Mack 'scrambling' as scheduling changes send Cards to Clemson

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- After Louisville's 70-65 win over Duke Saturday, the Cardinals weren't scheduled to play again until hosting Boston College on Saturday, and even that game was in doubt because the Eagles were paused due to coronovirus.


But that suddenly changed Monday morning when the Atlantic Coast Conference announced schedule changes that now have UofL (9-3, 5-2) playing two games in in the next week against different opponents than originally scheduled.


Ho-hum. Just another normal occurrence in this wacky pandemic-afflicted season.


BC's games at Clemson on Wednesday and Louisville on Saturday were officially postponed by the ACC. So now UofL will play at Clemson on Wednesday at 9:05 p.m. ET (Fox Sports South in Louisville) and will host Georgia Tech in the KFC Yum! Center next Monday at 2 p.m. (ACCN).


UofL had previously been scheduled to play at Clemson on March 3. Georgia Tech's visit was originally set for Jan. 9 but was postponed following a positive test in the Yellow Jackets' program. The unusual weekday tip time was necessary because UofL's top-ranked women's team will play No. 2 NC State Monday at 7 in the Yum! (ESPN2).


Louisville's game against NC State, which was postponed earlier this month, has not yet been rescheduled.


Clemson (9-4, 3-4) started fast. After losing its ACC opener to Virginia Tech (66-60), the Tigers won three in a row against Florida State (66-51), Miami (66-65) and NC State (74-70 OT), rising to 12th in both polls. But then came a pause for COVID-19 issues, and since they resumed play on Jan. 16 they haven't been the same, losing three in a row by an average of 24 points -- to Virginia (85-50), Georgia Tech (83-65) and Florida State (80-61).


On the weekly ACC Zoom conference Monday, Louisville coach Mack downplayed the disadvantage of meeting Clemson five weeks earlier than expected since the Tigers are in the same predicament.


"Probably the same challenges that Clemson has," Mack said. "You're scrambling. You're trying to get as much information in your brain to be able to relate that to your players at 2:30 this afternoon. We've preached all year long about flexibility and versatility and it is certainly needed when a game that was scheduled in March gets thrown on your plate on January 27. But we're excited to play, knowing that otherwise we'd have a lot of days off."


Georgia Tech has gone in the opposite direction from Clemson, winning three of its last four and leading Virginia almost all the way before falling 64-62 Saturday in Charlottesville. That was the start of a brutal stretch for the Jackets that features four games in 10 days against four of the best teams in the ACC, three of them on the road. Sandwiched between the Virginia and Louisville games are a road test at Duke (5-5, 3-3) and a home game in Atlanta with No. 16 Florida State (8-2, 4-1), the hottest team in the league.


Two other revisions, both minor, have occurred on UofL's schedule. The Cards' Feb. 17 game against Syracuse will start at 6:30 p.m. and be televised on ACCN, a half-hour earlier than its original tip time. UofL's Feb. 13 game at Virginia Tech will also be televised by ACCN after being originally planned for an ESPN or ESPN2 telecast.


MICHIGAN SHUTDOWN OF NO CONCERN


Also on the subject of the pandemic, with Michigan shutting down its entire athletic department after positive tests for the new strain of COVID that is approximately 50 percent more transmittable, Mack was asked if he had concerns about UofL's program in that regard.


"Michigan made the call they felt was in the best interest of their student athletes, as we would," he said. "But I don't know enough about the regular variant. . .just try to do my deal and stay socially distant, wash my hands, all protocols we've been following. Our players have tried to do the same. That's about it. I have bigger things to worry about, or maybe I should say, smaller things."


JOHNSON WAS READY TO INFLICT PAIN ON HURT


The subject of David Johnson's defense against Duke's leading scorer, Matthew Hurt, also came up in the brief interview session and Mack expanded on Johnson's progress on defense. He noted that the sophomore guard already had endured a trial by fire when he was put on Seton Hall 7-footer Mamukelashvilli in UofL's 71-70 win on Nov. 27. The Pirates' forward got 22 points and 10 rebounds.


"David is our best defensive player," Mack said. "Outside of playing against a true post, 6-10, 6-11, back-to-the-basket guy, we feel like David's capable of playing really anybody defensively. He's grown up from a year ago. He's strong and he's 6-5, so he has good size and quickness. He's also really long and he's a high IQ player.


"Matthew had it going on and we didn't feel anybody could be better than David," Mack said. "David's been in that moment before, guarding talented players. Sandro is a big, left-handed senior who's an unbelievable player, first team All-Big East guy. So we felt like David wouldn't get overpowered on the box, and at the same time, there's no real advantage that Hurt has on David on the perimeter. That's why we settled on him."


Johnson justified his coach's confidence by holding Hurt to just four of his 24 points in the final 18 minutes of the game.


CARDS RETURN TO TOP 25--UofL jumped from the Others receiving votes in both polls Monday to No. 25 in the Associated Press rankings and No. 23 in the USA TODAY Coaches ratings. Uof L was ranked as high as No. 16/18 before dropping out last week following its battering by Florida State. Three other ACC teams are ranked -- No. 9/t8 Virginia, No. 16 Florida State and No. 20-19 Virginia Tech.


JONES ON COUSY AWARD LIST


UofL grad transfer Carlik Jones landed another honor Monday when he was selected as one of the top 10 candidates for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award presented by the Neismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


Jones ranks third in the ACC in both scoring (18.4 ppg) and assists (4.8) while also averaging 56. rebounds, and he has 13 steals in his last five games. Against Duke Jone had 24 points, three assists and two steals and scored the Cards' last eight points in the final 1:50 and 11 of its last 13.


The other nine players on the list are Jared Butler, Baylor; McKinley Wright IV, Colorado; Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton; Scottie Barnes, Florida State; John Suggs, Gonzaga; Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois; Marcus Carr, Minnesota; Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State; and Collin Gillespie, Villanova.


In late February, five finalists will be presented to Cousy and the Hall of Fame's selection committee. The winner will be announced on April 9, along with the other four members of the Men's Starting Five. No UofL guard has ever won the award. Last year's winner was Oregon's Payton Pritchard.


Earlier this month, Jones was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch List, and he was the MVP of the Wade Houston Classic that tipped off the Cards' season.


COACH K LIKES LOUISVILLE 'CROWD'


With fans barred from Duke's home games in Cameron Indoor Stadium, coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was refreshing to play in front of 3,000 in the Yum! Center, even though the Blue Devils suffered their third straight loss, all on the road.


"You're happy to be at home, but the buzz and excitement are not alive and well when there's no fans," Krzyzewski said on the ACC call. "It was kind of nice at Louisville that there were some fans, but I don't fault our administration for not having them. Obviously, not getting on planes and buses and going to a hotel three times in a week, it's good to be back home in that regard and to play in Cameron. This should be a thing where losing three in a row and coming home, our fans would go nuts in support of these kids and that's a missing element this season."


The Cards will visit Cameron on Feb. 27 seeking its third win in a row over the Blue Devils and adding to a unique feat. During Coach K's 46-year tenure, UofL is the only school with a winning record over Duke -- in a minimum of nine games -- at 8-6 (.571). Next by winning percentage is North Carolina (.473, 44-49). Among other ACC schools, the best record are held by Syracuse (.357, 5-9), Wake Forest (.313, 25-55) and NC State (.309, 25-56).


QUOTABLE--Coach K: "I thought we were the most competitive we've been on Saturday. It was a very tough loss. I felt so bad for them. You try to keep them up because they've kept us up. We've lost in the past and thank goodness we've won a helluva lot more than we've lost, but it's not fun. We're gonna keep working at it."

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