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.”