(Photo of Chris Mack: Michael Clevinger - Atlantic Coast Conference Pool)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Louisville opened up the 2020-21 college basketball season with a commanding 79-44 victory over the Evansville Purple Aces in their season opener at the KFC Yum! Center.
Here's what Louisville head coach Chris Mack had to say following the win:
"I would tell you that it was a typical first night and first game. Early on, in the first five or six minutes, we were a little jumpy. We took a couple quick shots, a couple turnovers through charges, but I thought after that our guys settled down on the offensive end. Defensively, I thought we were pretty good until the last five or six minutes. Fatigue, we were playing a little wild lineup with a lot of big guys out on the floor, but we've got to learn how to finish games better. They're going to come fast and furious these games, and obviously we have a big game on Friday against Seton Hall. We've got to put this one to rest and we will talk about it a little bit with our team tonight and then turn the page and start talking about Seton Hall on Friday."
(On 263 days between the last game and now – how did it feel be out there?)
"It felt great. I'd be lying if I said it felt the same. It's going to be strange for a little while and I heard on an NFL broadcast the other day that they were talking about how the head coaches and players said it was very different to play in an empty stadium. Concentration lapses and the ability to stay focused all the way through when there's nobody in the stands. Hearing everything that's said on the floor is just different, but it felt great, nevertheless. It was good to see our guys play against someone different. They've been doing workouts since June, one-on-one and three-on-three, I know they are sick of playing against one another and quite honestly I'm sick of watching them get hurt against one another."
(On Carlik Jones' game)
"It's what we've come to expect. I don't know what the numbers will be each and every game. There are going to be certain games where teams really try and take him away and deny his touches where he's going to have to work a lot harder than he did tonight. But, he has a really good poise about him, and he can create his own shot and shots for other players at any point in time. We just have to make sure, not only Carlik, but our entire roster, are able to play these five games in such a short period of time. That's why we are trying to get him out there in the second half, but as it's been reported he is going to be one of our best players if not our best player."
(On the starting point defensively)
"I thought did a great job at scouting an opponent that we hadn't seen all year. The last time we saw them was in the Missouri Valley Tournament and obviously some conference games from a year ago. Much like us, they lost their top five scorers. It felt like Coach Lickliter would come out and run a lot of similar actions, so we prepared for that here over the last two to three days. I thought early, early on we weren't communicating our switches well enough. We did not want to give Kuhlman wide-open threes and then I thought as the first half went on, we did a much better job of communicating switches. We carried that over to the beginning of the second half and like I said, the last six minutes I'm not really excited about how we played defensively."
(On JJ Traynor and Dre Davis)
"I couldn't be happier for those two. Number one, I feel bad for them because, as we know, that's not what the Yum Center on opening night normally looks like. Let's cross our fingers that a year from now when those two are sophomores, we are going to have a much greater experience for them. But, how they've worked and acclimated themselves as freshmen, as teammates, and understanding the game, I have a lot of confidence in both of them. They're going to face different tests as we move forward, starting on Friday. Dre is just very solid. It seems like every kid I get from Indianapolis really knows how to play the game. If JJ was 20 pounds heavier and stronger, he would be one of the better players in our conference in the frontcourt. For him to not miss a shot, he's the ideal man for a guy like Carlik and David for lobs in a pick and roll. He runs the floor, he's a great finisher around the basket, and when he gets stronger, he's even going to get better. I'm really happy with both of those guys and they are a big part of our team already as freshmen."
(On David Johnson's foul trouble)
"I talked to David, just a few moments ago in the locker room about just that. His first foul, he gets a charge. The second foul, the guy's on the sideline, in the deep corner and all he's trying to do is dribble the ball out and restart the offense. He's not really threatening our defense, he's not trying to score, he's not trying to free up a teammate with his dribble… he's just trying to dribble it up to the top of the key and get offense running. Dave's got to have better awareness of the situation – a lot of awareness. Number one, you're one of our few guards right now that are healthy – we need you in the game. To take yourself out with two fouls… and we were still going to play him in the first half, like we did with two, but you shouldn't even be in that position, bumping a guy who is dribbling the ball up the sideline just to throw it back out top. The third foul was a tough one, because communicated the switch out to Dave and when he did that, he pushed Dave out there to try to get to the shooter and pushed Dave into the shooter. So, it's a little bit of Murphy's Law on that one, but, hey, Dave's got to play better. There are going to be times every guy on our team is going to have two fouls, they're going to go to the bench, there's going to be a lot of time left in the first half. And how attuned are they to the game? Can they keep their head in the game? Can they come back in and seamlessly do what they need to do on both ends of the floor and us not feel like this guy's lost for the game, or he's out of it mentally. And I don't think Dave did a very good job of that. I think he got back in and pressed a little bit in the second half. I think he didn't play very well, he turned the ball over. I think he started the second half a little better. But we've come to expect a lot more out of Dave, he's been so much better at practice, so I don't have a concern, but would I have liked him not to commit some of those fouls? Absolutely, but despite him committing them, I still think that he should have played better and kept his head in the game and been more of a positive when he got back into the game, especially in the second half when he started the half with three fouls."
(With numerous schools playing without spectators, are you encouraged that this model can work and may lead to larger crowds in time?)
"I sure hope so. Here's the thing, our season is going to stretch out until March, April – obviously April is what we all wish for. But with the vaccine going to essential workers in December in some places, let's hope that over time, maybe some of the rules get relaxed, maybe some of the lockdowns or restrictions that are being put in place both here in Kentucky, Ohio, other states around the country that if the curve sort of flattens a little bit, maybe we go back to what we looked like before, and I'm talking about two or three months ago. But we're in the winter and I'm so sick of the phrase 'uncharted territory,' but that's where we're at."
(On Samuel Williamson and his health)
"Sam's practiced the last week and a half or so and no restrictions. He hasn't come out of certain drills, but he's just really trying to get his wind back. It's not just a Sam issue, but really a team issue the first three, four, five minutes which are the feeling out process. Being on the game floor for the very first time against an opponent that you think you know what they're going to do, but we have no film on their team this year. I thought once he got his legs under him, the game sort of rode out. I thought he played much better as time went on and played with a lot more poise. He has to cut down on his turnovers and half of them were charges. If you charge, you're usually sped up whether you're on the post or on the perimeter. As a sophomore, I would like to think that Sam will be a lot more composed as time goes on. He played well tonight."
(On taking charges and how that affects the game)
"I think your better defensive teams punish people when they drive the ball to the basket. I'm disappointed that we did not have more. Because, I thought we were getting beat, especially in the second half off the dribble, a little too much. Carlik [Jones] is not afraid and to take a charge and do what he did at the end of the first half, we need more guys to do that. I think Dave [Johnson] took one and again two of our primary playmakers sacrificing their bodies. We need more guys to get in position. We should be a team that's trying to get four or five charges a game. It's a small start, but it's an expectation in our program and something that we're going to focus on trying to get and earn during games."
(On his thoughts at the center position)
"We have four guys that are playing the five. I thought the best out of all four of them tonight was . I thought he was really active, and he communicated his switches out. I think he only got beat off the dribble, by their point guard, one time off a switch. He'll get better with experience, so I thought he did a terrific job - heads and shoulders above those other guys. Jae'Lyn [Withers] relaxes too much for me to get excited and compliment him on here. He's got to be way better for us. I realize that this is his first collegiate game, so I have to cut him some slack. I've watched him now for a year and he has all the tools, but the world is full of people that have tools and don't use them. It's my job to get him to understand that he needs to use them and he needs to be a heck of a lot better on both ends of the floor and not relax when he gives the ball up. Aidan [Igiehon] and Gabe [Wiznitzer]were behind a little bit. I thought Aidan did some good things and Gabe did as well, but their action was obviously limited in comparison to both Jae'Lyn and JJ."
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