(Photo of Chris Mack: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Louisville utilized a pair of late free throws from JJ Traynor as well as a missed one from Seton Hall to thwart a late rally from the Pirates and capture a 71-70 victory at the KFC Yum! Center.
Here's what Louisville head coach Chris Mack had to say following the win:
I am proud of our guys. Were down so many players, I feel like we have more players that are hurt than healthy. For us to battle a veteran, older team; a tough team, a physical team and to watch our two freshmen, with J.J. (Traynor) and Dre (Davis), make some of the plays they did down the stretch and Sam going out. I know he injured his toe; I don't know any more right now but obviously he couldn't return. Really proud of our group. (Seton Hall) I gave them a lot of props for even playing the game. Kevin (Willard) is such a stand-up guy, he's a terrific coach, they have such an incredible culture of toughness and they're hard to play against. He goes 14 days and doesn't practice, there would be a lot of coaches to mail it in and say were not going to play any games until we get a few practices under our belt. We're really fortunate to win the game and move on to our next game on Sunday."
(About 30 or 40 seconds and what JJ (Traynor) with the back and the rebound and the two free throws.)
"We need him to because everyone that were playing isn't really experienced, so we need all of our guys to really grow up. It's one thing to have a game where you're playing really well all along and you've got a little confidence in yourself. I think JJ would tell you he was a little out of sorts, didn't play his best, didn't play as well as he did against Evansville and for him to have the presence of mind and the mental toughness to stay with it and make a couple plays down the stretch that allowed us to win the game. It says a lot about him, he's very quiet, his improvement has been rapid, and his ceiling is just absolutely through the roof. All we ask for JJ is don't let your physical strength be a negative, don't get bullied. He can play above the rim, he can finish around the basket, he can block shots; don't let your strength be a negative. It's one thing saying it and then you go up against Sandro (Mamukelashvili) and Ike Obiagu, just some big, tough, physical guys; it's a challenge. He really grew up."
(Twice in the last minute and a half to two minutes, they took a timeout, JJ was on Sandro and out of the timeout you put DJ (David Johnson) on Sandro (Mamukelashvili) and it really caught them off guard. What did you see with putting him on there and do feel like he did a good job?)
"Sandro to me is one of the multi-dimensional face-up forwards in the game. He can play the four and the five equally as well. He's a prospect at the pro-level, I think everybody knows that and he got it going there down the stretch and to say we want a freshman from Bardstown that only weighs 190 pounds to be on him at the end probably wasn't fair to JJ. He battled and did a great job, but David is a sophomore and some of our freshman that have turned sophomores it has to become a little more of their team. You take the lessons that David learned a year ago, can you apply them as a sophomore? I thought David did a great job. The thing is they are setting so many ball screens that the matchup that you want don't necessarily end up how you want them to look. We were just very, very fortunate that we saw a free throw go by the wayside there at the end."
(On Carlik's floor game)
"Carlik Jones is a very high IQ player, he uses his body great, and he changes speeds. We didn't even talk about the possibility of them running at him. It felt like Seton Hall's conditioning probably wasn't going to be great as they hadn't practiced for so long. They can throw a matchup zone at us which they did in a few possessions of the game. They can certainly ice the ball screen and push them to the side of the floor, but for him to have the presence of mind to hit Jae'Lyn (Withers), then for Jae'Lyn to make the right play, and the JJ (Traynor) to finish the basket, I've got a lot of trust with Carlik having the ball in his hands."
(On Carlik's rebounding knack)
"He really knows how to use his body and he is not afraid of anything. Because we were switching so many on the ball screens, a lot of the times he was rolling into the post or near the block guarding a four man. If he can keep that guy from getting the ball in the air… I do know that if it goes waist and below, he is going to be quicker to the ball then a four or five. Like a lot of high IQ players, he has a realty good nose for the ball. He just knows where the ball is going to ricochet to. He doesn't leak out, he's a tough kid, and he's been a rebounder his whole career with high school, Radford, and here. Eleven rebounds against a Seton Hall team and we needed all 11".
(On the last 10 minutes of the game)
"They are a good team. You play a team and you get up 10 to 12 points and they start to cave a little bit, that's not Seton Hall. That's not Kevin's (Willard) teams' identities and of course we knew that as a coaching staff. I'm coaching a lot of young players and they made some really tough plays with big time shots. The whole thing was don't let them in the lane and don't give them second shots, and they got a lot of second shots. Our kids are battling. You give credit to the other team. We're not having the ability to sub in a ton of players, so guys are trying to play through fatigue. Seton Hall is not going to quit. Equally impressive to me isn't necessarily them taking the lead, but our players' resiliency in that last three and a half minutes, after getting down after being up 10 or 12 to pull out a win, after we had given up the lead. But Seton Hall is not going to quit. I can tell you that."
(About the last foul at the end of the game)
"Yeah, that's my fault. I pulled David and Carlik over to the side and said to them there's five seconds left, if he makes it we are going to foul and if he misses it you don't want to put JJ in that situation where he's hearing his coach yell 'If he misses it'. So I brought David and Carlik over and told those guys that we want to reach the ball handler dribbling up the floor before half court. David was guarding his own match up Sandro who was way down the floor. Carlik was on the other side of the floor with a different match up and unfortunately I didn't do a good enough job getting the message to Quinn. You have to cover so much in the preseason, we always know as a coaching staff that we are going to foul. We should have practiced that, we should have had a call. Mike Roberts, the referee, looked at me and I just said yeah we are going to foul and I thought we would do it on the 65 feet as he was dribbling the ball up the floor and not on the exact time of the shot. That's on me and fortunately he missed his third free throw."
(About having patience with such a young team)
"We have a lot of experience when Carlik's got the ball in his hands, we really trust him to make the right play. David has learned and got better because he is around Carlik. He's really slowed down and he played much better today than he did against Evansville. But even Dave still has freshman moments like instead of driving the big guy, he stalled for the three-point shot wanting to be a little bit of the hero. Our experience level with the guys that have the ball in their hands is maybe greater than some of our parts, all the other guys. I was tremendously proud of our guys to be able to take that gut punch and keep responding. We talked about not giving up second shots. I looked over at our DBO (Director of Basketball Operations) at one point during the game and said 'Hey, whatever happens our guys are really starting to grow up'. What I'm not going to lower the expectation on is our ability to communicate and play hard. I'm sorry you played at Bardstown last year or you played at Warren Central, that's not my fault. You play at Louisville now, you came here and you want to compete for an ACC Championship. You have to be able to do things at a higher level than you've ever been held to.We're not going to lower our standards, we're banged up right now. I know I have to be patient on decisions. We are going to learn and we are going to watch film just like we did from Evansville and we got better. I'm going to be patient on some things and I'm going to be impatient on others."
(About the team's ability to block out and rebound)
"I just don't think we are physical enough on our block outs. I could be wrong, I think our guys tried to identify their man when the shot went up. Just because you know who is going to crash doesn't mean that you're physical enough. I know how Seton Hall plays, just their physicality, they're older, experienced players and their size. You saw it in the first four minutes of the game, just getting pushed aside and not going after the ball. They got a lot more offensive rebounds than we are used to giving up."
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