LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Here's what coach Chris Mack liked the most after watching his first Red-White intrasquad scrimmage by his Louisville basketball team Sunday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center:
"Nobody got hurt and we'll live to fight another day," he said with a grin at the start of his post-game press conference.
It's probably not quite that simple, but Mack made it clear before the game that, with just 10 scholarship players - along with four walk-ons - keeping his thin squad healthy was a top priority because the Cards' early-season schedule is arguably the toughest they have ever faced.
They'll play Tennessee, Michigan State and either Kansas or Marquette in November, then hit the road for games at Indiana and Seton Hall in the first week of December, so a healthy team going into the season is imperative.
Mack didn't even have his club play a full 40-minute game. Instead, there was a 20-minute half, a 15-minute halftime and then a 10-minute period with a running clock.
More from Mack shortly, but first some basics. Led by junior V.J. King, sophomore Jordan Nwora and redshirt junior Steven Enoch, the White team defeated the Red team 55-41, with Christen Cunningham doing the most damage for the White team.
King led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, and had five rebounds.
As the score indicates, the scrimmage was heavy on defense. The White team didn't score a fast-break point, but shot 48.8 percent overall and 44.4 percent from 3-point range while notching 24 of its points in the paint.
"We didn't take bad shots for the most part and we took care of the ball for the most part," Mack said. "I think we have to get a little bit louder defensively than we were today. Being able to keep the ball in front of us and make teams take challenged shots, I think, is job number one for our team."
Nwora finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but drew mixed reviews from Mack, who said he wants to see defensive improvement and pointed out Nwora's lack of focus and urgency on offense accounted for four of the White's eight turnovers.
"Jordan is an extremely explosive scorer," Mack said. "But he also, through the first eight minutes, had three turnovers. Those three turnovers are because he was casual, and that's something I don't want him to be. He can mean a whole lot to this team, but he has to be great at both ends of the floor."
The 6-10 Enoch added 10 points and eight rebounds for the winners, while Cunningham - a graduate transfer from Samford - scored 15 on 6-of-7 shooting to pace the Reds.
"When he was out there, I thought he tried to make the right play," Mack said of the 6-2 Cunningham.
Sophomore Malik Williams (6-11), going head-to-head against Enoch much of the time, finished with 11 points and six rebounds, prompting Mack to suggest that he needs to practice more like he played in the scrimmage.
"Malik told on himself a little bit," Mack said. "I think Malik can be a better practice player based on what I saw today. He's got the ability to stretch the defense, but I don't want him to be just a pick-and-pop five. You can find those guys anywhere. He's got to be able to affect things at the rim on both ends of the floor. He missed a couple of bunnies around the basket, but I thought it was a pretty good day all in all."
The Cards will return to action Sunday at 2 p.m. when they host Bellarmine in an exhibition game.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college basketball and football for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org