(Photo of Carlik Jones: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Coming off of a 45-point blowout to the hands of North Carolina and short their best player, the Louisville men's basketball program was able to overcome those obstacles and take a step in the right direction, downing Notre Dame 69-57 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Next up for the Cardinals (12-5, 7-4 ACC), they will head back on the road and face Duke (11-9, 9-6 ACC) at Cameron Indoor Center. Tipoff is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27 at 6:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Before the Cardinals face the Blue Devils, head coach Chris Mack and graduate transfer guard Carlik Jones took time to meet with the media. They discussed David Johnson, the differences with Duke from the last time they faced them, the team as a whole stepping up, and more.
Below is the transcript from their press conference as well as the videos:
Head Coach Chris Mack
(On if he expects David Johnson to be available vs. Duke)
I do. He is back, he practiced yesterday. He's feeling much better, and we expect him to be ready to go tomorrow.
(On what the team is like now vs. their last COVID pause)
Obviously, we have Malik back, which changes things at times. Jae'Lyn Withers plays more four (spot) than he really has all year. We're just trying to get that continuity back. We welcomed David back to practice for the very first time yesterday. He did a great job on Matthew Hurt in game number one, who really hurt us in the first half. David was did a really good job of fronting him in the post, try to make his catches tough. It's not easy. He's playing as well as anybody in the conference. We've changed a little bit. Again, I mentioned Malik Williams, but there's changed a lot too. Mark Williams now is manning their center position the majority of the time, and it's quite a different look. He's over seven feet tall, they used him in high-lows. They've changed their defense almost completely, to more the Duke I think people are used to. Denying in passing lanes, trying to be very disruptive, knowing that he can erase some shots around the basket behind the perimeter defenders. It's going to be a challenge, Duke's always a challenge.
(On if everyone does a little bit more like when Johnson was out vs. ND, they don't have to be as reliant on Johnson and Carlik Jones)
100%. We have to get contributions from all of our guys. I think Sam (Williamson)'s played really well these last few weeks. We need him to continue that effort both offensively and on the glass. I think Jae'Lyn (Withers), obviously, had a terrific game the other night against Notre Dame. He'd had 20 (points) if he didn't miss a few of those layups that we want to convert to dunks around the basket. But yeah, we need to be getting contributions for everybody, but that's not really changed. Obviously. Carlik and David, are two of our best players and have the ball in their hands a lot. But yeah, contributions from everybody would be great.
(On if he would advise a team that is not on the bubble to play in a conference tournament)
There's just so many things behind the scenes, I'm not going to be the guy that says you should or shouldn't. I think there's logic behind not playing. You obviously risk losing that NCAA Tournament opportunity, but I'm not gonna be in a position of advising. I'm not an athletic director. I'll just worry about preparing our team for Duke.
(On if the team will take any special precautions in Greensboro for the ACC Tournament)
We're gonna do everything that we possibly can. We travel with multiple buses, we make sure that anytime we congregate as a team, whether that's a meal, whether that's film, that we're spaced out. We aren't doing anything public. It's not like our guys are - we're not taking them out to restaurants to eat, guys aren't walking over to the mall in between shootaround. We're doing about everything that we can in order to make sure that we're able to play both the conference tournament, and hopefully the NCAA Tournament.
(On how Duke has changed since the last time they faced them)
I think the biggest thing that you see that's different, is just how they're playing defense. As I mentioned, they're really getting back to I think the Duke that we've all watched for years, and that is a very disruptive, out in the passing lanes type team. I think Jordan Goldwire is as good as any defensive player in the country. In my opinion, he's the best defensive player in our league. He's awfully disruptive. Mark Williams is an elite shot blocker. He's a young kid, he's learning the game, but his defense is especially. He's got great timing around the rim, and he adds a little bit of confidence for those guys to be a little bit more chancy on the perimeter. That's the biggest change that I see. Offensively, they certainly do a little bit more high-low action because of Mark Williams' size. They're shooting the ball better I think. I don't know if there are many players in the country that, over the last five or six games, are shooting the ball from three better than Matthew hurt. He's got that high release, e doesn't need any shot space. We're gonna have to try to step up to that challenge as best we can.
Guard Carlik Jones
(On if he believes Louisville is a bubble team)
I definitely think these last few games are definitely huge to, basically, have a good spot in the tournament. I also think it'd be a good start going into the tournament to have a three game winning streak, or possibly a four game winning streak under our belt leading into the tournament and stuff. I definitely think that winning these last few games would be huge, but we just can't get ahead of ourselves. We just got to take it one game at a time.
I think we are. I honestly don't really know how it works, but just knowing some of the losses we took, to Florida State and our last recent loss to North Carolina, and early in the year to Wisconsin, kind of set us back. But I definitely think we're on a bubble, and we need to just buckle down, and just remain solid for our last few games in the regular season.
(On what the team is starting to rebuild consistency-wise)
I would just say staying locked in. Like you said, with the pauses and stuff, it's kind of hard to come back the same as you did before the pause. But really, it's just staying locked in. We're usually getting up and down in practice. With us being in shape, I don't think that's a problem. I think we're back to our normal selves and being in shape. Like I said, it just comes down to staying locked in. staying with the task at hand, working on ourselves day in and day out, and just following our coach's plans.
(On if it's vital for everybody to continue to do a little bit more and not rely so heavily on him and Johnson)
Yes, I think that everyone should continue to want to do more. I think when David comes back, and if guys keep up the same play, it makes things easier for me and David. It makes things easier for the team as a whole when guys are stepping up. I also feel like it'd be hard to beat us if we have five, six guys in double figures. Malik (Williams) and Jae'Lyn (Withers) had double digit rebounds, so when they you know produce like that, even when David being back, I think we'll be a hard team to beat for sure.
(On what he has learned about himself as a player)
It just kind of told me, and proved to me what I had already thought kind of coming in: just that I can play anywhere. I can play with some of the best teams, and some of the best players in college basketball. Every day I play in practice and play in some of these big games, it just gives me even more confidence, and it lets me know 'I am here', and I am doing what I kind of told myself I would do. I just try to keep going forward with that
(On if playing in the ACC has brought out another facet of his game that he didn't have at Radford)
I'll say somewhat. Just learning small things, small little details. Reading better, like coming off screens and stuff like that. Just small things that I definitely feel like I've definitely improved on. But for the most part, I feel like I've been myself
(On if there's any argument to not play in a conference tournament)
I truly don't know. I really don't have any comments about that. Like I said, I don't really know too much about that. Honestly, I'm just here to to play. I'm here to practice, and I just really know about my schedule and our chances and stuff. So that's all I really know about it.
(On what's different about Duke this time around)
So basically, the difference from the first game is, they are missing one of their players. (Jalen) Johnson who, I guess they said that he decided to opt out the rest of the season. But, I thought the first game that we played them was a hard fought game. A game where both teams competed throughout the whole game. Honestly, I think the last few games, Duke has been playing better. I think their guards have stepped up and play well. On top of Matthew Hurt still playing as well as he is. I'm definitely looking forward to another great game. We kinda go to, not necessarily throw the film out from that first game, but we can't dwell on it, or try think,' Oh, we got them the first time, so this should be easy'. No, they're going to come ready to play. So we need to be prepared early.
You can follow Louisville Report for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on Twitter:
Facebook - @LouisvilleOnSI