Cardinals must be “mentally tough enough” to win at Rupp Arena

Nick Richards against Louisville in 2018. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

If experience wins, then Louisville should be a really heavy favorite to beat Louisville today.
Coach Chris Mack’s Cardinals start three fifth-year seniors and two juniors. Kentucky, which is older than normal, starts three sophomores, one junior and a freshman.

Louisville coach Chris Mack says despite UK’s recent struggles that the Cats will be the most athletic team the Cardinals have played. Louisville has wins over Michigan and Miami (Fla.) and has lost to Texas Tech. The game is also being played in Rupp Arena where the Cards are 0-6 against UK coach John Calipari.

“It’s not going to be an easy environment. It’s going to be a challenge, one that I hope we’re up for,” Mack said.

What must Louisville do to win?

“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.

“To not blink when the other team goes on a run and the roof comes off because that happens in other team’s buildings. To be mentally tough enough to deal with a run and respond, that’s what we are going to have to do to win.”

Kentucky has dropped to 19th in the national rankings after losing to Utah and Ohio State in Las Vegas last week. However, Mack didn’t back of his praise of the Cats.

“They can make plays both on and off the ball. They are extremely impressive. They strike in transition, they try to turn you over. They have a history of blocking shots. Going from defense to offense extremely quick,” Mack said.

Louisville’s defense is geared to keep teams from getting open perimeter shots. Both Utah and Ohio State basically dared UK to shoot open shots from outside and only Nate Sestina against Ohio State could hit 3-point shots. His teammates were 4-for-32 from 3-point range in those two games. The Wildcats are making 4.4 3-pointers per game and shooting just 27.8 percent from long range.

“We don’t change based on who we play,” Mack said. “We are going to try to keep the ball in front of us and contest shots whether you’re a 50-percent 3-point shooter or 25-percent.”

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