The Hard Truth: Louisville Basketball Edition

In this edition of The Hard Truth we will be looking at a few of the revelations that became apparent in last Friday’s loss to Furman and what I need to see from both Interim Head Coach Mike Pegues as well as the players tonight versus upset minded Navy.

Interim Head Coach Mike Pegues

Truth #1: Coach Pegues’ lack of experience as the head coach and the decisions that come along with that responsibility were severely exposed on Friday night. Coach Peg allowed some missed layups and game pressure completely fluster him in several different ways. We saw the rotation tighten down and pretty much going solely with Malik Williams and Jaelyn Withers in the second half of the game which led to tired legs and horrible decision making down the stretch. Playing the style that UofL is this year asking for your big men to get up and down the court pressing, handling the ball, constantly rim running, you have to sub these guys every 5-6 minutes to keep the team playing fast and aggressive. Also you have more than capable reserves on the bench that can play so there is no need to get cautious with the lineups. You have the depth so use it especially considering you have guys that came to UofL to PLAY. Do better coach.

Senior Captain C Malik Williams

Truth #2: Messaging changes wildly from game 1 to game 2. Game 1 we are told Malik Williams is not starting because he is not doing what he needs to do to earn the right to start. Fair enough the message was sent and Williams ends up getting the start vs Furman on Friday night. But once Williams is in there now he plays 35 minutes in the game and Coach says the reason is because guys are not doing what he needs to see in practice to warrant getting on the floor. Okay I got a question. What happened on Wednesday and Thursday in practice for things to change so much after guys seemed to be getting so much praise by the staff for their effort and hustle since camp started? That is worrisome.

Sophomore Forward Jaelyn Withers

Truth #3: I have a message for Jaelyn Withers. YOU ARE NOT A POINT GUARD SO STOP DRIBBING THE AIR OUT OF THE BALL BECAUSE THAT IS NOT YOUR GAME. Jaelyn is a very talented player, but this green light that he has been given to be a ball stopper to constantly try to shake smaller quicker guys on the perimeter shows that he may not be ready for that much responsibility. Withers’ skillset definitely make him a matchup nightmare with his ability to shoot and handle the ball at his size but he is not understanding how to take advantage of the situation. In the halfcourt versus smaller defenders he should be posting those guys and taking them to the hoop to score and if the double team come kick it to open shooters. The bigger guys are the ones that if he gets them on an island on the perimeter he should be trying to shake and attack. Got to be better there young man or move the ball.

Forward Matt Cross (33) and Guard Noah Locke (0)

Truth #4: It is time to start your best players so you can get off to a better start. There are guys that have some limitations that have been exposed and caused some slow starts in the first 2 games. I have seen enough through the first 2 games to tell me that this team would have a better start if this group gets you started:

PG: Mason Faulkner – I love Faulkner’s aggressiveness and passing ability. He had 7 assists and no turnovers in his time on the court vs Furman and was great at drawing fouls and getting to the charity stripe. I also like Jarrod West better as a bulldog defensive stalwart off the bench.

SG: Noah Locke – Locke is right where he needs to be. Noah is aggressive and confident which Louisville needs in the lineup to get things off to a good start. He needs to continue to do a better job of attacking the basket without turning the ball over and passing the ball when needs be.

SF: Matt Cross – There is literally NOTHING that Cross has done to make me think that he is not one of the best 5 players on the team. He is a knockdown shooter, physical and aggressive rebounder and defender, and he is a willing passer. He has played well enough to deserve the start and it will take pressure of Dre Davis needing try and do too much.

PF: Jaelyn Withers – Withers is the most talented player on the team. He has that ability you can’t teach and he can be an All-Conference type player. That being said he needs to stop thinking he has to be Kevin Durant and bail out a team with little to no options. You have plenty of help and all these guys can play so just play within yourself and pick your spots. Better understanding of when and where he needs to attack is needed also.

C: Malik Williams – Malik is the anchor of this team in so many ways. He is the calming presence and the stabilizer for the team. He is an excellent defender and smart ball player. But Malik is still dealing with a bad wheel and getting the rust shaken off for playing very little basketball over the last 18-20 months. He needs to work his way back in but he also needs to be on a tight minutes restriction. He should never get close to playing 30 minutes a game in this style and with capable backups that can impact a game.

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Raashaan Myers is the long time Co-Host of the Main Event Sports Show and Anchor for the PGN News Network in Louisville. Member of the US Basketball Writers Association and former recruiting columnist for Insidetheville.com. Lover of all things UofL and basketball! Looking to bring truth to the masses.  He can be reached at rmyers@maineventsports101.com. Follow him on Twitter @Raashaan

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