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What Mike Pegues, Samuell Williamson Said After 72-58 Win vs. Mississippi State

Read what the acting head coach of the Cardinals and forward Samuell Williamson said after their win over the Bulldogs:

NASSAU, Bahamas - Thanks to a newfound effort and energy on defense and the backboards, Louisville put together their most complete perfomance of the year, blowing out Mississippi State in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship.

Here's what acting head coach Mike Pegues and junior forward Samuell Williamson had to say following the win:

Acting Head Coach Mike Pegues

(Opening Statement)

I will start by talking about our team's commitment to upholding our baseline expectation. It's been a huge reason why we had so much success tonight, in particular on the defensive end. Although we beat Detroit on Saturday, a really tough and talented Detroit team, we just didn't do the job at all defensively. There were spurts where we did some really good things, we barely out-rebounded them. Sunday was off, Monday morning - 7am film session, I really got off of those guys. I didn't appreciate how we guarded and how we rebounded, and I told them going forward if that was gonna be the standard, then we're gonna have a tough time. I challenged them in practice on Monday, practice on Tuesday, our staff challenged them. On Wednesday, yesterday here in the Bahamas, I thought we had our best practice of the year. That led into us playing really well tonight. That's how we got to defend and rebound every night.

(On their rebounding efforts vs. Mississippi State)

Phenomenal. We finally rebounded the ball like Louisville basketball is supposed to rebound the ball. We out-rebounded a big, athletic Mississippi State team, that has a chance to contend for an SEC championship. It 47 to 38, we get 15 offensive rebounds. We did the job. It was great to see.

(On what went into them having their "best practice of the year" on Wednesday)

You know what, I think it's because I let them go to the waterpark on Wednesday morning. Sometimes I can be a pretty hard guy, and I felt like it was a no brainer that we had let these guys breathe a little bit. I leaned on them pretty good and in the days leading up to it, and it just worked out schedule-wise that happened. Breakfast on Wednesday, those guys were allowed to have some downtime, and I think it was good and refreshing for everybody to kind of get away. I even went down the slide myself, and it was exhilarating. It was good, and Kenny Klein filmed it. Nobody else will see it but me. But we got away for four hours, and the guys were happy, and I think that everybody kind of decompressed. Thankfully so, because we came out, and played really hard and really well today.

(On if the release of stress is enough to straighten things up)

Yeah. I hear you when you say pressure, I get it, but this is what we do for a living. I know that they're kids, I've never been a head coach before. We all got thrown into something and we got dealt a hand, and we got to play the hand, and it's basketball. These guys have been playing basketball for a long, long time. Although I'm not a head coach, I've been around the game for a long time, and we all have to adapt and adjust, and move on. Pressure has to make us better, not make us shaky, and I thought that we answered the bell today.

(On the defensive effort to start the game)

Like I said, we challenged those guys. I challenged them personally, our staff did, long film session on Monday morning. I literally talked for an hour about defensive rebounding alone, and it carried over into our practice. We had a really competitive practice on Monday. Although we weren't perfect, it was spirited, it was competitive. Tuesday was a really good practice, the practices just got better. If you practice well, you get a chance to play well. There's really no magic formula to this thing. Keep the ball in front, keep it out of the lane, know who their best players are, and take what they want to do well away. When the shot goes up, find somebody to hit and rebound the ball.

(On what it will take to not need the extra push after bad performances)

That's a great question. That's a million dollar question. If I knew that, I would be all over it. I would like to think that our older guys, in fact everybody, I would like to think would realize, "man, Coach Mike might be on to something. Our staff is onto something". If we truly, genuinely, commit to guarding, and keeping the ball in front, and challenging shots, and executing a scouting report on the defensive end. Everybody taking a defensive approach before they think anything about their offense. If we truly commit to that, and cleaning it up with a defensive rebound, we could be anybody. That's been our message from day one. We had to take the entire summer to infuse our new offense. I think that that, although it was much needed, it did not allow us to really embrace who we needed to be on the defensive end. I think we're just getting caught up to that. Hopefully that will continue, and that there'll be a snowball effect defensively and on the glass, and if that's the case you know, I like our chances against anybody.

(On the progress from Dre Davis)

Dre is a solid individual. I said before, nobody is harder on Dre than Dre Davis. Despite all of the comments that you see on social media about him not needing to start, and he can't do this and do that. Nobody is harder on Dre Davis than Dre Davis. Sometimes that's a curse, a lot of times that's a curse, because he gets so down on himself. He has so much value beyond what he does at the three-point line. He made two big threes tonight, he goes 2-5, that's great. But his effort on the defensive end, guarding multiple guys, guarding (D.J.) Jeffries - who I think has a chance to be a pro -  and even Molinari, who again is probably a pro. He has defensive versatility. He sticks his nose in, he's a coach's son, he knows how to play the game the right way. He has so much value to our team beyond the three point shooting, and I never want him to forget that. He's an integral part of what we do, and what we need as a team.

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(On if their depth and rotation will help them vs. Maryland on short rest)

I's good to have depth, especially on a one day turnaround. We'll play a tough Maryland team, I don't think Maryland plays a ton of guys, not as many as we do. We didn't have one guy play over 30 minutes, so hopefully we're fresh, and excited about getting an opportunity to win our first championship in the long while. 

Forward Samuell Williamson

(On their defensive performance)

It wasn't perfect by any means. I feel like the first 30 minutes of the game, we did a great job defensively. Obviously, we got to finish the game a little better. But I think tonight, we showed some flashes of what we're capable of doing on both sides of the ball.

(On his individual performance, and if he was "feeling it" coming into the game)

Yeah, I was actually. I feel like we had one of our best shootarounds - probably the best shootaround since I've been here. We got a lot of shots up, energy was great all around the team and everything. We had a great warm up. It was different having a game right before, and only having a 25-30 minute window to get loose and some shots up, but I did feel good coming in.

(On what went into the practice on Wednesday)

We looked ourselves in the mirror, and we said "how can I be better?" We had a meeting Monday night, players only. We kind of just hashed everything out for about an hour and a half. We all just told each other what we need to do better, on and off the court from an energy standpoint, on the bench, a lot of different things. Defensively, our identity is gonna be on the defensive end this year. Like I said, I feel like at times tonight, we showed flashes of what we're capable of.

(On if the heavy offseason focus on offense maybe hampered their progress on defense)

Maybe so. Everybody's talking about the new offense and everything, but we just got to stay true to our defensive principles. The new office is going to come, and when we get both sides of the ball clicking, I think it's gonna be very scary.

(On building off tonight's success, and not needing the extra push after bad performances)

I know I keep saying this, but we saw what we're capable at times tonight. I don't mean to be repetitive or whatever, but we just got to have that in the back of our mind as a defensive-first team. Our defense gonna feed into our offense, and I feel like we can be anybody that's on our schedule.

(Photo of Mike Pegues, Louisville Players: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)

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