Postgame Quotes — Vols 71, Auburn 45

RICK BARNES

Tennessee 71, Auburn 45

(On the performance of wing Robert Hubbs III)

“It’s been wait and see with him, and the last couple days I think he has put more time in in the gym. And he knows we need him to play. Tonight I thought he really did try to play really hard.”

(On if Hubbs coming off the bench has boosted his play)

“I don’t know about that. I’ve said before that I think that bench is a great motivator. When your tail starts talking to your head, it’ll help you sometimes. We’re really going to change lineups based on who we play personnel wise. And so starting, I don’t know if that really matters to any of them. I think now with Shembari (Phillips) starting, I think pretty much every guy on the team has started at some point in time this year. So we’ll base that off practice, but more so this time of year, matchups more than anything to get the game started.”

(On guard Devon Baulkman’s performance)

“We’ve talked about that we want guys to take their shots. I thought (Baulkman) was good where he took two dribbles and raised up after he came off the screen. We also told him that we’re taking good threes, but they’re not going in. As a team, that’s where we have to understand that we need to get something else going. Get something going to the rim. I thought, defensively, he was very locked in tonight. And that’s what we ask of our guards to do. We started Shembari for defensive purposes and I thought he did his job on the defensive end. He now understands that it’s harder to play as many minutes as he did tonight than he could imagine, because he hasn’t really had to do that.”

(On this win acting as a confidence builder for young players moving forward)

“Kyle (Alexander) I thought was really good. I told those guys, we want to get you the ball, but you have to shoot the ball. We came down to Kyle twice early. He got fouled on the jump hook and then he finally turned around and hit a jump shot, and that’s the shot he’s been working on. For the first time, he did catch and shoot, as opposed to putting it on the ground. Ray’s been good, too. He’s been pretty good in practice, still has to learn to play without fouling as much as he fouls, but I thought he was locked in pretty well too.”

(On his team’s defensive performance)

“Well they were short a man, and what we wanted to do was really defend the three point line. That was a big thing for us tonight with them. They’ve got guys that have lit us up and we felt they had a couple guards that could go out and get seven or eight threes apiece, and we didn’t want to let that happen. So I thought out inside defense was pretty good. We got lucky on a couple shots. For the most part, I thought our guys did a really good job of trying to execute the game plan.”

(On Detrick Mostella’s continued improvement)

“Well that’s going to be the next key for him, if he can accept that challenge. What we‘ve told him is that I don’t want him to be a feel-good player. We’re trying to get him and Admiral (Schofield) to understand that they can impact a game without ever making a shot. I think if you get in the flow, and let the flow happen, I think those guys are capable of making shots and making plays. But both of those guys have to get smarter. Right at the end of the half, I think Detrick drove and missed it and got it back, but instead of setting it back up and getting organized, he put his head down and charged. Those are plays that we have to eliminate. They still have to understand that there’s two sides to the court and when they’re both locked in defensively, they play their best basketball.”

(On if he ever envisioned this type of score line despite only four points from Kevin Punter Jr.)

“No, I didn’t think that today at all, no. They’re going through some tough times right now. You know that, but no, to answer that question. I didn’t think we would win by that margin with him playing 40 minutes.”

(On his feelings toward the team following Tuesday’s result)

“I think it’s like a broken record here. We’ve talked about it before. We’ve had a good win, and we’ve gone on the road. We haven’t played up to what we think we’re capable of. We’re going to get consistent and it’s going to be as a group. It has got to have everyone playing in it. That’s what has happened to us on the road. I don’t think that other than one game this year, we’ve had something going early where we weren’t just a one or two-dimensional team for us to win. Even winning from here on out we’ve got to get production. And like I’ve said before Robert (Hubbs III) is a guy that we think, really, Derrick Mostella should not be our second lead in scoring conference play. It should be Robert Hubbs. He should be the guy, but he’s got to do it. I don’t know the game plan now, but he’s the guy that should be the second lead scorer on our team.”

(On the second-half technical fouls on Armani Moore and Admiral Schofield)

“Well, they called the double technical foul on Armani and Bowers, then they called the one on Admiral the way he charged into the pile, but he’s charging in to pull Kevin Punter back. They looked at it, but they really couldn’t tell. It was just the way he charged, which you can’t do that. You just have to stay back and let the officials sort it out. That’s what is going to happen in a situation like that. They just have to get it under control, but Admiral said that he didn’t say anything. He actually said that he just went in to get him, and they said the same thing. They don’t think he said anything. It’s just the way he charged into the pile.

“I think Armani—he’s a senior now, and they’re all going to compete and fight. They’re all going to say things like, ‘I’m not going to let somebody do this to me or do that to me’, but that’s not how you go about it. There’s ways in basketball where if you want to get somebody, then you can get them. It’s not by being dirty. Block somebody out. If I’m going to get a technical foul, then it’s going to be by trying to block somebody out. Armani’s been through it. It’s happened to him twice. He needs to control his emotions because we need him. At some point in time, he’s going to have to look at himself and say, ‘I’ve got to be bigger than that.’”

(On extending the lead without major contribution from Kevin Punter Jr. in first half)

“Well, in some ways we thought it was good that we played without him because he played so many minutes. The last two games I don’t think he’s been short. I actually told him that I think he looks tired. We’ve cut back practices. Now, what he does on his own, he’s going to have to be smart about it. Shembari (Phillips) got to play a lot of minutes, but I thought Derrick Reese did a good job coming in trying to keep the offense flowing. If Robert (Hubbs III) keeps doing what he did tonight it’ll help us win more games, but Shembari for the most part did a good job.”


 

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl
(Opening statement)
“We’re better than that. Our roster was decimated with injuries, ineligibilities, suspensions. It’s been tough. You see how challenged we are. But we can play better than that. We can play harder than that. We can represent Auburn better than that. I’m very confident on the state of our basketball program. We believe we can be a very competitive program. That team right now is not competitive. I’m the one that’s going to be held responsible for that.”

(On what he told the team at halftime)
“I thought we defended well in the first half. I thought we rebounded well. I thought we did a good job in transition. We didn’t have the same effort and energy in the second half that we did in the first half. Offense is a struggle. We missed half of our free throws. We missed a ton of shots close to the basket. We did not finish.”

(On how difficult it is to go through a tough season)
“It is hard. [My staff] has won everywhere we’ve been. We’ve won big. We will win big at Auburn. This is hard. But it’s way harder on the kids. I feel for my seniors: Cinmeon Bowers, Tyler Harris and Jordon Granger. This is it for them. But they’ve got to lead us. Obviously, Tyler Harris really struggled tonight. He had some back spasms at the end. I had to shut him down. He was questionable. He didn’t practice yesterday, but they were cramps, not anything more than that. I just think he was a little limited from that standpoint. I know he wanted to play well, with Tobias [Harris] going to Tennessee.

“But again, losing is way harder on the coaches. The players have four years of eligibility. Bowers and Harris have about 10 games left. You are always going to remember your last team. This isn’t the staff’s last year or last team. It’s the players’ team. I hate it. I’m obviously not doing a good enough job. We had five assists tonight. Our leading assist man on that squad right now is our center, Cinmeon Bowers.”


 

Robert Hubbs III

(On his increased production Tuesday night against Auburn)

“I just have to go out and just play my game. I’ve been struggling the last three or four games. Just had to get back in a flow and get back to my old self.”
(On stepping up after Kevin Punter Jr.’s early foul trouble)

“I had to just bring a little energy off the bench. We had a team meeting earlier this week, Sunday, and I just had to step up. My teammates agreed with me. I haven’t been contributing like I should, so I had to get out here tonight and just do that.”

(On his execution in tonight’s performance)
“I just let the game come to me. Tonight was the first time I hit a three since early December, so that really helped a lot. After that, I just fed off that.”


 

Shembari Phillips
(On how he has evolved this season)
“It started on defense with me. I get out there and try to work as hard as I can. At the end of the day, it’s about effort. Coach Barnes loves effort on the defensive end, and that is where it started. I’m in the gym a lot more every day in the morning, and I’m starting to see it pay off. I’m just going to continue to keep working.”

(When defense began to click for him)
“I’d say the Texas A&M game is where it began to click for me. I decided that defense was where I needed to focus. That’s where we were struggling a little bit, so I took it upon myself to fill that role, and I’m doing my best.”

(On the performance of Robert Hubbs III)
“From what I saw, he played really well tonight. That’s what we needed from Hubbs. We need him to have a good game for us to be successful in the long run. At this point in the season, we need everybody.”


 

Devon Baulkman
(On his recent shooting slump entering Tuesday’s game)
“It’s been really tough, it’s kind of annoying because you put so much work in and your shot falls. Once I see the shot going in my confidence goes up.”

(On managing his confidence during a shooting slump)
“Putting in work and staying positive. Coach is always in my ear telling me what I need to do with good feedback and how I need to work on my shots.”

(On his impressions of Shembari Phillips at the point guard spot)
“I feel like Shembari has a lot of confidence in the point guard position. With him playing that many minutes I feel like he did a good job at it.”

(On where his head was entering Tuesday’s game)
“(I had) a different mindset (tonight), and just being focused and thinking about the game before it happens. I thought about what I need to do on defense and bringing energy so I will always be active.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey