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Chris Mack sees UK as “elite defensive team”

PJ Washington and teammates had a lot to smile about Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Louisville coach Chris Mack could not have been happy with the way his team played in Saturday’s 71-58 loss to Kentucky at the Yum Center Saturday.

But give him credit for being willing to give Kentucky credit for the way it played in this rivalry.

“I thought they’ve turned the corner a little bit from the beginning of the year to now. They’ve improved dramatically,” Mack said.

He’s exactly right, too. Louisville had just 12 turnovers and got outrebounded only 34-33 and limited Reid Travis and PJ Washington to a combined 14 points but still never was close enough to win the last 30 minutes of the game.

“I thought our kids played hard. I thought we played hard,” Mack said.  “I think those statistics we harped on a lot before leading up — 50/50 balls, not getting ducked in, being able to take care of the ball, but offensively we were out of sorts. A lot of that has to do with their length, their athleticism and not just from the point guard position.

“Obviously he’s (Ashton Hagans) a hell of a disruptor. I thought even in the beginning, PJ Washington a couple of times, he switched on the our two-guard and he causes turnovers, he blocked a shot from the perimeter.”

Mack called Kentucky an “elite defensive team,” something that didn’t seem possible when UK got pounded by Duke by 34 points to start the season. But that was then and this is now.

Louisville shot just 36 percent from the field and missed 15 of 20 3-pointers after hitting three straight to open the game. Kentucky also blocked eight shots.

“Not making shots, you’d like to make some. I thought, again, a few of them got blocked. We’ve got to test your IQ on that. If you’re taking a shot that’s getting blocked… they’ve got incredible makeup ability with their athleticism. Execution was very poor. Kentucky had a lot to do with that,” Mack said.

The Louisville coach said the Cardinals even had trouble making entry passes and often started the offense 37 or more feet away from the basket.

“It just totally puts you out of sorts. Whether it’s a ball screen, or screening action it’s so far away from the basket, it’s irrelevant at that point. And that happened like four or five times,” Mack said. “On the plays that we did execute, give their guys credit. They called out screening actions, they did a really good job of taking away some of the set plays that we were able to execute.”

Mack felt most of his team’s 3-point shots were good looks

“Their length and athleticism, their ability to challenge a shot is a little bit different from other teams that you play,” Mack said. “I’ve really got to watch the tape, but my overall impression was I just felt like we were a little bit impatient, because it’s hard to crack that nut to get in the lane against a team that’s got great athleticism and great length.”

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  1. KY is better defensively, but its too early to say they are “elite”. Keeping turnovers to a single digit also helps. Lets see how the new look Cats do in SEC play.

  2. The word “elite” is a very premature label to put on this team at this time. We have a couple of bigs that have length and athleticism that could push us in that direction, but they lack the heart and will to contribute to the team. This is not the first year that apathy has resided on the bench, but Cal has been attracting a disproportionate share the last few years. He said he isn’t mad but will try and use minutes and performance for motivators. Richards has regressed, at least offensively, since he has been here and E.J. doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to show that he belongs.

  3. What to do, what to do ??
    Should I honor the opinion of a professional college football coach who’s ten years of coaching experience has never produced a losing season and has won over 220 games in that timeframe or our own couch coach Mikey who’s apparent experience is somewhat questionable? Heard that he does flip a decent burger however.
    Decisions, decisions !!

  4. “I thought they’ve turned the corner a little bit from the beginning of the year to now. They’ve improved dramatically,” Mack said.

    Curious, I think there is a significant difference between turning a corner a “little bit” and improving “dramatically.”

    My eyes tell me this team has improved significantly. I think most eyes see that.

    Here are some metrics to consider regarding the change.

    1.) The ANE after the first 5 games was a pitiful 0.095 ppp. The worst of the Calipari Era. Based on the history, this slow start did not support a view that this team would be a championship contender in March. Actually, this start forecast quite the opposite.
    2) The ANE through 12 games stands at 0.205 ppp. This is significantly above the trend line that would have been established by the results through the first 5 games, which eliminates the historical relationships out the window for this team.
    3) The average ANE for games 6 through 12 (throwing the first 5 games out the window) is currently 0.288 ppp. This puts this team into a position to be a legitimate final four challenger.

    The third point requires cherry picking the data by eliminating from consideration, a practice that I do not condone, and do not practice. However, the difference between how this team played games 1-5 (actually 1-6), and 6 through 12 is so stark that the old “night and day” analogy does not do this change justice.

    When this team travels to Alabama on Saturday to start the SEC, I will be watching closely. The season long numbers for both teams indicates a 4 point UK advantage, 77-73. However, the numbers for games 6-12 indicate a double digit UK win at Alabama. Will it be single digits or double digits on Saturday?

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