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Takeaways From Louisville's Team 108 Tip-Off Intrasquad Scrimmage

Saturday served as the public's first view of the 2021-22 Cardinals squad.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - On Saturday, fans were able to get their first glance of the 2021-22 Louisville men's basketball team.

With a new college basketball season roughly a month away, the Cardinals held their annual preseason scrimmage at the KFC Yum! Center - this year dubbed the 'Team 108 Tip-Off Intrasquad Scrimmage'.

Like in years past, the red squad and white squad faced off against one another - but with an added wrinkle. In this year's edition, which consisted of three 10-minute periods, rosters switched up after each period and the score was reset, allowing for many more on-floor combinations. The white squad took the first two periods, winning 20-11 and 20-12, while red won the final one at 17-10.

"It was good to be out in front of our fans for our guys," head coach Chris Mack said. "Practicing against each other every day for six weeks to this point, it becomes monotonous. It's good to be in front of our fans."

While not much can be deduced from an intrasquad scrimmage, here are Louisville Report's main takeaways from the afternoon:

Newcomers + New System = Stylistic Work in Progress

Much has been made about the new fast-paced offensive system spearheaded by assistant coach Ross McMains. It was installed as a direct answer to Louisville's slow-as-molasses pace of play that beleaguered the Cardinals on that side of the court.

When it came together during the scrimmage, it was a thing of beauty to behold. Shooters were able to find their spots with more frequency, and the spacing in the pick-and-roll was much better.

But, when you add eight newcomers to a roster that only consists of just 14 scholarship players, it's not going to fire on all cylinders right out of the gates. Louisville operated a bit slower than expected, and looked sloppy throughout most of the first period. They were able to get things going by the second period, but finished the scrimmage shooting 39.5 percent from the floor and 20.5 percent on three-point attempts.

"We got a lot of things to clean up on both ends of the floor," Mack said. "I thought some of our decisions need to be better, we're a better shooting team than that."

To Louisville's defense, it's hard to truly run their system to its fullest extent in this setting, considering the bench depth for each team is only a couple players. Plus, as Mack would point out, it should only get better with more live reps and against actual competition.

Jae'Lyn Withers looks much more comfortable

There has been a lot of hype and chatter surrounding redshirt sophomore Jae'Lyn Withers. Last season, he averaged 10.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team.

What made that so promising for his future was the fact that he spent nearly the entire season playing out of position. A natural power forward, due to the injuries to Malik Williams, Withers was forced to operate out of the five spot in all but three games.

With Williams back at full strength, and the center spot getting bolstered with the addition of Sydney Curry and increased play of JJ Traynor and Gabe Wiznitzer, Withers is back at the four - and he looks as good as advertised.

He finished the scrimmage tied with Noah Locke for a game-high 12 points, as well as a game-high 13 rebounds to finish with a double-double. No matter where he was on the floor - whether on the perimeter, in the pick-and-roll or on the block, he looked a lot more in sync than he did as a redshirt freshman last year.

"It feels great to get back out there," he said. "I'm still trying to get back fully adjusted to it."

Matt Cross - more than just a shooter

One of Mack's goals over the offseason was to vastly improve Louisville's ability from the beyond the perimeter, as they were among the worst shooting teams in Division I a season ago.

Former Miami forward Matt Cross was one of the newcomers brought in to address just that, as he connected on 40.0 percent of his three-pointers in his lone season as a Cane. But during the scrimmage, he showed that he is more than just a shooter.

He looked aggressive on the drive while still being able to finish around the rim, as well as making the right decisions when it comes to ball distribution. Despite going 0-4 from beyond the arc, he still finished with 11 points as well as three rebounds.

"They trust me more than I've had other coaches in the past, to be able to do that kind of thing," Cross said. "With Coach Ross (McMains), Kahil (Fennell), they've really been working with me on putting it on the floor, get the rebound and go bring it up. Just be able to make decisions and not always just stand in the corner"

Options emerging down in the paint

Unlike last season, where Louisville relied on an out-of-position Withers to man the five spot, the Cardinals appear to be much more well off this time around.

Malik Williams, who is coming off of a pair of lower body injuries over the last two years, played the scrimmaged with zero reservations - and finished with six points and eight boards.

Behind him, Louisville got some solid production. Sydney Curry was able to bully his way around the paint, JJ Traynor gave the spot some good options at the midrange, and Gabe Wiznitzer looks to have improved since last year.

"We may not have - outside of Malik an experienced guy in that position, but we have a lot of options, and each of them give us a little bit different look," Mack said.

(Photo of Matt Cross: Cindy Rice Shelton - Louisville Report)

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