Kentucky’s 90-61 demolition of Louisville last season is still lingering throughout the Cardinal fanbase, but head coach Chris Mack wants to make sure his players use that fire as revenge.
In his mind, if the competitive spirit doesn’t get his players hyped for the game, he doesn’t even want them on the team.
“As a competitor, if you haven’t internalized that and thought of that 90-61 ass whoopin’, I don’t want you on my team,” he said during his weekly press conference this afternoon.
Mack added that part of the reason he made the jump from Xavier to Louisville this past offseason is so he can participate in big-time matchups like the one we will see on Saturday afternoon.
“This is why you come to Louisville. To play in games like this,” he said.
But he knows it won’t be easy, especially when you factor in Kentucky’s most recent victory over North Carolina and his team’s defensive struggles in the paint.
“(It’s the) biggest challenge we’ve faced all year,” he said. “(With Kentucky’s talented big men) we’re going to have to do as good a job as we’ve done all year keeping the ball out of the paint.”
Beyond the specifics of the game, Mack knows it’s a big matchup for both fanbases in the start of a new era in the rivalry.
That’s why he encouraged UofL fans to give the Big Blue Nation a warm welcome during their drives into Louisville and at the Yum! Center. Kind of.
“When you’re driving on the Watterson or you’re driving on the Gene Snyder, and you see that Big Blue plate next to you, you just sort of keep staring straight ahead. Or you hit them from behind… I’m just kidding,” Mack said with a laugh.
In other game notes, Louisville starting point guard Christen Cunningham says he is “ready to go” tomorrow with no restrictions, despite sitting out last game with concussion-like symptoms.
“I feel good. I’m ready to go,” Cunningham said. “Everything’s good now. I don’t expect to have any restrictions tomorrow.”
With Cunningham out against Robert Morris last Friday, Louisville turned the ball over 16 times and trailed by eight points in the second half before coming back to win 73-59. A graduate transfer from Samford, the 6-foot-2 guard is currently averaging 8.6 points and 3.1 assists per contest.
It’s officially showtime, ladies and gentlemen.