletic ability. It’s not a recipe for us to win a game, and I’m sitting there watching almost 40 minutes of this is going to be intense defense, and we are going to struggle. Can we rebound It well enough to hold them off? We never really could, we tried, we had a little spurt in the second half. When we caught up to five points it still felt like ten because everything was so hard.”

(About ND defense as a whole)

“They shot 42% from the floor for the game, that’s pretty good. Now they got 14 offensive rebounds and many of them were at key times. Carlik Jones made some big ones because he’s a Player of the Year candidate. He’s a great guard. We even played a little box-and-one for a while; we tried a little bit of everything just so somebody else could take a shot. We got some other guys to take the shot, but we couldn’t get the first miss enough. When we got the first miss, when you think about how the game played out. So we got the first miss and here we come five-on-four, four-on-three, four-on-two because they have so many guys crashing. We get some really good looks, but we don’t get any of them. That’s really deflating, we didn’t get any of them and you just can’t get over the hump then.”