LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Chris Mack wants to see more intensity from his team, the coach said during a Monday press conference.
“I want to see a team that plays a little more passionate, plays a little bit harder,” Mack said. “We’ve had three really spirited practices leading up to tomorrow night, but the game hasn’t been played yet. So we’re going to have to be that team we’re searching for.”
The season opener against Nicholls State was too close for the Cards’ comfort, as the Colonels were within striking distance, down just two points with fewer than five minutes left the game, before Louisville pulled away for the 85-72 win.
“I want us to be a harder playing team than we were against Nicholls,” Mack said. "Our guys are thinking a little bit, we have a lot of ‘pleasers’, guys that want to do the right thing, we don’t have in any way shape or form guys that are fighting coaching. But this a new experience for them. The quicker we can make it comfortable and reactive, the better we’ll be. Regardless of how much we’re thinking, we need to play harder. We need to play with more fire and more energy."
Mack repeatedly emphasized that his team has had several ‘spirited’ practices in the days following the Nicholls State game.
Something he’s emphasized to the team is mental and physical toughness, and high expectations.
“One of the quotes we used as a coaching staff (at Xavier) is ‘never accept in victory, what you wouldn’t accept in defeat,’” Mack said. “Those things can be glaring when you lose a game, a missed block out, a missed assignment, being casual with the ball, turning it over when you get up 14. But are you accepting of that when you win a game? The message from our coaching staff is, we’re not.”
Mack said that toughness comes though drills of mental and physical ability, as well as a definite set of values for what will and won’t be accepted and valued from the coaching staff.
Coach Mack will be facing a familiar foe in Southern’s head coach Sean Woods. Woods and Mack faced off when he was at Xavier. Before his coaching days, Woods played at the University of Kentucky and was part of the “Unforgettables” team that lost to Duke and Christian Laettner in the 1992 NCAA tournament. Woods was later the coach at Morehead State, where he resigned after a scandal involving alleged assault of players.
“I know that Sean, obviously as a player was a great competitor and nothing has changed in that regard when he’s coaching,” Mack said. "His team at Morehead a couple years ago was really big, they played really hard. Although this is his first year and he’s only been there a few months, he’s got a big team, they play really hard, really physical, they try to pack the lane. I’ve got a lot of respect for Sean. I know he went through some stuff at Morehead State, and, like all of us hopefully learned from your experience and give him a second chance at coaching and makes the most of it.”
Tuesday night will be the first meeting between the two schools. According to UofL, the Cardinals have a 7-0 record against current members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The Cards and Jaguars are set for a 7 p.m. tip off.