(Photo of Carlik Jones: Natalie Ledonne via the Atlantic Coast Conference)
DURHAM, N.C. - Needing a crucial win for both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, Louisville got what they needed and escaped Cameron Indoor Stadium with an 80-73 overtime win over Duke.
Here's what Louisville head coach Chris Mack had to say following the win:
What a game. Coming into the game, Duke had won four in a row, but honestly those games weren't close. We felt like we were going to be facing an offensive juggernaut, at least as of late. They've changed a lot, they've improved a lot. But I thought our guys - we just battled. We battled. We had five turnovers in half, to not give up an offensive rebound in the first half, we knew that in the second half, they were going to come out and they were going to respond. It's a little similar to last year's game here, if you think about it. We were up pretty big, and they come out and they punch you in the mouth a little bit. I thought a few of the layups, and not being strong with the ball early in the second half allowed them to get right back in it, but we give them credit. Then Matthew Hurt, as I told our players, he's special. We put everybody on our team on him. He just has such a high release. We denying the ball, then he takes guys into the post. If you don't switch his ball screens, they're just gonna drag it out and throw it back to him, and you won't be there on the catch. So when you switch his ball screen, you're gonna put the smallest guy in there, a guy like Carlik (Jones) or David (Johnson). He's a really difficult matchup, one of the best players in the country. But we got one of the best players in the country, too, and he made some plays down the stretch. For our team to respond the way they did in overtime - Carlik misses a free throw, we get the ball back, missed a shot, come to the bench knowing that we really controlled, or felt like we controlled, almost the entire game, to now have to go to overtime. We responded a year ago with a veteran team, and today we had a lot of young guys making some plays. Quinn (Slazinski) walked out onto the floor in overtime and said, 'coach, I got you'. I didn't know what that meant, but he knocked that three in, hit some clutch free throws, Carlik made some incredible plays, Sam WIlliamson) really is playing well. Excited, and we'll turn the page and play a really good Virginia Tech team on Wednesday.
(On the first half defense)
We, maybe the first four or five minutes weren't on it on it, but after that point, our first half defense from maybe the 15 minute mark, all the way down the end of the half was lights out. Phenomenal. Malik (Williams) going out hurt us in the second half, we couldn't play as many guys. Dave gets in foul trouble. So we weren't as nasty, and as stiff on the defense end as we needed to be. We got stopped when we needed, and I agree, I thought our defense last 15 minutes after terrific.
(On Malik Williams' injury)
Not sure if he got stepped on, or he stepped on somebody. I can't remember how Fred (Hina) explained it. So I just want to be cautious with him, and figure out what it is, and we'll do that tomorrow. Hopefully he's good to go, and we get him back out there.
(On the first half rebounding domination)
I think our team's turning it into a pretty daggone good offensive rebounding team. We're sending almost, every possession, four to the glass. Which worries you a little bit, because you have to have that defensive balance. But we just feel like, hey, if we're not going to be a prolific three point shooting team, and we missed a shot, we gotta go get it. We got to figure out a way to get it. Sam, when Malik's in there, is playing the three. He's a tough matchup to keep off the glasses, he's got great timing. He snags everything with two hands, never casual with it. Jae'Lyn Withers becomes a much harder mismatch, he doesn't have a seven footer on him. He got some timely offensive rebounds to kick out in the game. That's our approach that needs to be on the glass for sure.
(On David Johnson's late game struggles after sitting on the bench for so long)
Dave's gotta make better decisions. They're pressing us, and they're trapping, and we get three on two breaks, he's got to do better. I'm not gonna mince words, he's got to do better. You're three on two, you either have to pull it out, you have to dunk the ball, or you have to make the defense commit to you, and then hit the guy that's filling a lane on either side, and that's a layup. He got sped up, and he's got to get better at that. Now having said that, he's been on again, off again, sick again. He was in a really good rhythm when we played Georgia Tech, and then the wheels fell off for our team, and he's missed a lot of time. We do need to get his timing back, and he hasn't been perfect in practice. I think he'd be the first to tell you. But to play 31 minutes, he's only been sitting on two practices
(On the last play of regulation)
We weren't gonna call timeout. Jae'Lyn made a great play, swim around his guy and track down the offensive rebound. An even better play for freshmen to laser it out, and sometimes a guy can get rattled with the game pressure he has on him. and it results in a turnover. We took the last shot of the game. I think anybody watching this press conference would say that's the guy we want taking it down. I think he wants to get to the basket. He certainly didn't try to be the hero and settle. But he had Wendell Moore on him, a great defensive player. He's 6-6, he's long, he chested him up, and Carly didn't have 25-30 seconds to play with them. He had about eight or seven seconds. I thought was a good look, and we went after the offensive glass hard. And it wasn't to be. It was a great response from our team when it went to overtime.
(On Quinn Slazinski's play in overtime)
From the day that Quinn got here a year ago he, two years ago now, the only thing he's about is the team. That's the only thing he's about. If he plays two minutes tonight, he doesn't pout. If he plays 32 minutes, he's gonna play the same exact way. It's always rewarding to see a guy that is so for the team to make some plays like that in such a big game.
(On what the win means for the locker room)
I think it means a lot. They have a belief in themselves,. We had two of the longest COVID pauses that - a lot of teams have maybe had one, some haven't had any. We got a young crew, not practicing, and then we get our brains beat out at Carolina, and I love our response. Everybody leaves us for dead, and people say they're not that good, and maybe we aren't, but we're battle. Those guys listen to themselves, they allow themselves to be coached, and I was really proud of their effort today, and then resiliency.
(On if Carlik Jones' play is contagious)
He's dynamic player, he just is. He's a great teammate. I think a lot of times, we all see the highlight plays, we see him going around big guys off the dribble, and using his body and scoring. But, unbelievable teammate. That's the thing that's been really rewarding to watch. It was no entitlement. He went to a smaller school out of high school, nobody recruited him, and he continues to play with that chip on his shoulder. His teammates love him, he was terrific today.
(On how Samuell Williamson changes the complexion of the team)
We've had a couple talks, and I think first of all, he's gaining experience. Everybody's path is different. Some guys, they touch the college court and everything works out well from day one. Sam had to go through some things, I think he had to figure out who he is the player, when he's at his best. I don't think that he has to be this guy that's lighting it up from three. I think he's an elite mid range shooter. I think he's turned into one of the better rebounders, obviously statistics bear it out, one of the best rebounders in our league. He's not 6-9, 230-pounds with a crazy vertical. He's got great timing. Nobody on our team puts him more time than Sam. We practice at 2:30, Sam's already been in the gym twice. If it weren't for COVID, come back a fourth time.
(On if this win epitomizes he effort he wants in his team)
It's a big part of it. We just got to figure it out. Guys get in foul trouble, and now maybe our our five is guarding Hurt. Maybe the next possession, our two guard's guarding him. I'm just a big believer that if you can take care of the basketball, if you can limit second shots and play together, and play with a toughness, that you can compete in any game you play. Our team has not arrived, not even close. We got a lot of young guys. and we're learning lessons. It feels good to be on the right end of the ledger after after the guys give the type that they did today.
(On if his team is starting to become more mature)
It's starting to. They're making mistakes. We ran a play in the overtime where Jae'Lyn cut the wrong way, and it really gets your teammates sort of out of sorts. And he makes up for it, gets and and-one in the same possession when he cuts off of Quinn. We make a lot of mistakes, but we got coachable guys. So much is being thrown at them, time and score. We couldn't worry about time and score situations tonight because we had to get in shape. We had to get up and down, up and down. To do the things that we did, aren't always going to be perfect, but I just think that says a lot about you when you can battle through some tough moments. Our guys are learning that and gaining experience.
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