Postgame Quotes — Vanderbilt 86, Vols 69

Vanderbilt 86, Vols 69: Turnovers a learning experience for Shembari Phillips

Mike Strange: No victory at Vandy, but a little respect


Opening Statement:
“I really like the way Kevin (Stallings) has his team playing. I just think they have a real confidence about them and doing well, but there were some good things for us tonight. Obviously, our guys learned a lot tonight. We got it down to 10 and Shembari we love him because we really think he is going to figure this out. As a freshman, he was probably a little fatigued and made a couple of passes that they got out in transition. I think they had 18 points in transition and they took advantage of that. Armani (Moore) started the day with a temperature this morning and didn’t do the shootaround. Came back and by game time, actually before that, his fever had broken and he was back down to where he should be. I thought he played as hard as he could. We were trying to use our timeouts to rest him a little bit and when he was out was when we got it down to 10 then we turned it back over. They had two big spurts. The way we ended the first half was just terrible but some guys really did show some fight. We still need to get more guys doing it but again we stayed in it in the second half and we got it down we just couldn’t take advantage of it.”

On how key it was for Vanderbilt to close the first half so well:
“It was huge. Again we had foul trouble obviously and we were just not good. We keep talking to these guys about a fine line. Like, I told Shembari (Phillips) during the game, ‘you realize you’ve got to learn this right here while you’re in the heat of this moment. You’ve got to understand that you made two really poor decisions right there and that is as important as anything that you learn right now.’ That’s how fine a line this is and they are getting some game time experience obviously and you know Shembari’s never played the point in his life. For him to have to do it and learn his first year you know at a high level of college basketball but we love what he does. I told Devin Balkman that he needed to do more. The last couple of minutes he was starting to act like he was willing to do that. Admiral (Schfield) tries but he gets very tired and loses his concentration and defensively at the end you know we broke down and we came into the game and switch a lot of things. You know, because we are all light size. At the end, they ran a simple play that we talked about and both of those situations were Admiral and Shembari they didn’t communicate. We’ve got to get Kyle (Alexander) to take that next step. We keep talking about it but he needs to do it for us.”

On if he wanted his team to go through the hostile crowd environment when Vanderbilt went on the run in the second half:
“At one time I wanted them to learn through it and the fact is you know, Armani, I knew we were going to have to have him back out there. Every timeout we called he just looked exhausted but at that point and time there is nothing else we could tell them. We had already told them everything and those are just careless mistakes, turnovers. They started that run coming down the stretch and we were just really concerned about Armani, about trying to save it for him but the game slowed down a little bit too. Because they went zone and that slowed the game down some and Armani made some really good plays. Again I’m proud of Armani. I mean, he really is a big time competitor and he wants to win.”

On if a number of the fouls in the game were bad fouls or was Vanderbilt just being aggressive inside:
“Well, they looked like they were going at Admiral every shot they got. We were switching and when they got the match-up they were driving him and you know when he picked up the foul we kept telling him, ‘Now you definitely have to get down in front and make a play over the top.’ I mean, if he were just to stand behind him they’re just going to jump over him. Some of that has to do with fatigue obviously but it has to do with welcome to college basketball too. You better understand when you are 6’5″ you’re not going to stand behind a guy that’s 6’11”, 7’0″ tall and think you are going to do anything with him.”

On the aggressiveness of the offense driving the ball on most possessions:
“Yeah we wanted to drive the ball and you know we missed some layups. We did that early but that’s what got us back into the game. We were driving the ball hard and that’s what we kept telling our guys when we drove it. We actually said, ‘ don’t in and shy away from the big guys.’ We said, ‘take it right at their throats.’ You know, Shembari I think that’s going to be a great lesson for him going forward because he was going in and fading away from the basket. That second half we started attacking the rim way we needed to. That’s something we’ve talked about all year but Shembari did that and I do think some of his turnovers were fatigue. He’s not sure of himself still at the point but the fact is we need to get back and get healthy so we can win our last regular season game.”

On the size differential between the two games leading to the 44 points in the paint for Vanderbilt tonight:
“Well, when your tallest guys is 6’6″ 6’7″ it’s pretty hard. If I were them I’d be disappointed that they didn’t have 80 in the paint. I mean they can play it over top, they can play it any way but again I think Kevin’s done a really good job getting his team playing well. I think he’s gotten into a rotation that he likes. You know they run really good stuff. I think they would be a hard team to prepare for. There a team if they can win their first NCAA game they would be a hard team to prepare for on the second day with one day prep. Because they do some really good stuff offensively when they shoot the ball the way they do and they’re disciplined. They are extremely well coached. They know when to go inside and what’s good about them obviously is when they are not making three’s they can put some pressure on you by throwing the ball inside.”

On the status of Senior Kevin Punter:
“You know, Kevin Punter is an incredible kid. Like I just told the team, on Sunday he said to me, ‘coach can we talk’ and he said, ‘coach what should I do?’ Honestly, I said to him, ‘ KP I think you ought to shut it down and get on and do the surgery.’ Because he’s probably going to have to do that eventually. He said okay. I walk in early Monday morning and the music is blasting in the gym and I walk in and I’m shocked that he’s standing there shooting shots on the gun. And I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘coach I’ve thought about it and if there is any way possible, anything I can do to help these guys win another game I’ve got to do it for them.’ As a coach that just speaks volumes about him as a person.”


On what changed during Vandy’s big runs:
“We just didn’t execute when it came down to it. We made a lot of mistakes on offense as far as turnovers. It wasn’t you know Shembari’s fault completely it was everyone’s because we didn’t get open and we didn’t help him when he was pressured. I mean the effort was there close to the end but we couldn’t finish it.”

On scoring quick baskets but getting three fouls early:
“It was very frustrating because my preparation for this game was probably the hardest I’ve prepared for any game this season. I felt like I was going to have a big night and have a big impact in the game but I let my offensive mishaps affect the game in the first half. I think that’s one of the reasons we went down so low because I really do play a key part in our team and I wasn’t able to stay in it the first half.”

On staying out of foul trouble when they’re targeting you:
“It’s very tough, especially when our game plan was to switch everything and everything was moving kind of fast so you gotta be alert. A couple of times I just wasn’t engaged and coach got on me about that. I know it was mostly my fault. Just gotta be ready.”

On the kind of education they’re getting as freshman this point in the year:
“We’re getting the same as Armani Moore and Kevin Punter with the same intensity. It’s just that you know he’s the kind of guy who knows a little more because he knows that we are coming from environments where we weren’t really coached. Where it was just up and down the court type basketball. So it’s still a learning process but it is a time where we need to start getting things and this is the time at the end of the season. We need to improve on certain things and that’s why things haven’t been going well. Right now we just gotta come back and as a group try to regenerate and try to give us a win for the seniors on Saturday. “

On how much the 7 points scored at the end of the half affected the game:
“Well I’m a fighter and that’s one of the things I’ve always been taught is to always fight to the end. When we turned the ball over those three times and kind of killed the atmosphere of a comeback. So it’s really more so sad because of how hard we’ve all worked up until this point and how the season went. We know that it’s a very fine line between our wins and losses and we just didn’t execute when it came down to it.”

On the feeling of being down 12 as opposed to 19:
“Not really. It’s just that when you see that clock and there’s three minutes left in the game and you’re down by big that’s when it gets to you a little bit.”

On how much Armani was affected by his fever:
Well Armani has been sick, he’s been sick pretty bad. He was asleep all day today and wasn’t at shoot around so that’s a testament to how tough he is. I thought he was gonna pass out because of the way he looked but he kept fighting. That’s what motivated me tonight to keep fighting with him. I didn’t do well on the defensive end, I feel like I let him down and let the seniors down tonight so I’m just looking to get better the next game.

On this week and a half for Kevin Punter:
I think it’s more emotional for him because he’s worked, I mean KP is in the gym everyday he’s still shooting it’s just a testament to him. He was a little emotional after the game because he wants to win and that’s one of those things we all have to get on page with and not just a few people you know me, Shembari, Kyle, we all gotta get on the same page for our seniors.

On Vandy’s length and difficulty to guard:
“It’s more so hard to guard the movement than the size. You know size is a factor especially when they get it close to the rim and that’s where I think we gotta learn to do we got a small man with a disadvantage down low we’ve got to keep him away from the basket as far as possible. And that’s one of the things I didn’t do well tonight. I really just think it’s the movement that they’re really good at. I think they’re a veteran team they’ve been together for a little bit so they’re a pretty good team.


On what coach said to him when he pulled him out:
“He just said I gotta take care of the ball. He said exactly what I’m saying as far as that might’ve been the turning point in the game. I just know I gotta get better and I’m going to continue to get better.

On this as a learning experience:
“It’s huge. I mean when things get tough you gotta keep fighting. I thought everybody was pretty good tonight and we’ve just got some things we need to tweak and tighten up.”

On taking pride in outscoring them in the second half:
“Most definitely. You know even growing up I never was the one to just quit. We could be down by 50 and we’re still gonna keep fighting and I just hope everybody is behind us and behind me and Armani. Armani is playing his butt off he’s doing everything he can and I respect that so I just try to fight with him.”

On tonight being his best offensive night:
“I mean of course with Kevin being out we lack a lot of scoring so it has to be made up somewhere. So everybody has to chip in. Tonight was just a big night for me the shots were falling.”

On the difference between the first and the second half:
“I mean we just came out with a ‘we don’t have anything to lose’ mentality. We just started driving to the rack. Things started going well for us. We just gotta learn to put two halves together. Like I said we’ve all got some things we need to work on and coming down to the end of the season it’s me, Admiral, Kyle, Detrick, Hubbs, we just keep fighting and we’ve got something to look forward to next year. We’ve got Ole Miss coming in Saturday so we’re going to send out Armani, Baulk, Reese, and KP out on a good note.”

On KP being emotional in the locker room:
“Man it’s tough. KP is probably the most dedicated player I’ve ever seen in my life. Coach made a comment about them having a conversation and that the next day he was in there in the morning and it just hurts him, it hurts all of us seeing him just down like this and he can’t do anything about it. He asked coach should he play and coach, his advice was to just not. It’s tough seeing a guy like that put so much time in and seeing him get hurt it’s just it’s tough.”

On KP talking to them:
“He was emotional but I went up to him and you know, gave him a hug and just tried to comfort him a little bit because it’s a tough time for him.”

On KP helping him during these last few weeks:
“When it was first known that he was gonna be injured he called me and just told me he had the utmost belief in me and trying to run the team. Armani has been in my ear and he’s been playing the point or whatever but Armani he has played every position so I just try to play off of him and where Armani’s going I’m going.”


Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings
Opening statement:
“First of all, I’m really happy for our three seniors and our two senior managers, our five seniors. They’ve been great ambassadors and people in our program, and I can’t say enough good things about them. Two of them are walk-ons and they’ve been somewhere between good and really good anytime I’ve ever put them in a game. They’ve been awesome citizens, and awesome people, and awesome representatives of our program, and we appreciate them very much.”

On the game, continuation of opening statement:
“We had a couple of good spurts in it. I thought we played hard. I thought, in the second half, we played to the score a little bit and Tennessee started going at us and we didn’t do a good job with that. I’m really, really impressed with the job that [Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes] has done under some pretty difficult circumstances. That kid who’s out for them with a foot injury is one of the best players in this league and they continue to play hard, continue to play together, fight hard, and be very, very competitive. I’m really impressed with them and what Rick and his staff have done with that team. We’re happy to win. There were some real bright spots. There were some things that obviously, as a coach, I would’ve liked to been better but, all in all, we’ll take it and move forward.”

On the role of defense in second half runs:
“We went zone there for a little bit when we hurt them. We hadn’t played in any zone in games because we stink at zone. But then they were driving it at us, so we were having a hard time keeping them in front of us, so we went to the zone and we were able to make a spurt off of that defensively. We got some turnovers and Wade [Baldwin] got an interception, and we were able to get out in transition a little bit. Then they started hurting the zone so we went back to man. But anyway, it was keyed by our defense. Anytime that we played effectively on the defensive end, things worked for us on offense. When they cut it down to ten, or whatever it was, we weren’t getting any stops and we were having a hard time scoring.”

On the team’s recent success closing out leads:
“There wasn’t a lot of pressure on this one in terms of closing it out. There was some pressure Saturday and there was some pressure down at Florida. When you’ve got a ten point lead, there’s not as much pressure, I don’t think. I think we’ve gotten better at that. I think we understand that it takes five guys to win a game, not two. As long as we play like that then we’ll probably be okay.”

On Nolan Cressler’s 11 point game off the bench:
“He really attacked the basket well, he made some good decisions. He made some bad decisions late, but he made some really good decisions during the game and during those times when we made some spurts. Nolan was very effective for us off the bench, and we’ve been looking for that. We’ve been looking for someone to come off the bench and give us some production, some productivity and consistency. I won’t say that we found any consistency yet, but it’s nice to have some guys come off the bench and make some plays for us.”

Vanderbilt guard Wade Baldwin IV
On Vanderbilt’s ability to close out games late in the season:
“We’ve been doing very well. We have two tremendous big men that create a lot of space in the paint, and can rebound the ball. We have guys that can defend, and for that span we defended really well, got rebounds, and played Vanderbilt basketball.”

On the defense sparking the offense:
“It definitely starts on the defensive end. We get knocked balls out, blocked shots from Luke or Damian, steals from me, Matt, Jeff, or any guard off the bench. It helps us get out and hit a couple transition threes and a couple of lay ups. It all starts with our defense.

On the importance of sweeping Tennessee:
“It’s a rivalry. We all know about it and I’m very happy that we beat Tennessee two times in a row. Last year was a bit of a struggle. We lost two times against them, and obviously the fans here are disappointed in that. They said, ‘You can lose every game but don’t lose to Tennessee.’ We may see [Tennessee] again in the SEC tournament, we may not, but we’re happy in the regular season that we were 2-0 against them.

On the possibility of the fans storming the court again as they did against Kentucky:
“I think we got fined one hundred thousand for the last game, so we weren’t trying to get fined again. As a player, and all the guys on the bench, we love to have a stormed court, but obviously it’s not appropriate.”

On the team being playing better in February:
“I think we’ve got a good nucleus of guys that are playing well at the right time. I guess February is just a month for us, it was last year and it is this year. Tonight was a great showing with guys off the bench. Nolan played absolutely great and really sparked our team. If we continue to do that for the rest of the season, we’re a dangerous team.”

On keeping focus during the game:
“I think we did very well. We were up plus twenty for a good portion of the game. I was very happy for our team to have fun tonight on senior night. Carter Josephs, Josh Henderson and Nate Watkins have been tremendous guys. They definitely took me under their wing when I first came here, and it’s happy sending them out.”

Vanderbilt guard Nolan Cressler
On being aggressive at the net:
“Coming off the bench, I just wanted to make sure that I was ready. I found myself in a few close out situations and figured it was a good time to attack and had a little bit of success with it tonight.”

On being able to come off of the bench and be productive:
“In a rivalry game against Tennessee it was obviously really fun and more crowded than we expected it to be. It was a fun game for me to be able to come in and contribute. I’m just really excited that we were able to send the seniors out the way we did. It’s probably their last game in Memorial Gym.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at