Freshmen can score, but can they defend?

Rick Pitino's five freshmen combined to score 104 of Louisville's 189 points during Wednesday nights intra-squad scrimmage. It's clear scoring won't be a problem for these guys. What Pitino wants to find out now, is whether or not his newcomers can defend with equal efficiency.

There's no doubt Rick Pitino's five freshmen can score. But can they defend?

That's the million dollar question for the Louisville Cardinals.

Three of the five newcomers – forward Terrence Williams, point guard Andre McGee, and center Jonathan Huffman – scored 20 or more points in the Cardinals intra-squad scrimmage Wednesday night. Williams and McGee each scored 28 points, while Huffman dropped in 20. The other two newcomers, guard Bryan Harvey and forward Chad Millard, scored 15 and 13, respectively.

That's 104 points out of the 189 scored in the scrimmage. The freshmen combined to hit 14 three-pointers, and it's clear Williams will provide plenty of aerial highlights this season.

But Pitino wants to see his freshmen, whom he says has the potential to become the greatest class he's ever coached, get after it better on the defensive end.

"If this team could ever get it at the defensive end, the sky's the limit for their potential," he said. "I've never met a freshman that plays defense coming in. They're all the best players on their (high school) team, so what do they have to do? Stay out of foul trouble, not guard anybody and stay on the court. And then they get to college and they have to defend someone. It's new to them."

On a positive note, each of the freshmen showed flashes that they can become solid defenders. While Williams, McGee and Millard combined for seven steals for the Red, Huffman blocked 2 shots for the White.

"This did a lot for us," Williams said. "The scrimmage showed us where we're at at this point for December 17 and next Wednesday."

Williams said Pitino told the team in the locker room after the scrimmage that they have excellent offensive potential. He also talked to them about getting better on defense.

"He said in the locker room we have potential to be a great offensive team," Williams said.

"Coach (also) said we have a lot of things to work on, especially defensive concepts," McGee added.

Pitino was unquestionably excited after the scrimmage about the potential of his freshmen. And he said they are able, willing and eager to improve their weaknesses, particularly on defense.

"I love playing defense, especially for this guy (Pitino)," said Williams. "You've got to want to play defense. If you don't, you'll be cheerleading from the sideline."

The biggest challenge for the newcomers is adjusting to defending and playing against bigger, stronger athletes than they faced in high school.

"They're a lot stronger," Williams said. "In high school, I was probably the strongest. You've got to get through screens now. The freshmen have a lot to learn, but in due time we will learn that."

Millard, who added 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals, sounded a similar note.

"Everybody is so much more athletic at this level," he said. "Everybody is athletic, quick and smart, and you have to be alert on every single play. So you have to be intense on every play and that's the biggest adjustment you have to make in college."

McGee said improving defensively is all about pride.

"Coach expects so much on defense," McGee said. "He doesn't really care what happens on offense. He makes sure our pride is on defense."

While Williams, McGee, Harvey and Huffman appear more offensively inclined than Millard, the 6-foot-8 forward seems willing to help do the dirty work on defense for this team.

"(Chad) is the guy that does the intangibles," McGee said. "He's not really going to give you 45 points per game, but he's going to get the rebounds and deflections for you."

"I just try to make everybody else better," said Millard. "We're a good team, but a young team. Shooting, that's not my role on this team. I create, set a lot of screens, move without the ball, and I just try to do what I can to get rebounds and some putbacks."

If their defensive ability catches up to their offensive talents, Pitino's five freshmen could help lead the Cardinals deep into the post-season again this year.

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