(Photo of David Johnson: Scott Utterback via the Atlantic Coast Conference)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Thanks in part to Carlik Jones' 19 second half points, Louisville broke their two-game losing streak with a nail-biting 70-65 win over Duke.
Here's what Louisville head coach Chris Mack had to say following the win:
"Obviously a nail bitter and it came down to the last few possessions. I thought Carlik had the ability to get in the lane and did a good job of containing the ball and gapping off people that we needed to gap off of. They got a really good look at it with DJ Steward at the top, but it was off of a scrambled situation. It was one of those things where an offensive rebound got kicked out and at that point, guys are just trying to rotate out and scramble. I'm really thankful that he missed the shot. Some things that stuck out. I thought David Johnson's defense on Matthew Hurt was exceptional. Just watching him in games, prior to ours, any time Matt had a guard on him, if a team switched a ball screen or if they had a smaller player, they would post him up. They posted Quinn up to start the second half and a couple of mistakes by Quinn with a couple great plays by Matt, we didn't feel comfortable continuing to go down that route. Then, Quinn got another foul, so we put David on him. I don't know how many times he touched the ball in the post, but it couldn't have been more than one or two for the last 15 minutes or so. We're very fortunate because he's a special offensive player. One of the coaches was saying, 'Who do you want to put on him? You want to put Dre, Quinn, Sam, David on him?' I said, 'The shots he hit in the first half, it doesn't matter who we put on him.' He's got such a high release and extreme confidence, but obviously in the second half we didn't allow him to post up with David being on him. I thought that was a huge deal. Carlik being to get into the lane, draw fouls, and knock his free throws in really clenched the game. I thought our guys off the ball, on guys that we felt were more drivers… we really did a good job of keeping the defense tight. That's what we needed to do in order to win the game. The last thing I'll say is I felt like they were one of the best offensive rebounding teams in our league. They were averaging over 13 offensive rebounds and to hold them to six, we did the job there. It's hard, you lose a couple of games in a row and you have young players. They want to win, and their habits aren't what they need to be yet, but for them so have the resiliency and the fight to come out against Duke and get a win, we're excited and we'll take it."
(On how big of a game this was)
"It's big and every ACC game is a big win. You are always going to play against some players that you recruited. No matter what team you play in this league, there's always a guy that got away because this is a high-levels players league. Nobody has more high-level players than Duke, albeit they're some young kids. You watch a guy like Joey Baker for example, he's not necessarily their premiere guy and he comes in and bangs a three and does it like he's as comfortable as he is at a rec center. It's a big win for our team. Would it have been the end of the world if we lost? No, because I really like our fight. I told our staff I would've felt like a Cincinnati Bengals coach after a loss because we weren't playing for another seven days, which is a long time in college basketball to sit on an L. Happy that we were fortunate enough to be on the winning side."
(On the next 'play mentality' today)
"You get a couple of buckets in a row and you feel like it's a six-point game, then it's a turnover three, and Duke's that program that's not going to quit. They are going to make big-time plays. That's really important for our team, the next play mentality. Not getting too high or too low in this league is really important and our young guys are certainly learning that. My biggest thing after our Florida State loss was this, there are certain things that don't require a skill level that should be non-negotiable. Running back defensively as hard as you can and telling your teammates who you are matching up to. Sometimes we focus on a missed shot that we just had, a missed opportunity of an offensive rebound that went out of my hands, the frustration maybe of the play where a ball should be gotten swung. Instead of being in the present moment of 'I've got to run hard and sprint back and do things that don't require effort. Our minds, as a newer player is on the wrong things. I don't know if we took a step up, we were better. I just think that is a non-negotiable. When you play at this level, you have to be able to do things that don't require skill and require effort. I thought our guys had effort today."
(On calling a timeout after a second half score)
"I don't necessarily plan that I want to get a timeout after a score. If a team goes on a run where they score every time, they go down the floor and we aren't doing things correctly…certainly, every coach when a team goes on an 8-0 run is going to call a timeout. An 8-8 run where you don't get one defensive stop and you're really screwed up or whatever it is. We've got three in our pocket coming out of halftime and we must make sure that we are functioning on all cylinders the right way in my opinion. I'm just comfortable with that. I'm not going to say we are fine because we're not fine. Now the ball doesn't go in the basket a few times in a row and we keep doing the same things defensively, we're going to find ourselves in a deficit. That was my approach and for us, defense has to be first."
(There was a possession in the second half when they were trying to post up Hurt and Williamson and Johnson would not let them throw to the post. Is that something you've been working on? That's an effort play, you've got to be proud of that.)
"Effort and awareness. We knew that Duke, especially if they go two or three times down the floor without a score, they're going to put Hurt on the block. If they could pin down and have him post up after they pin down, they could backscreen him in there or they could ball screen and roll him in there. That was a huge emphasis. As you saw in the first half, if he touches the ball and he's got such a high release that once he gets above his chin, it's going in, or it's going up at least and today it was going in. We knew once the guard was on him with David they were going to try to post him, because he doesn't have necessary the quickness matchup with David on the perimeter. I thought David did a phenomenal job and collectively, that's Duke's lowest point total of the year. I think 67 was the lowest coming in and so Jalen Johnson's back and although he didn't have a great game, getting them back to full strength and for us to hold them to 65, I'm proud of our guys' effort."
(Carlik, to hit those free throws after playing 40 minutes, that says something about... that's got to be a little fatigue factor in there and he just played right through everything.)
"I don't worry about Carlik in the pivotal moments of the game. I was really shocked, to be quite honest, that he missed that chippy layup after he got all the way down there. I'm sure he'd like to have that one back, I'm used to that thing going in. But he's a gamer, he's been that way his whole life, and this level, this stage, doesn't affect that."
(What's the conversation between you and your staff? Mike has no timeouts left, you're up three, and then you call the timeout. How did you weigh that up to decide to take the timeout there?)
"Well, I want you to think about this: Some of the end game situations where Hunter Cattoor for Virginia Tech got a three-point shot really uncontested, although it was further out. It was the lack of communication again. Young players, inexperienced guys, in that moment. At the end of the Kentucky game, they get a look right in front of the bench, because we don't match up properly. And so I would rather him draw something up that we have to defend to make sure that our guys know maybe we're switching handoffs and ball screens., what they may run, and that first shots, a lot of times don't beat you, second shots do, which almost happened today with DJ Steward. So, almost like the dad that walks out on the baseball field during T-ball and tells his son where to run from first to second. That was my entrance stage left."
(You touched on it. After all the discussion that you mentioned on the bench, why did you finally decide to put David Johnson on [Matthew] Hurt?)
"Just felt like Hurt was really hurting us, ironically, in the first half with his perimeter game. I know that he scored a couple buckets around the basket. But we didn't necessarily feel like anybody could be better than David. David's been in that moment before, guarding talented players around the basket. When we played Seton Hall, if you remember Sandro, the big left-handed senior who's an unbelievable player, first team all-Big East guy. David did the best job. And so, we felt like David wouldn't get overpowered on the box, and at the same time, there's no real advantage that Hurt has on David on the perimeter. That's why we settled on him."
(He had 20 of their first 40 points. You had a timeout, I think at 17:13. Was that when you made the switch and what concerns did you have given the four inch, and 25 pound difference?)
"I don't know if that was the exact possession that we did the switch, we could have done it on the fly. But it was certainly discussed over and over in the huddle because if David's fronting, they have a height advantage. And we didn't want the ball to be lobbed over David's head with no weak-side help. So, as important as it was for David to give great effort, awareness on some of the things they were going to run for Hurt, we felt like it was just as important for guys off the ball in the help side to have great recognition that they're going to try to post David. Sam was mentioned before by Bob, so I'm not sure if it was the exact time, but I know we discussed it at length in the timeout. Again, I think defense, it's a lot of your heart and your IQ. David has a lot of both. And so while we gave up on inches, we also felt like we won the quickness battle if he even tried to go on the perimeter, which is where he was killing us in the first half."
(As a quick follow up, it looked like you gave JJ Traynor a couple of minutes on him, I assume just to give David a break. Was that the thinking?)
"Yeah, the issue I think during that time was they actually moved Hurt to the five. Primarily the entire game, he was playing the four when Jalen Johnson was in, when Jaemyn Brakefield went in, when their grad transfer went in for a minute, Patrick Tape. But that was what happened at that point. JJ was the five. It was quickly, the ball handed in and JJ just matched up to their biggest player. I think Wendell Moore was playing the four."
(Given the youth of the team how important was it to get this win today?)
"It's not the end-all. I hate saying that we have young players, because I feel like, outwardly, you've got a copout. Every team in our league has a lot of young players - it just does. The guys in blue today had a lot of young players. But with that, you battle inconsistency. You battle not establishing habits that you quite want, especially throughout the summer. There are some possessions where you sort of get frustrated, but you know that it's reality. Did we want to win? Absolutely. We put everything we could in to win it, but had we not, again, being able to learn from failure… I know in today's age 'failure's not an option… win every game…' but our guys are growing. It's nice, as their coach, to see them have success when they put in the time and effort that they are, but it doesn't guarantee success. The only thing we can do is continue to control our effort and our attitude and again try to continue to establish those habits."
(Was Josh Nickelberry healthy today?)
"Yeah, he's fine. I chose to put Charles (Minlend) in ahead of Josh. I thought Charles has really served his time away to try to get back from his injury. I still have confidence in Josh. Right now, Charles went in ahead of him. We've got a lot of practices before we play the next game, nothing's in cement. We started a different lineup today. So, if that bothers you too much, then you're not going to have the response that we're looking for. If it does bother you and you go out and do something about it, then you'll earn that opportunity to play."
(On the new lineup today, what led to that decision?)
"I told our team in the locker room after the Florida State game, that I was going to start the guys that I felt like were the most effective in practice. And so, that's who I started – the guys I felt like were more effective in practice. Anytime you go from being a starter to coming off the bench… it's how you take it. I remember my years at Xavier, I had a kid named James Posey who went from starting to sixth man and had a 14-year NBA career and won a couple of world titles, so it worked out for him. You can either be accepting and go out and play with vim and vigor and do your thing, or you can feel sorry for yourself. I thought that Sam (Williamson) did a great job today. I thought he brought great energy, he got six rebounds. I thought his defense was way better than it's been, especially the second half. And so, nothing's in cement… we've got a lot of practices between now and when we play again. And so, again with a young team, we don't necessarily have a Jordan Nwora who has been a three-year starter. We don't have guys who have been here three or four years. And that's okay, so we're going to continue to build those habits, put out the guys that we feel are most effective in practice."
(On Malik Williams – how crazy does it make him to have to be in sweat for these games and is he getting anywhere close to playing?)
"I hope that it drives him crazy. I don't want there to be acceptance and complacency of 'I'm the guy that sits out.' I know that sounds weird, but having been a guy who went through a couple of ACLs and sat out two-and-a-half straight years, you sort of get used to being that guy on the side. I know he's getting anxious. He continues to do things each and every day that don't require him to be in a boot. He's still nowhere ready to start practice. I think when we turn to February we'll be closer to that. My hope is that we have him sometime mid-February, but as I said last game, I still don't know when that exact time will be. He's doing everything he can to get his body in great shape. Playing shape is different from cardiovascular, but we're working on that cardiovascular on the bike, in the weight room, everything we can do to ease that transition."
(On Jae'Lyn Withers' play in the second half, and is it comforting to know you have a guy like Carlik Jones who can take over a game?)
"I've got to do more to get Jae'Lyn a little bit more effective – I shouldn't say 'effective' just a little bit more usage. He's certainly not your typical center, and we've to be able to try take advantage of that. He's really having an excellent year for a redshirt freshman. He really is. I'm really hard on Jae'Lyn in practice, he probably thinks I don't like him. But he's got so much potential. He basically sits out the first 16 minutes at Miami (Florida)and gets 18 and 12. He's in lala land the first three minutes and we bench him the next 12 or 13. Tonight he did some great things. And to answer you question, yeah, it's really comforting to have a guy who can make some plays like Carlik can down the stretch."
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