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Everything Chris Mack said after Louisville’s loss to Virginia

Virginia v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

You can see video of Mack’s postgame press conference here

Opening Statement:

Playing Virginia can be frustrating because they are so solid. If you had told me before the game that we would have held them, one of the top 10 three-point field goal efficiency teams in the country and how much they rely on the three, to go three-for-15 from the three and only had three turnovers for the entire game, I would have thought it was ours for the taking. I thought they are a very physical team and I say that with all the respect in the world. They do a terrific job of bodying your drives and playing on that fine line of legal versus hands-on. They just do a really good job. Our guards struggle against that physicality. You know we had our chances in the second half. We cut it to four and come out of that and miss two free throws and then we foul a three-point shooter at the other end because we don’t execute a non-switch. Like I said, it was frustrating. They are an excellent team. They were in a spell with a few lost games in a row. Maybe they didn’t play as well but they are just a tough team to score against. We had our moments. But left some points at the free throw line and missed some layups. That really cost us. And the other thing was as well as we played at times on the defensive end, we had some back-breaking things happen to us. A straight-line drive that results in a layup, giving up an offensive rebound, those are the things you can’t do against UVA. I will say this: (Sam) Hauser, no matter how we defend him I thought four or five of his makes were the kind that you can do nothing about. There is just nothing you can do. It doesn’t matter who was on him, they were all over him. He shot the ball on a high arc. He is one of the better players and shooters in the league. He has gotten so much better than he was when he was at Marquette. So, we chose to switch after every screen, which was new and different for us. But we were doing that with the intent of not letting him get the easy threes. If you chase a curl, their screener pops to the corner and now you are helping on the curl and they throw out and get a wide open three. You don’t switch a ball screen; they drag you out and throw back and I have watched Jay Huff over and over and over knock threes down along with Hauser. We chose to switch every screen. We knew there were going to be some mismatches, but we thought we would do a pretty good job of keeping the ball in front. I mention those straight-line drives and when a guy catches it at 15 or 17 feet, he’s a triple threat. He looks at the defender and shoots a high arc and then it goes in. It can be deflating. We have to get mentally tougher on those type of scores. If we do, then that puts us in a better position. Give Virginia a lot of credit. They were really good today.

(About being down four and then Johnson missed a free throw got the team out of sorts)

“We got back in it and sometimes when you climb to get to the mountaintop, it doesn’t allow you to slide down the other side of the mountain to go down easily. You lose your grip, and you fall back down. Good teams respond. UVA is a good team and they responded. We can debate whether it was the errors we made or the plays they made. In either case, you are right. We left some points at the foul line and we fouled a jump shooter which is a Cardinal sin. You can’t do that. From that point on, when they got that separation, we ended up playing against that separation for the rest of the game.”

(On Carlik Jones’ trouble getting to the rim)

“He’s been frustrated before. He’s human. They’re very physical. Kihei Clark is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, and he did a really good job. It’s that fine line. I’m crying for a foul on a few of those, and I think they were, but sometimes the defense gets good position and they let them play. I think Tony thought he was pushing off. The refs have a tough job to do. It wasn’t Carlik’s first game. I think he’d be the first to tell you that. We’re not the only team they’re physical against. It’s why they’re the regular season champions. They take a lot of pride on that end of the floor. I do think Carlik got some looks that no matter how physical they are, they normally go in. He’s a competitor so I can see him with a little fire in his belly and being much better as we head into the conference tournament, but it was a tough afternoon for him and for all of us. Give Virginia a lot of credit. I place no blame on the referees, they’re in a tough position. UVA plays very physical, and they’re very good at it.”

(On Jae’Lyn Withers’ second half performance)

“He’s a young guy, and we want so much out of him. Malik (Williams) goes down, and now he’s playing against guys like Jay Huff. What we gave him to do today in terms of switching onto a guy like an explosive and quintessential point guard like Kihei Clark, and then he’s on (Sam) Hauser. He made some errors. He’s a redshirt freshman. I wish he were older and more experienced. Instead of three or four plays being made on him in those crunch time moments, maybe he’s successful in three out of four instead of one out of four. But he’s learning. I can’t fault him. He didn’t have a good first half, he bounced back and made some really good plays in the second half. But we need him to be really good. We need all of our guys to be really good if we’re going to win games against really good competition.”

(On placement in the ACC Tournament)

“I certainly would have liked to go in having won three of three and four of the last five, but it’s not to be. I told our guys in the locker room that I don’t think there is a dominating team in this league. There are some really good teams, but there’s not a team in this league that we can’t beat if we play well. But at the same time, there’s not a team that can’t beat us if we’re not locked in and playing extremely hard and playing the right way offensively. We have to use these next few days to go over to Greensboro and be ready to battle. These are the games we play for and work hard for all summer and preseason to put ourselves in a position where we’re playing for some things. So, we’re going to head to Greensboro with some excitement. I don’t want my guys to get down. We’re going to be excited to get there.”

(About going into the conference tournament, what is your position as far as the big dance is? You were projected as an 8 to 10 this morning, from some of the bracketologists. Safe, or do the Cards still have work to do?)

“Well, I don’t necessarily worry about that. The only thing that we need to really occupy our minds with is being ready to face whoever we face. We’re going to play the winner of a certain game that I don’t even know at this point. I think our team’s done a lot. You always want to do more as a coach. We’ve got a young group, we’ve lost some guys to injury, we lost Malik. Margin of victory stuff, that takes into account. Obviously our two defeats that were enormous, we were coming off two long pauses, so I’m just worried about our matchup on Wednesday.”

(About being a young team that lost a lot of games to COVID. What impact do you think that has had on the general development of this team?)

“Well, we’ve played a lot of young guys so that’s really going to help in terms of their development. I looked at Quinn Slazinski out there today … we had four sophomores that we’re starting along with Carlik. So, it’s given those guys have a lot of game experiences. Some negative, some positive, but I think in the end, they’re all positive because you learn from them. So, I like where our team is at. I wish we would have done a little bit better job in some areas today, but they’ve stuck together all year long. We’re going do the same here as we head into ACC tournament week.”

(About Carlik’s struggles today. Just 2 for 15. Did you think that they made it a point of emphasis to take him away, or is that just the way their defense works, just to make it tough on guards in general?)

“Well, I think both. I think he’s one of the best penetrators in the country. And he does so much for our team, he lives in the lane. I’d have to probably go and watch the film, but I thought he was in the lane a lot. Now, in the lane a lot against the 7-1 guys is a little different now, and so a few of his touch finishes that we’ve all seen go in went in and out. We got a couple of blocks. But we wanted to be aggressive. If he misses, and Huff comes over to block the shot, you usually have free lanes to offensive rebound. And for us to get 12, I mean our goal was 15. Virginia doesn’t miss block outs. I do think that as good as Virginia is defensively, I think Carlik would tell you that he missed a few that he normally makes. I think we got frustrated as a unit with their physicality, and instead of playing through the bumps and trying to figure it out, we could have done a better job in that area. But I want him living in the lane. He’s been a huge part of our success this year, and nothing’s changed. I got all the confidence in the world but as I said before, give Virginia a lot of credit.”

(I believe Jae’lyn scored all of his points in the second half. What do you think the difference was from the first to the second in terms of his scoring? Was it him getting used to the physicality?)

“I thought he was a lot more aggressive. I thought he was playing on his heels in the first half, shooting on the way down. I thought in the second half, he played more aggressive. Obviously, the baseline dunk that he had was a big indicator of the aggressiveness he was playing with. We need him to be a big part of our team. We tried to play him on the perimeter a little bit, he had a turnover or two. We tried to draw Huff away from the basket. But he’s a good player. He’s seen it all, Huff. He makes for tough finishes around the basket. But I thought Jae’lyn, to answer your question, was a lot more aggressive in the second half and we need him to be.”