Author Archives: Grant Ramey

About Grant Ramey

Grant Ramey is a sports writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel covering the Tennessee basketball beat.

Rick Barnes on Maui Invitational conference call

RICK BARNES
Opening Statement
“We’re obviously going to have a very young basketball team. We actually have nine new members on our team and one of them, Lamonte Turner, he sat out a year ago so he’s familiar with our program. We’re excited about our guys, we really are. We’re excited about this group. We’re going to have, when you think about upperclassmen, Robert Hubbs and Detrick Mostella. We have a fifth-year (transfer), Lew Evans, who came in from Utah State. That’s pretty much our upperclassmen.

“We’ve worked hard this summer. Our guys have worked hard, they’re making that adjustment. When you look at the field, I think it’s a great field. The Maui (Invitational) always has a great field. For us, it’s going to be an unbelievable challenge. When you look at Wisconsin, who they have coming back and the way they finished last year, making a run to the Sweet 16, we know that’s going to be an incredible challenge for us. Then we’re in that bracket with Georgetown and Oregon, two programs that we have great respect for. It’s going to be an unbelievable learning experience for our kids, our program, our players. I think tournament like this only help you to really, truly evaluate where you are. In some ways, reality sets in (as to) where you are. It’s going to be, again, I think our players will look forward to.

On playing at 9:30 a.m. local time
“Looking at the brackets and the time, 9:30 is early. Then I’m looking at the other bracket. If you lose a game, it’s 8:30 the next morning and then if you get in that loser side, 10:30 (on the third day), so you’re playing all morning games. Then when you look the other way, if you get through that first one it’s a 3 p.m. game, then 4:30. That’s the way it was bracketed out, that’s the way it has to be. I think players are resilient. It’s something, we get up early anyway and do a lot of work in the mornings, so I don’t think that will be that big of an adjustment. We’ll get there, get settled in and it’s the same for everybody. That’s the way it is when you travel to Hawaii. We know the time changes are different. Again, that settles in for everybody.

On playing Wisconsin during his time at Texas
“I’ve always had great respect. Bo (Ryan) and I, when we decided to do it, and when we schedule like that out of league, it really stands for having great respect for the coaching staff and the program itself. We had a couple epic battles. I can remember when they beat us in Austin. I remember Bo shaking my hand and saying, ‘I know it’s a tough loss, but believe me, we needed it more than you do right now.’ When we went up the following year and beat them when someone, Gary Johnson, banked in a elbow jumpshot at the end of the game, I was thinking the same thing. ‘We needed this a whole lot more than you did tonight.’ We’ve had some great battles.

“Again, we have great respect for the Wisconsin program, there’s just no doubt that Greg (Gard) still just does a great job. You watch they did last year the way they came on, for a guy that’s been with the program the transition was a great one. He’s certainly going to have many more years of great success.

On Tennessee’s nonconference schedule
“Schedule wise, I think it’s going to play out as one of the toughest in the country when you get down to it. We’ve always said that we don’t want to be there in a position — if we’re able to get ourselves into position to be in the NCAA tournament, which we fully expect to do — we want our schedule to mirror what a big-time basketball program should look like. I think to do that, you have to be willing to travel to play anyone, anywhere, anytime. So that’s what we want it to look like. We were just talking about it before getting on the phone, we want to be known for playing one of the best schedules in the country every year.

On Lew Evans
“Lew, as you would imagine, coming in a month later than everybody else, and them having a month of conditioning under them, he’s making that adjustment. He’s just what we thought he would be. He has a great feel for the game. He’s going to blend in just unbelievably with his teammates. They like him and they know he’s going to compete and bring some a skill level to us that we need. Right now the main thing is to get him in the kind of shape he needs to be in.”

Rick Barnes on SEC basketball summer teleconference

RICK BARNES
Opening Remarks
“We’ve got eight new bodies and we need each and every one of them. There’s major turnover, be it one year to the next, but we’ve got everybody on campus with the exception of one young man that’s going to be a (graduate transfer), Lew Evans, who we expect to be there in July.
“With the guys that are there, obviously it’s an unbelievable rule the NCAA put in a couple years ago where we’re able to spend time with our players (during the summer). I think it helps them more than anybody … the impact of what it’s like to be in college and working at a very high level. That’s been good.

“There’s not one guy that we’re not excited about. I think we’re going to have more competition this year per position. We know that we’re going to be a little more skilled overall. And we’re a young team. We only have (with) Lew Evans, three upperclassmen in the program, with Robert Hubbs and Detrick Mostella, with a fifth-year senior coming in.

“We’re excited about those guys, the work Detrick and Robert Hubbs has done up to this point. All the underclassmen are doing a terrific job doing what we’re asking them to do right now.”

On Mike Tranghese joining the SEC as an adviser to men’s basketball
“First, I think I can’t say enough about our commissioner (Greg Sankey), what he did. We lost two really wonderful people in terms of Mark Whitworth and Jake Bell. I thought this spring, when our commissioner announced Mike Tranghese, I thought that was terrific. Then when you go back and see what he’s done with the last two hires, it takes it to another level.
“I’m excited about our league. I think you’re going to see some drastic changes in the Southeastern Conference over the next couple years. The bottom line is everyone’s going to say what’s it going to take to get more teams into the NCAA (tournament). The bottom line, and I think Mike Tranghese said it as well as anybody, you have to schedule well, but you have to win some of those games. That’s the bottom line. We need to win some non-league games against some high-caliber competition and come into our conference (schedule) with higher RPIs.

On SEC coaches meeting with Tranghese at SEC spring meetings
“It was a great meeting. From a coaches point, that having Mike in the room, and the commissioner was there some too as he always is, but Mike’s presence from start to finish was one of the best coaches’ meeting that I’ve ever been a part of. So much of that, it reminded me of my days back in the Big East when Mike, in the role with the basketball coaches, he just gives you a level of confidence. You know he’s been through it, you know he understands it from a coaches’ side, he understands it from an administrative side. He understands it from a person being on the committee. He just has this deliver that he can make it quite simple, to be honest with you, the way he can present it. I felt our coaches all left there energized, knowing that where our league is going basketball wise is really good things are getting ready to start happening.”

On newer big-name coaches settling in the SEC
“I think it’s important for the program. We all know it’s been a pretty unstable situation at Tennessee the last couple years. One, the University needs stability, players need stability. I think the longer you’re there, and you get your program going and your culture set that you want set, it’s just a matter of every year you’re trying to improve. I’ve always said you want to leave it better than you found it. I think that about every day of the week. You want to make every day better than yesterday. You do that, and you build that kind of culture, it permeates the entire program. It goes into recruiting; it goes into every aspect of the program. I think that’s what we’re trying to do, and every other coach in the league.”

On Pat Summitt
“I don’t think there’s any question that when you were with Pat, you sensed her love for the game and he love for her students. (It was) the fact that she loved talking basketball and absolutely couldn’t get enough of it.

“You could tell she was all about being excellent. Not just having a winning team, but she wanted to have a model program, a winning program. I never saw her when she wasn’t excited, fired up, enthused. Even when she was doing a clinic, you would’ve thought she was coaching her own team with her intensity and her fire.

“I don’t think she ever met a stranger. She always had time for whoever, whenever, wherever. There’s a lot of things from being around her that you couldn’t help but take a lot of things from (her).”

On his three sophomores (Kyle Alexander, Admiral Schofield, Shembari Phillips)
“I do think they’re important to us, just like I think all of our returning players (are). I’ll put all our returning players in that classification, where our returning guys have to grow a lot. We’re going to expect a lot, to see if Robert Hubbs can step up for us to the plate and deliver the way we would expect to see him do it. We’d like to see those strides made by Kevin Punter a year ago. That’s going to be a big challenge for Robert to do that.

“You think about Kyle and Admiral and Shembari, they’ve been here a year. Physically, they’re going to be better there. All three of them have gotten much better physically. I think all three of them have improved in the things we’re asking them to do. The thing we’re asking them to do as much as anything is when these younger guys came on campus, teach them the way. In terms of what it’s going to take and not just assume (they know). And learn from their mistakes a year ago.

“I think they would be very forthright in telling you no one took them under their wing a year ago because I think the guys coming back had no idea how to take them under their wing. This year, returning players know how to do that. I told them we’re going to see what kind of leaders they are, which will tell us what kind of team they want to have, by the way they embrace these freshmen. I think all three of these guys have done that.

“We need Kyle to score, we need him to continue to score around the rim. We want Shembari to be more consistent with his perimeter game. And we need Admiral to be more consistent all the way around and get better on the defensive end.

On how much better Kyle Alexander is around the rim and how much Admiral Schofield’s conditioning has improved after having tonsil surgery
“You know what? Last Wednesday Kyle had his best practice since we’ve been at Tennessee. I told him it’s taken him a year to learn just one move we’ve been working on him with. He finally did it and it was really exactly what we wanted him to do, as often as he could do it. Catching (the ball) and a little jump hook around the rim, finishing in that high percentage area.

“It’s amazing. Admiral is a totally different player with his conditioning. Surgery helped him a lot. I think he would be the first person to tell you that. Both of those guys really do have a tremendous passion to be in the gym; they want to work. They want to get better. I don’t worry about those two guys in terms of wanting to put the time in and become good players.

“Kyle physically, he’s starting to look different … you may have seen him by now in the summer league. He’s put on some weight. But we’d still like to add more weight to him throughout this summer and leading into next year, which will help him as much as anything.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter: @GrantRamey

Dave Hart on Rick Barnes, Tennessee basketball

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart was a guest on Sports Talk with John and Jimmy on Monday afternoon. While on the show, Hart touched on Tennessee basketball after one season with Rick Barnes as head coach.

Full response from Hart:

 “First of all I feel very strongly about Rick and who he is as a person. I think he’s a wonderful fit. I think most of our fans would acknowledge that same sentiment. The guy can coach; he’s a tireless worker.

“And certainly we played with a bit of a short stick, particularly after Kevin Punter … went down with his injury. I thought our team, the one consistent element they showed — and the one element that kept our fans coming back — was that they were going to play extremely hard.

“We had some really good wins, some really surprising wins, and we had some disappointing losses where at the end of the game we didn’t finish the game, and those types of things.

“I think all in all, when you look at the reality of where we are — third coach in three years, transitional issues that existed — I think finally we have stability. It’s been a while to get to that point relative to basketball in particular. We had a lot of instability four to five years ago. I think now we have stability and I think Rick Barnes is the right person to take us forward.

“I’m very, very excited that Rick Barnes is our basketball coach.”

Full audio from the 18-minute interview can be found here

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball for the Knoxville New Sentinel. Follow him on twitter @GrantRamey

Jordan Bowden added to 2016 signing class

Jordan Bowden, a 6-foot-5, 178-pound guard and former Carter High School standout, announced Tuesday night that he’s signing with the Tennessee men’s basketball team.

Bowden, averaging 17 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season at 22 Feet Academy, a prep school in Greenville, S.C., has scholarship offers from Providence, Cincinnati, Marquette, Utah and Tennessee.

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes in an interview with the News Sentinel last week said that he was looking to add both a post player and a guard to his 2016 signing class.

“There’s no doubt we need to get bigger in the post, and we’re looking that way,” Barnes said. ” … Right now, we’re going to look to possibly add another wing guard to our roster, but also a post player.”

Bowden chose to attend prep school after his biggest Division I offer last year came from Texas-Pan American.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of work every day after practice,” Bowden told the News Sentinel last week. “I’m elevating more when I shoot. I’m getting higher on my pull-up jumpers and just getting better.

“You have to bring it every day. There’s a lot of competition down there.”

Bowden added that it “would be great” to play close to home.

“My parents could come watch me play when they want to,” he said, “and it would be easy for them.”

Tennessee had five available scholarships for the 2016 class, with four seniors — Kevin Punter Jr., Armani Moore, Devon Baulkman and Derek Reese — graduating this year and the departure of redshirt freshman forward Jabari McGhee, who left the program in December and transferred to Western Kentucky.

The Vols in November announced a five-man signing class, including power forwards Grant Williams and John Fulkerson, guards Kwe Parker and Jalen Johnson and point guard Jordan Bone.

Bowden was named the PrepXtra Boys Basketball Player of the Year last year after also being named all-state and District 3-AA MVP.

He helped lead Carter to back-to-back appearances in the Class AA state tournament.

As a senior at Carter, Bowden averaged 26.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He scored a school-record 54 against Gibbs. He totaled 932 points as a senior, scoring 30 or more points 14 times and being held under 15 points just four times.

Bowden told News Sentinel PrepXtra editor Chris Thomas last year that late growth spurts changed his game, from a volume shooter on the wing to an attacking guard that prefers to play above the rim.

“I was super short as a 7th grader; maybe 4-foot-9,” Bowden said in an April 2015 News Sentinel story. “My shot always got blocked every time I was going to the hole.

“But it just made me want to get my game better.”

Bowden shot 55 percent from the field as a senior at Carter and at one point recorded 10 straight double-doubles during the first half of the season.

“My length really helped me on offense and defense,” Bowden said. “I got a lot of deflections and stuff.”

Bowden visited Texas-Pan American last year and had planned to visit Tennessee Tech before ultimately deciding to attend 22 Feet Academy.

“From a recruiting standpoint, he’s night and day when he got here,” 22 Feet coach Ryan Schmidt told the News Sentinel last week. “There were some low-major schools who wanted to keep tabs on him. And then we had a lot of coaches come through here to start this season.

“Late November, early December, we played in (the Legacy Nissan Classic) in Kentucky. That’s when the interest started picking up. He played well against (Hargrave Military Academy), then he had a really big tournament in Las Vegas.

“That started to open their eyes.”

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

Chris Ogden linked to UTSA head coaching vacancy

Tennessee assistant coach Chris Ogden is reportedly in the running for the head coaching vacancy at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

InsideRunnerSports.com reported Tuesday afternoon that Ogden is a “serious candidate” to replace former UTSA coach Brooks Thompson, who was fired on March 10.

Ogden has spent the last eight years as an assistant coach on Rick Barnes’ bench, from 2008-15 at Texas and the 2015-16 season at Tennessee.

During a four-year playing career (2000-03) under Barnes, Ogden helped Texas to four NCAA tournaments and was a senior captain on the 2003 Final Four team.

He moved into a role as a student-assistant coach in 2003-04 and was an administrative assistant from 2004-08, before being promoted to assistant coach.

Ogden, along with Tennessee video coordinator Riley Davis, is from Seminole, Texas, roughly 380 miles northeast of San Antonio.

Thompson was the second-longest tenured head coach in UTSA’s program history, going 133-178 over 10 seasons. The Roadrunners went 5-27 this season, before Thompson was “relieved of head coaching duties” by UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey.

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

Rick Barnes Press Conference — Monday, March 7

(On the SEC Tournament matchups)
“It is going to be interesting in our league now because some of the matchups you will only be playing the team for the second time. What makes conference tournaments really difficult is matching up for the third time. I think our game with Auburn is like that because both teams know each other really well. I haven’t looked at the bracket across there. It gets down to this time of year when teams are playing with real confidence and they understand themselves. They are able to recover from nights where they do not shoot well and they find a way with their energy and their defense, but match ups certainly have something to do with it. Look at us, teams with an outside and inside presence always give us a hard time. We have also watched great things happen when teams come out of nowhere. This time of year has a lot to do with confidence.”

(On Admiral Schofield wearing an ice pack during the Ole Miss game)
“No those guys are always icing up for various reasons. He was back in the gym yesterday on his own doing some stuff. He is always in the gym. He is fine.”

(On if there is a favorite in the tournament)
“If you look at the regular season I would have to say it is pretty wide open. All teams have had there ebbs and flows, but if you look at it with the losses in the league and wins in the league. I think it is wide open.”

(On the team getting confidence back before Wednesday)
“What it comes back to is losing Kevin (Punter Jr.), you have to put people in different positions that they do not normally play and you are asking them to do things they do not normally do. The last couple of games we knew were going to be very tough and I think that was a really great game for Ole Miss. I think that with where they were they knew a loss to Tennessee wouldn’t be a good loss and I think they have a real chance for an NCAA bid. Whether you want to talk about Vandy or any of those teams, they are playing for something this time of year and that is why it is tough to keep focus and confidence if you don’t feel as if you are playing for something. We are trying to convince our guys that every game you are playing for something and now we definitely have a new start like everyone else. With Kevin gone you can get through maybe two games without him, but we are asking guys to play totally different positions that they have played all year, but between now and Wednesday we are going to have to get back. Shembari (Phillips) is going to have to play some point and we will have to live with his mistakes and Armani (Moore) as well, but we are going to have to do some things that we have practiced all year.”

(On the disparity of the scorelines in the two games Tennessee played against Auburn in the regular season)
“I think it is all of that. Then you throw in the mental state of every team at one point in time. Where are they mentally? I know they were struggling at that point in time, they had a player leave the team right around there and putting guys in different roles to all come together. I think both teams have had highlights and low lights when you think you are able to get going and you can’t seem to get going. It can get frustrating, and I think that frustration can get to the players and all we want our guys to do is compete and bring energy. I don’t think they understood what teams like Vandy and Ole Miss are playing for. When we are where we are we have to play harder than everybody that has to be the first step.”

(On getting just two points from Shembari Phillips against Ole Miss)
“I think it has to do with young guys thinking every game is going to be the same and this game was different. We knew they were going to press and get in zones, but I think he got rattled and he let it affect him. When I took him out of the game he made a comment to me and said, ‘Coach, I’m not a point guard.’ And I said, ‘You need to learn to be one real quick.’ I think that is how frustrated he got. I think he is young and I don’t think he will make that statement again because he has to realize that he is being asked to things he hasn’t done before in the hunt for an NCAA tournament. Teams were coming at him with two or three guys and he needs to get his teammates to help him. If he isn’t doing his part they cannot help him. He kept getting the ball to areas on the court where there was no help for him and he kept locking into the sideline and picking the ball up and putting it over his head and I think this is a learning experience for him. Young players think when they have played one game they think that the next game will come that way again and it won’t.”

(On which players will step into a leadership role next season with the departure of Kevin Punter Jr.)
“Right now, it’d be Lamonte Turner. We would’ve been a different team this year with Lamonte. There’s no question about that. Lamonte would’ve been a starter, but it is what it is. You have Lamonte. You have Shembari (Phillips), who’s had to play that position, Admiral (Schofield), Kyle (Alexander). All those guys as freshmen have gotten great experience that we can build off of. We’re obviously excited about our recruiting class coming in. You look within our program right now, there’s been some guys that have played a lot of minutes. They’ve had some moments where they’ve been very, very good. We’ve got to get better in everything that we’re doing, but Lamonte at this point would be the guy. He plays that position every day. He’s a guy that if you talk to the players, they will tell you he’s very effective playing that. He’s a guy that we use in practice when we’re getting ready to play against guards that are explosive and can do different things. We let him do it, and they would tell you. He’s got some things that he can do, but as a freshman next year he’ll go through some growing pains just like all these other guys. Just like on the day off yesterday, Shembari, Admiral, those guys were in the gym. We’ve got some guys here that love it, and they want to get this thing going.”

(On the benefits of Lamonte Turner’s redshirt season)
“I’ve coached him hard, too, this year. There’s been days that I’ve said, `You’re letting a great year go by.’ He really has worked hard on his game offensively, but like most young guys, understanding the defensive side of it. He’s capable of doing that. He’s worked hard at getting himself in the kind of shape he needs to be in, but it hasn’t been easy on him. It hasn’t been. I think he’s really been a good teammate, because he comes to practice — a guy that knows he’s not going to play, he’s one of the last guys that will leave the gym every day. He loves this game. He really has a great love for it. We respect him for what he’s had to do. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s really made the most of it for the most part.”

(On the challenges of motivating a team this late in the season)
“I think it’s hard when there’s a gap between older players and younger players. I think there’s a big gap there, where the older guys have been around. They’ve had some tough years obviously. The younger guys are going through it for the first time. What you hope is that they don’t forget the feeling that we’re feeling right now. Everybody says, `You’ve got to forget it and move on.’ I don’t think you do that. I think you remember it. That’s what makes you get up every day and work harder and come back and say, `We’ve got to do it the right way.’ It goes back to consistency. We’re asking guys to play hard every day, but you go to the young guys. Just like the questions about Shembari, Admiral. They’ll have good game, then they’ll go backwards. Take a step forward, take a step backwards. That’s part of it. We’re counting on those guys to do more than we would want them to do, but they’re going to have to do it. I think it will come back to them, to help them going forward, but at some point in time it gets down to your personal pride and your personal work ethic. You want to be the best that you can be. Whatever it is, that’s what you go out and work at every day, and understand that it’s still about competition. You’re competing, and you don’t ever want to get in a mindset where something doesn’t matter, it’s not important, because I think all that stuff trickles over into other areas of your life. I just think you’ve got to get up every day and go about your business with a passion and a zeal, and a commitment to being the best that you can be.”

(On Armani Moore’s ability to fill so many roles)
“We’ve asked him to do so much. In some ways, we’re disappointed that we didn’t have other guys help him do more. Kevin (Punter Jr.) and he were both having terrific senior years. I do think it’s been really hard on Armani. He doesn’t know from game to game where he’s going to have settle in and play. At times we’ve said we want to try to get him where he’s playing the step-out four position, because he’s better there. That’s where he’s best, because he creates mismatches right there. He can’t do that right now if Shembari [Phillips] doesn’t handle the point the way it needs to be handled. If Shembari’s not handling the point, Armani’s got to go do that. We get locked into a tight game and they’re scoring on us, now he’s got to go do that, whether it’s a post player or a perimeter player he’s got to guard. He’s been asked to do a lot, and he’s responded to it. I think he’s done everything that we could ask him to do. I also think that he’ll tell you that it’d be a whole lot easier if he had more consistent help from his teammates.”

(On Barnes’ plans if Tennessee doesn’t make it into the NCAA tournament)
“The fact is, yeah, it’s different, it really is, it really is. And it’s not fun. We do have a new start here now, and again, and you’re right, it’s going to have to be an unbelievable run to make anything happen out of it. You’d have to win the tournament and you look at what we’ve done to this point, I don’t think that you think that we could do that, but sometimes people help you along the way, and we’d need some help along the way. But the fact is, we knew coming in where we would be and it goes back to when Mike asked the question today, did I believe what I said about going to the postseason tournament with this group, and I believe that. I look back on it now, I could go back and show you that we blew some opportunities. So as a coach, you look back and you don’t ever stop evaluating yourself. How do we get over the hump because we are trying to build something here, but we have a group of guys who have witnessed the fact that we had chances to do some good things, but we didn’t build on it. We take a step forwards, a step backwards and so you’re never, ever not evaluating where you are or what you have to do as a team. You’re always trying to build. You’re recruiting, every year is a new team. The one thing I’ve said my entire life, because when you’re at a place where you go to the tournament every year, people have the tendency to take it for granted, and I’ve said every year you don’t ever take that for granted. Like right now, I’m feeling for my guy Mark Few at Gonzaga. I don’t know where they are exactly, but people tell me they’re right there, in or out. He’s had a great run. But people take it for granted, you don’t take it for granted. You look back a couple of years ago, I think Kentucky was in the NIT. It’s just not something that you take for granted, to be part of a postseason tournament. It’s something that you work for and really, you work for it year-round. So as a coach, it’s not a good feeling, obviously, because I think that we’ve come short with this group of guys and I can’t think any other way. I’ve had people tell me you guys are short-handed, you’re this and you’re that, and that is what it is, but I believe that if you get enough guys to believe in what you’re doing and if they’re willing to do their part that you can make something happen.”

(On the advantage of playing in the opening game of the tournament on Wednesday)
“Yeah, I’ve been in situations where I’ve seen it work to your advantage where you just get in and you go and you start playing and other teams have to sit around. They’re going to have to be watching tournament games all week, that’s not a fun feeling either. The worst game of all is when you play the last game in the first round in a Pacific time zone in the NCAA tournament when you wait around all day and half the teams have gone home before you even get to play. I’m not sure I’d like to play five days or four days straight, but the fact is, they’re young guys and whatever your situation is, you’ve just got to make it work. You’ve got to position it in a way that they understand that this is where we are and you gotta do what you have to do.”

(On if he believes Kevin Punter Jr. is a first team All-SEC player)
“Well, he’s my guy, so obviously I’m partial to him. I think if he would’ve finished out the year the way he was playing, and again, we know now that he was hurt long before he even said it. Long before. It didn’t just come up. He’s had to deal with that, and I think it’s just an incredible testament to him, how tough he is and how hard he worked. I just think of how much time he has spent in that gym from the time that we’ve gotten here. I know how he worked at trying to learn a new position and I can tell you that prior to him getting hurt, he was definitely playing like a first team All-Southeastern Conference player.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Ole Miss 83, Vols 60

Ole Miss 83, Tennessee 60: Vols play ‘passive’ on senior day

Mike Strange: The ‘perfect storm’ never happened for Vols, Barnes

Photo Gallery: Tennessee loses to Ole Miss on senior day

RICK BARNES

(Opening statement)

“I would really like to start out thanking our fans. I have been doing this a long time, and I don’t think I have ever walked out of an arena with a team that’s under .500 and not playing very good basketball and have a group of people thanking you for the year. That makes you even more determined than ever that you want to build a great program here. I think the University of Tennessee fans deserve that. We really do appreciate what the fans have done this year. They have been great.

“Today, we weren’t very good in any area of the game. I thought they pretty much beat us any way you want to beat a team. I hate that for our seniors, because I wish we could have finished on a good note for them. We just really lost our confidence, (and it’s) a tough thing to bring back. Just disappointed in the way we have played the last couple of games.”

(On going 14 minutes without a made field goal)

“Again, we didn’t execute what we talked about against them. We knew they were going to get in their press and do that. We’re walking the ball up the floor. When you walk the ball up the floor, they’re just backing up. There’s not going to be any outlets until you attack it. We keep walking it up. You can’t step across half court or get into those areas on the floor where you know you’re going to get trapped. We just weren’t aggressive. We talked about what we wanted to do against them, and we just didn’t do it very many times today. You have to give them credit. I thought they played really well when Moody went out of the game. Defensively, I thought they were good. They kept moving the ball. They hurt us inside obviously. Our post defense wasn’t very good. We just got beat any way you want to put it. They beat us.”

(On not executing)

“I think when you’re not executing, players don’t know where their shots are going to come from and they’re hesitant. I kept telling Shembari [Phillips] that he needed to change his body language, because they could tell he was tentative. I thought other guys were tentative. It’s easy when you compete and you play. You look around, you see how other people are carrying themselves, body language-wise. They just tee up on you and come after you. You’ve got to change it. They other thing is the tough thing about Senior Day and all that. I do think a lot of times unless you have a mature team, they lose focus and start worrying about other things as opposed to what they have to do to win games. I just didn’t think we were real sharp from the beginning.”

(On not playing meaningful games this late in the season)

“[Ole Miss head coach] Andy Kennedy said to me ‘I know its been really hard on you.’ And it is. It’s hard. I don’t like not being in meaningful games this time of year, but because of the fans, it makes me want more than ever to get this thing going the right way and building a program, because they deserve it. They deserve us to be in meaningful games. It’s hard. The last couple of weeks have been very, very hard. Maybe we are who we are right now, there’s not anything left to get there. As a coach, you can never think that way. That’s when you get frustrated and your patience wears a little bit thin. It’s not fun at all. It’s not fun at all to be in the position we are in right now, where you’re wondering what you’re playing for. It’s not fun when you feel like guys aren’t competing every possession, trying to get better every possession. Its frustrating, and it’s not fun. It’s something I don’t want to go through with. I haven’t had to go through it many times, but I can tell you I don’t like it.”

(On what he takes away from this season)

“Do i think things would be totally different with Kevin Punter? I do. It’s amazing how losing one player can change your whole team confidence-wise, swagger-wise. I think that Stefan Moody gives his team confidence. They feel that if they’ve got him, then they’ll be alright. I do think our team felt like that with Kevin. We put a lot on Armani, and now that he’s gone, there’s so much on him that he can’t handle it. You can’t ask a guy who’s not naturally a point guard to play the point, because he’s not a natural point guard. Shembari’s not a natural point guard. You’re asking guys to do things that they can’t really do, and you’re asking them to do it at a time when if they would have done it all year, you would expect more from them. Now they’re bringing the ball down the floor, like today, it’s an adventure. What’s going to happen next? You know they’re frustrated when they’re pointing their finger. ‘I need some help here. I need some help there.’ It goes back to everyone has to execute and do their job.

“I’ve said all along, I like these guys. I would have said for us to have the type of year that we wanted that we would have to win most of our home games, and if we could go on the road and win a couple that would have given us a great year. But we weren’t able to do that except once. Again, we can always look back and say the what-ifs. When you think about it, with Hubbs not being healthy, we have 35 points sitting on the sideline. Then you’re asking other guys to really do things that they’re really not capable of doing. That’s where the frustration gets in. I do appreciate these guys trying to give us what they have. And I do think they have, they’ve tried to give us everything they have. You can always look and say other guys could do more. You’ll always say that. There were some bright spots, but not enough of them. Even if we had a .500 record or whatever, this time of year is about being in the NCAA Tournament. That’s what you play for. We have to understand, anything other than that, we haven’t succeeded.”

(On how Hubbs is doing)

“He practiced yesterday, but we didn’t do much. He did very little. He has got to be healthy and practice. If he doesn’t practice, he is not going to be effective, and he is not going to be in sync with everybody else. He is going to have to take care of his body. He needs to practice and be a part of it every day.”

(On Shembari’s down game)

“I think the biggest part with all of our young players is when they start to feel good about themselves because they have a good game, they begin to lose focus about getting better. That is just part of the maturity process. We do think our freshmen have gotten some things done this year, but part of it is maturity. We keep talking to Admiral (Schofield) about getting ready for an out-of-bounds play. He didn’t line up correctly twice today. He can score and he works, but these guys are still learning how to play. Some of the mistakes that they are still making are ones that shouldn’t be made at this point in time.”

(On if he thought UT could make the NCAA Tournament)

“I really did. I thought that. What we expected coming in would be to get more consistent play out of the seniors as a group. I will tell you, I don’t think I could coach if I didn’t think that way. I have been doing this long enough to know that talent is the one common denominator amongst the teams that get to the tournament, but I have also watched teams that can outwork talent and win games. I felt like for it to happen, it would have to be like the perfect storm. If you look at it, I don’t know if Kevin Punter Jr. could have had a better year than he had. You guys have seen Armani. I think he has had a heck of year too. We needed Derek Reese and Devon Baulkman and everyone to have great years. We were just very inconsistent, and that was the most frustrating thing because I do think if you are a good team, it doesn’t matter if you are at home or on the road. You understand it is a time to compete.

“Next year, we are going to come back in with a lot of young guys, and I will make the same statement because I believe that we will find enough guys and build on things from this year. We have a class coming in this year that we are excited about. One thing we have tried to do with this class is recruit guys coming in from winning programs. A couple of those guys have won state championships or are playing for one. We want to build that kind of culture, but we know that we have to get guys that understand winning at a high level. We feel like we have been able to do that with the recruiting class coming in.”

(On if he thinks the team will play different in the SEC Tournament)

“At this time of the year, you know who you are. We can play better, but we have lost our transition game. Things we have practiced since last May and June are things we haven’t been doing. That is hard. We have had to improvise. You can’t ask a guy to do something he isn’t capable of doing. We have spent a lot of time working on certain things. So much of that was driven by KP, and when he went down, we had to change some things. We just aren’t very fluid right now.”


 

KEVIN PUNTER JR.

(On his senior season)
“I have definitely grown. (Coach Barnes) came in and taught us, and I just tried to buy into what he was trying to teach us.”

(On Coach Barnes’ life lessons)
“It isn’t just basketball. You can sit down and talk to him about anything that isn’t basketball.”

(On adjusting to a new coach)
“It’s been an adjustment. I was used to Coach Tyndall and how he wanted things. Coach Barnes came in, and it was an adjustment for me coming from a junior college. I think I did a good job adjusting to his stuff. It stinks to end the season like this.”

(On what is next for him)
“My biggest focus is getting healthy and getting my degree.”


ARMANI MOORE

(On playing hard for Tennessee)
“I think we have had to go through a lot of adversity, especially the seniors like myself. We had three different coaches, and it was hard at first, but we battled through it and found a way.”

(On playing multiple positions)
“It hasn’t been to difficult for me. I am a competitor. I should be willing to do whatever I can to help my team win. Over my last four years I have had to do alot of different things that my coaches have asked me to do, but I took pride in it. I tried to do this to the best of my abilities.”


 

DEVON BAULKMAN

(On his time at Tennessee)
“It’s been a long journey with meeting new people, new staff, and teammates. It was a long ride for me, but it was good. It was great.”

(On adjusting to Coach Barnes’ new system)
“It was difficult at first. It took time, but I was willing to learn and work on my craft and get better at the game. Coach Barnes was always in the gym with us and helped us work on our game.”

(On his performance against Ole Miss)
“I just wanted to give Tennessee my all today and play 100 percent for my team and my coach.”


DEREK REESE

(On why he stayed at Tennessee)
“First, the fans. I’ve already been here three years, so why not finish it out here. It was a really quick decision. With one year left, I wanted to finish it out here.”

(On accepting different roles on the team)
“Coach (Barnes) told me at the beginning of the year that he would need me to do a bunch of different things (compared to) what I’m used to. At first, it was really tough. It was very hard to just focus on that, but I wanted to help the team win. I was going to do whatever I had to do to help the team win. I knew that we needed other players to step up too, like Kyle (Alexander) and Ray (Kasongo). I used my IQ and what I knew of basketball to try and help them out.”


ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD

(On going to the SEC tournament)

“We just have to get the job done. We haven’t gotten to go on a run yet this season. We’re on the brink of getting on one. Tonight’s outcome wasn’t the best, but I think if we just play together and play with energy for 40 minutes, we can beat anybody. For some reason, we just can’t get that down.”

(On what he took away from this season)

“Learning how to win. Learning what’s important and what goes into winning is the main thing. There’s a fine line between winning and losing. We’ve had games where it was because we didn’t box out, rebounds and put-backs, not closing out or just not guarding someone. My biggest thing is just learning how to win and what goes into winning. That’s one thing Coach Barnes emphasized with me. He gets on me pretty much the hardest because he knows I know this stuff. What he wants out of me specifically is to learn what goes into winning. I have to understand that and be that leader.”

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

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

RICK BARNES


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.”


 

ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD
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.


 

SHEMBARI PHILLIPS
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 twitter.com/GrantRamey

Rick Barnes dealing with ‘personal frustrations,’ wondering what could’ve been

In his previous 28 years as a head coach, Rick Barnes has never lost more than 18 games in as season.

He went 14-17 in his fourth season at Providence, in 1991-92. Then bounced back with two 20-win seasons, before taking over at Clemson, where he averaged 18.5 wins over four seasons.

At Texas, Barnes missed the NCAA tournament once in 17 years, going 16-18 in 2012-13 and ending the season with a first-round loss in the CBI. He averaged 23.6 wins per season in 17 years leading the Longhorns.

With two games left in his first season at Tennessee, Barnes has at least three games left to help correct his team’s 13-16 (6-10 SEC) record.

There’s Vanderbilt tonight and Ole Miss on Saturday, Senior Day at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Truth be told, as Barnes told it during his press conference Monday, there are a lot of could’ve-beens on the schedule.

“I probably have dealt more with my own personal frustrations and patience in the last couple weeks because, you know what, you look back and see the what-ifs,” Barnes said. “This, that or whatever.”

Tennessee led by 14 points at Alabama with 14 minutes to play. The Crimson Tide closed on a 30-9 run. The Vols led by 14 at halftime at TCU. The Horned Frogs took off the in the second half as the visitors collapsed.

The lead was 48-33 in the second half against SEC-leading Texas A&M, before the Aggies outscored the Vols by 21 down the stretch.

It was a double-digit lead in the first half at Butler on Dec. 12. A week later, there was a rally from down 16 to take the lead in the second half against Gonzaga in the Battle in Seattle at KeyArena.

Tennessee trimmed a 16-point deficit down to one against George Washington in the Barclays Center Classic in November.

All of the above is proof of effort. None of the above ended in the win column.

“Overall, I do know this group of guys have played and tried really hard,” Barnes said. ” … Losing is not very much fun. It’s not.

“I have always wanted to enjoy this time of year knowing that you are playing for something and being up for a postseason bid and getting excited about all of that.”

For 19 of the last 20 years, a team coached by Barnes has been playing for NCAA tournament seeding during the stretch run of the season. Barnes himself hasn’t missed the postseason since that 14-17 season at Providence 25 years ago.

Without the services of senior point guard Kevin Punter Jr. (foot), and the status of Robert Hubbs III (bruised knee) in question, this postseason won’t include Barnes, barring the improbable.

Without Punter or Hubbs Saturday against Arkansas — a team that entered Thompson-Boling Arena 1-11 away from Fayetteville — the Vols fell 75-65, their first home loss Jan. 20.

“What was disappointing in the game Saturday — and we told this to our team — is that we felt with Robert not playing, (they) were just holding on,” Barnes said. “That is not fun coaching.

“Even as we said at the beginning of the year, there will be every game we played where we look back and see that if we took care of the things we can control, we would win games.”

The holding on now is for seeding in the SEC tournament, with Tennessee looking to avoid the 12-13 game on Wednesday. First the Vols have to control the controllable.

“That is what we talked about (on Sunday) with our team,” Barnes said. “The things that we are doing wrong we can still control. But we have to do it.

“We ran out of time in the regular season because we’re still talking about guys still doing the things that they should be doing — being consistent going to the offensive boards, being consistent defending, being in help position. The things that truly can be controlled.

“That is where patience and frustration get tried.”

The third Tennessee coach in three seasons, Barnes knew frustrations were part of the job description. At least while building his new program from scratch.

“That is the tough part of it, if you love what you do, you want to win,” Barnes said. “I don’t care if people think the deck is stacked against you or not.

“We have seen enough this year with this team that if we get everyone playing the way they need to play, just like you go back to the game Saturday with Hubbs not playing, we needed some other guys to really step up to a different role and take it on.

“We didn’t get that.”

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

Rick Barnes Press Conference — Monday, Feb. 29

RICK BARNES

(On what he saw from the three freshmen starters on Saturday vs. Arkansas)
“I think they have gotten better, but I still think there is a step that they each need to take. I didn’t think our guards played particularly well. Shembari (Phillips) is learning a lot, but what we want from all three of the freshmen is consistency. Shembari didn’t have a very good defensive game, and I thought he let some offense interfere with where his mindset was defensively. Admiral (Schofield) struggles at times defensively. We did throw the ball inside some to start the game. We want him to be a little more aggressive when going to the basket. We know he can catch the ball and score and face it up some, but we wanted him to drive some more to put fouls on Arkansas’ post players. Kyle (Alexander) just needs to get playing quicker in his mind. We keep telling him that there is another step he needs to take, and that step is in his mind and playing quicker. He is just not ready. As hard as he works, he has to change his thought process in terms of wanting to score the basketball. He works really hard at trying to score with the skill work, but he hasn’t been able to carry it over to the court yet.”

(On if he’s ever experienced this much difficulty winning on the road)
“It’s always hard. It’s hard. It’s been hard. I think it does go in cycles a little bit. You go back and look, every team feels like they have to win at home. I think they feel that. If you’re a championship caliber team, you understand that and you have to embrace the fact that when you go on the road, you’ve got to play harder. There’s not very much room for error. Maybe you can get by with it a little bit at home, slippage, but you can’t on the road. Momentum plays a big part of it. If you allow the crowd to get into the game, emotion can take over at times and really spur on a team that might be under-manned. You’ve got to really work hard to keep a lot of factors. Like I’ve said before, when things are really balanced and you go into hostile situations, you’ve got to have good officials. They’ve got to be on, too. This league in particular, I don’t what to make of it to be honest with you. It’s the first time that I’ve gone through it, and I’m a little bit surprised by that. I probably shouldn’t say that because I don’t what I expected, but the way the numbers have shaken out, I think it is a little bit surprising. You probably know more so than me with it. It seems like if you look around the country, it seems like teams other places are having a tough time winning on the road, too.”

(On Kevin Punter and Robert Hubbs III’s chance of playing at Vanderbilt)
“I don’t think KP will play tomorrow. Obviously, Robert will be today and tomorrow, as we see how he keeps responding to his treatment.”

(On what the team can do differently against Vanderbilt)
“The game here at Vandy was, I still think the worst game that we’ve played all year, and they had a lot to do with that. It looks like they’re playing arguably the best basketball in the league right now. It looks like, too, that they’ve kind of cut back their bench. I think they’re playing what, four or five guys over 30 minutes a game right now? They’ve obviously gotten themselves in a pretty good rotation right here that they’re comfortable with. We’ll have to do a lot of things differently. I was talking to our coaches this morning about the game, and I don’t think there’s much we can show them from our game here that we did well, or even show that we can take advantage of something. They really just had their way from the very beginning.”

(On balancing winning and playing time for the younger players)
“Because of injuries, those young guys have had a chance to play. When you think of Robert [Hubbs] not playing at all in the Arkansas game, they’ve all gotten some quality minutes. I think what they’re going to learn, or what they should be learning right now is how hard it is to do this for a long period of time. You think back, and I actually mentioned it to them the other day. I said, `All you guys dream of wanting to play in the NBA, and you act like you’re tired right now. When you think about it, they’re just halfway through their season right now. They’re just getting started.’

“It’s a mindset that you keep trying to build with them, to let them know that it is a grind. They have to get up every day and realize that they’ve got a job to do, and they’ve got to learn from it. Like I said, our young guys have worked hard. You guys have been at practice. I don’t know if you’ve stayed late, but at the end of practice every day, it’s like clockwork. The last guys to leave practice court are Lamonte [Turner], Kyle [Alexander] and Admiral [Schofield]. For certain, those three guys. We’re trying to get Shembari [Phillips] to understand that too, that he’s got to be in there. Those other three guys, along with the walk-ons, they’re out there long past practice is over with. That’s what we want to see. Going forward, that’s going to be a great help for us when this new group comes in, that they’ll understand that there’s an almost expectation of hard work that’s in place.”

(On coaching from the baseline at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym)
“I have, I think I’ve been there. I coached there while I was at Providence. We lost a tough game against Virginia, way back on a last second shot, if I remember it right. It’s different, but it’s not that much different because in practice I kind of coach from that angle. I’m normally behind the team, especially when we’re in half court situation. I’m usually behind them or at half court, or on the baseline. So, I don’t think it will be that big of an adjustment. I just thought about a tough issue is where coaches can’t call a timeout. You think about the end of the game, that’s a bit of a disadvantage if the team is away from you and you need to do that. It’s hard to get their attention, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

(On Robert Hubbs III’s injury)
“At some point in time, I think in the South Carolina game, he bumped knees with somebody. When you are inside around the basket and a shot goes up, guys are backing out. I think that is what happened. He felt like something hit it. I think it is more of a bruise than anything else. I don’t think it is anything from a mechanical point. It is just a bruise, probably.”

(On most frustrating aspect of the season)
“I probably have dealt more with my own personal frustrations and patience in the last couple weeks because, you know what, you look back and see the what-ifs. This, that or whatever. Overall, I do know this group of guys have played and tried really hard. You always want to continue–losing is not very much fun. It’s not. I have always wanted to enjoy this time of year knowing that you are playing for something and being up for a postseason bid and getting excited about all of that. What was disappointing in the game Saturday–and we told this to our team–is that we felt with Robert (Hubbs III) not playing, (they) were just holding on. That is not fun coaching. Even as we said at the beginning of the year, there will be every game we played where we look back and see that if we took care of the things we can control, we would win games. There was no difference Saturday. That is what we talked about yesterday with our team. The things that we are doing wrong we can still control. But, we have to do it. We ran out of time in the regular season because we’re still talking about guys still doing the things that they should be doing–being consistent going to the offensive boards, being consistent defending, being in help position. The things that truly can be controlled. That is where patience and frustration get tried. The fact is we knew it wouldn’t be easy. You want to see it more, especially from the older guys. Like I told our young guys yesterday, they are not young anymore. They are closer to being sophomores than they are freshmen. Nowadays, sophomores are sometimes considered pretty old with all the people that leave early. That is the tough part of it. If you love what you do, you want to win. I don’t care if people think the deck is stacked against you or not. We have seen enough this year with this team that if we get everyone playing the way they need to play, just like you go back to the game Saturday with Hubbs not playing, we needed some other guys to really step up to a different role and take it on. We didn’t get that.”

(On if Armani Moore’s uptick in scoring is a direct result of Kevin Punter Jr. being sidelined)
“No, I think he’s tried to set an aggressive tone. I can’t think how many times we tell guys you have to take your shots. We do what we do and we try to point out to guys the shots that we know they need to take and get them to take the shots they should take. When they don’t do it, he’s even forced in some games here where he’s taking shots that he doesn’t really want to take. He wants to see his teammates. He did a great job Saturday changing up stuff himself. I told him right before the game started `You’re going to have to control this game for us, and we’re going to have to play at the pace that you need to play at because you’re going to have to play as many minutes as you can play. So you’re going to have to pick and chose when you go with it, but you’re really going to have to get us settled in and see what we can do.’ I thought he did a really good job. Then, he got frustrated because he made a couple passes that were terrific passes, but on the ball screen situation, Admiral (Schofield) should have rolled and he stood there. He threw a pass to Kyle (Alexander) where Kyle wasn’t ready. He threw a pass to (Derek) Reese; he had a dunk and wasn’t ready. So, I think when those things happen, he starts he’s just trying to set a tone, but he was definitely trying to set those guys up and they weren’t ready to handle that.

(On if freshmen Kyle Alexander, Shembari Phillips, and Admiral Schofield have bigger roles than he initially envisioned at the start of the season)
“Well, they’ve had a bigger role because we really thought that we would get a lot more of the seniors as a group and Robert Hubbs. I mean, that’s what we thought going in. That was our big concern. We weren’t sure exactly when Kyle or Shembari or Admiral would play. We didn’t know. Going in, we expected Armani (Moore) and Kevin (Punter) to play roles. We expected a lot from Robert Hubbs, a lot from Devin Baulkman, a lot from Derek Reese. We weren’t sure with Detrick either. Those guys have played more so because other than Armani and Kevin, the other guys have been so inconsistent.”

(On the next step for key freshmen players)
“I told Shembari (Phillips) this yesterday. You know, he had moments where he wants to compete, but he didn’t play hard Saturday. The next step is understanding that you have to keep pushing forward. Even when you think you are there, you have to keep going. That’s typical of a young guy who starts getting a little bit of success, and starts feeling good about himself, and doesn’t prepare himself for the game. We specifically talked about before the game the way you get engaged in the game and our whole thought was to lock in defensively against Arkansas. He didn’t do that from the beginning. Young guys still have a tendency to think that if they score a basket or get a dunk or make a three, because that’s what fans identify with. Coaches identify with all of the things within the game. They help you win. The next step is them identifying with that and making it important to themselves. Kyle (Alexander) is the one that has embraced that one side of it because I think in his mind, he knows he can do that. Kyle doesn’t have the confidence yet to feel like he’s going to score a lot. Admiral (Schofield) on the other hand, he and Shembari both, still put their identity in what they do on the offensive end. They need to flip that.”

(On what is impressive about Vanderbilt)
“The inside-outside combination, they’ve got length that they take advantage of inside and they’ve got players who can play over the top of us. They have the ability, as we know, they’ll make a bunch of threes on you. You know, you love it when you’ve got that kind of combination. That’s something that every team, every coach would like to have, that inside-outside presence.”

(On if Tennessee’s rotation will change at all at Vanderbilt)
“You know what, I don’t know if we can change anything up because, again, foul trouble. We are who we are right now, we have who we have. We’ll have to go into the game and we need everyone to play and be engaged. And again, I’ve been doing it long enough to know that who knows what could happen in practice today? But I don’t think at this point in time there’s a lot of changes that we need to make. I mean, everybody’s played. Everybody but I think Ray (Kasongo) has started a game this year. So, we need to know what we’re going to get, more so from a defensive and competitive side more than just changes to make changes. If you ask me that question, I know Armani (Moore) is going to compete, I know he is. I would tell the other guys the same thing. He’s the one guy I know who’s going to do that. I like to say I know a bunch of other guys might. I’d like to see Shembari (Phillips) come back and compete because he’s proven that he can, he’s just hasn’t been consistent with it. We’ve all proven it that they can compete, but we just haven’t had enough guys be as consistent as they have to be with it. This time of year, that shouldn’t be an issue, but it really still is. We’re a team, where if we don’t compete, we’re not going to have much of a chance. Because we have to do that. At a very, very high level.”

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