Chris Mack doesn’t think anyone has an upper hand in the annual rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky. The Louisville men’s basketball coach believes experience helps in rivalry games, but teams earn what they get on the floor.
Louisville tips off against Kentucky at Rupp Arena Dec. 28 in its final non-conference game of the regular season. The third-ranked Cardinals start three fifth-year seniors and two juniors compared to three sophomores, a junior and a freshman for the 19-ranked Wildcats, but experience won’t be everything.
Mack thinks Kentucky is the most athletic team Louisville will play this season. Louisville is winless in six games at Rupp Arena with John Calipari as Kentucky’s head coach.
“It’s not going to be an easy environment,” Mack said. ‘It’s going to be a challenge, one that I hope we’re up for.”
Louisville wants to be aggressive against Kentucky, something Mack didn’t think his team was in last year’s 71-58 loss at the KFC Yum! Center.
“Being strong with the ball on the offensive end, strong with our decision making,” Mack said. “Relentless on the glass on both ends of the floor and not for three or four minutes at a time, but 40 minutes.”
Mack said players come to Louisville to compete on the biggest stages and play in meaningful games. He doesn’t think there has to be any extra motivation for rivalry games.
He said his team has to be mentally tough to handle the road environment.
“To not blink when the other team goes on a run and the roof comes off because that happens in other team’s buildings,” Mack said. “To be mentally tough enough to deal with a run and respond, that’s what we are going to have to do to win.”