(Photo of Chris Mack and Louisville Players: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - 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.
Next up, they will play their final road game of the season and face the Virginia Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for Wednesday, Mar. 3 at 7:00pm EST, and can be viewed on ESPN2.
Before the Cardinals face the Hokies, head coach Chris Mack took time to meet with the media. He discussed the upcoming matchup with the Hokies and its implications for the postseason, how Malik Williams' injury affects the rotation, provided some other injury updates and more.
Below is the transcript from his press conference as well as the video:
Head Coach Chris Mack
(On if he will continue to play Jae'Lyn Withers in his natural position of power forward even with Malik Williams out again)
I thought Jae'Lyn really, really looked comfortable, and did some good things. We want to try to keep putting him in that position. Obviously, he still has to change his role a little bit, simply because of everything that we've put in and implemented from day one, thinking Malik was going to be a part of it, and thinking he was coming back. But, at the same time, Jae'Lyn, I think like any freshmen ,has just progressed as the season's gone on regardless of position. He's done a great job here as of late, we need him to be a consistent guy for us. But we're gonna try to do things that have Jae'Lyn away from the basket, just as much as we have him around the basket.
(On the ripple effect that Malik's injury has to the rotation)
I think every position alters the next. Everything affects everything. I think Sam (Williamson)'s been really good here the last few weeks, just talked about Jae'Lyn. I think JJ (Traynor) and Gabe (Wiznitzer), while they're not Malik, they can certainly help us in there, and we're going to need them to here in our remaining games. How much time that equates to, I don't know yet, but we're going to give those guys, specifically JJ, first crack at being out there and helping us around the basket, interior wise.
(On if he knew that Carlik Jones was closer since he first arrived on campus)
If you look at Carlik's career at Radford, he was always big in big moments I talked about that, even early on, that Carlik was never one that was going to shy away or tighten up in those moments. The course of 18 games that we've played, he's proven that he's not afraid of the moment in any way shape or form. He's a terrific free throw shooter, I know he missed one at the end (in regulation vs. Duke). He's a guy that's really hard to contain off the dribble, he changes speed so well, uses his body, and he has really good vision. He made a nice little dump down pass to Sam for a layup. You got to be careful when when you double him, or extend on his ball screens, because he's gonna try to find that that passing lane to an open teammate as well. We know that he can he can finish games, we got to get to the point where games are in that crux, where one play can separate winner and loser.
(On Josh Nickelberry and Aidan Igiehon's injury statuses)
Josh began practicing yesterday. His conditioning is not the greatest since he's been out for an extended period of time. But Josh is one of those guys that you know doesn't need a whole lot of time. He's a really good athlete, you never worry about a guy like Josh picking up weight. It's just a matter of getting his timing back. He's gonna practice here again today. We'll have him available for Virginia Tech, how much I don't know. Aiden's a different story. We got to slowly work him back. I don't know if Aidan will be able to rejoin us physically health-wise.
(On the challenge and opportunities of their upcoming games vs. Virginia Tech and Virginia)
We're playing tier one opponents. Teams that have have had a great season. Teams that are going to be a challenge. But we're all worried about Virginia Tech first, and then we'll talk about Virginia down the line. Virginia Tech has a team that is really solid on both ends of the floor. They have a really good identity of trying to throw it inside and play inside out. They shoot a lot of threes. but they don't just jack them up. They really try to pound the ball inside to guys like (Justin) Mutts and (Keve) Aluma. We did a good job in game one, we're going to have to have a better even better effort in game two to defeat them. When they're on defense, they're really connected. They played tight off the ball. It's it's a big challenge. Not many teams go to Blacksburg and win. That's what we're aiming to do, and hopefully put ourselves in position in the last three or four minutes to be able to win the game.
(On how VT's Jalen Cone being out effects the complexion of what the Hokies do compared to the first game)
He obviously had a really good game, but they've won without him. He's had games where he hasn't shot as well, and Virginia Tech still won. They've played games recently without him, and they still won games. He's a very very tough cover. But, as evidenced by them hitting I think what 13 threes the other night against Wake Forest, we know that one guy isn't going to change their identity on the offensive end. Hunter Cantoor has won games on last second three point shots, he's playing more with the absence of Cone. They got a few guys off the bench that are contributing as well that didn't play against us the first time. With a team like Virginia Tech, you lose one player, your team doesn't fall apart or change its identity, and that's clearly evident.
(On his potential NCAA seed)
I don't care about that stuff. Where we stand on March 2nd is irrelevant. Where we stand on March 9th will be a lot more important. We have to worry about the task at hand, and not all the shifting sands of teams winning and losing, and scoreboard watching. Go out and earn it, and go out and try to win games against really good teams.
(On if his message to the team in regards to the VT game is different due to ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament implications)
It's not another game. The games you play in March are a lot more meaningful when you put yourself in a position that both Virginia Tech has and we have. That's great. You want to play for something. It's what you work for all offseason, and all throughout the season. We have a young team, we try to educate them on what they're playing for, but it's it's no bigger than just being able to execute those details that we talked about with Virginia Tech on the floor. Then the results, and how the results pan out in the larger context of different teams in the league, seedings for the conference tournament, that stuff will fall into place. We just have to worry about doing our best against a really good Virginia Tech team.
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