South Carolina 84, Tennessee 58
“I know (Frank Martin) felt like we played harder and were tougher (against South Carolina in Knoxville). We told our guys coming in tonight the biggest single thing that we had to do was play harder than we’ve ever played before, because we knew they would accept that challenge from him, which they did.
“In the first half, I just thought they were tougher all the way around. I really am proud of the group we had out there at the end when we were way down. They kept fighting and tried to play.
“We’re obviously out of sync a little bit, which we were obviously concerned about that and we will be going forward. We had guys that just didn’t compete to start the game. I’m not so sure they wouldn’t have gotten a better workout in practice today, opposed to playing.”
On South Carolina going to the paint so much early on
“We knew that. Look at our team. We’ve know that all year. People are going to do that. Again, the game started, (Robert) Hubbs gives up two offensive rebounds to start the game. We told our guys. You take away the fact that we made 30 free throws at our place, they had 16 offensive rebounds (in previous meeting). They didn’t have that tonight because they shot 52 percent.
“We just didn’t compete. They didn’t do anything (unexpected), and I’m not taking anything away (from South Carolina). I think Frank (Martin) is a terrific coach. They did exactly what I would do against us, and what we thought they would do.
“With that said now, it’s a matter of executing what we were trying to get done of the defensive end and trying to finish possessions by rebounding the ball. Early we didn’t do that. Offensively, we’ve lost our transition game because (Shembari Phillips) isn’t comfortable with it, to be honest.
“Again, I think Frank has done a terrific job with his team. They’re coming down the stretch and playing for something big right now. I’m just disappointed in a couple of our guys. Didn’t compete and then they made excuses.
“I’m really proud of that group (late in the game). They were battling. They were trying to stay out there and do some things. That’s all we wanted from these guys from the get go.”
On the excuses being made
“Guys saying I double dipped the ball because somebody didn’t shoot it. Looking over the top, they throw it over the top when guys didn’t even play post defense, looking to blame their teammates.
“I’ve said before, I’ll lose games to set the culture in this program. If that’s what it means. I don’t want them to lose games, but (it’s) to make sure they understand there are certain things that are not acceptable. One of them is you’re not going to make excuses. You’re not going to turn around and blame your teammates. It’s not like we have anybody that plays perfect. That, over the next couple games, will find out who’s going to do what we need to continue to get done.
On if the defensive lapses comes down to not being competitive
“A lot of it was. I will say this (Admiral Schofield) responded. Halftime wasn’t a real pleasant place to be, obviously. I do think he came out and responded better. The start of the game, he didn’t guard. (Robert) Hubbs didn’t guard, Detrick (Mostella) you go down the line. Armani (Moore) is going to be Armani and compete. Shembari has a lot on his plate right now.
“Even (Devon Baulkman), he made some shots but he was a guy that was giving up 3s early to Duane Notice. He just didn’t get out there. For a senior, that’s unacceptable too. That’s scouting report.
On South Carolina going on 17-0 run after lead was down to 13
“Once it got to 13, we had called a timeout early. When you think about it, I think we had it was a loose ball rebound, if we would’ve come up with it. We told our guys, let’s see if we can get it down to nine or 10, put a little pressure on them, see if we can them uncomfortable.
“Brad (Woodson) can shoot the ball. He was 1-for-5 and every one of those I’d like for him to shoot again. Frank played zone and a reason I think he played zone was he probably didn’t want to chase us with all the movement we do. The second was probably feeling there’s nobody (Tennessee) can throw it into (in the post). Let’s see how many 3s they can make with us extending out there and doing that.
“When it got to 13, by that time, there were certain guys I wasn’t putting back in that game. I don’t care if it got to be we had fouled out everybody that was on the court. I might have gone in myself. There were some guys I was not going to put back in that game tonight.
On if he’s surprised or disappointed for excuses to be happening this late in the season
“It’s been a little bit there, and that’s my fault. We’ve addressed it a lot. Sometimes you’ve got to, again, do what we’re doing right now.
“Again, our defense was terrible to start the game. Some tough shots let them get out in the open floor. Shembari made some mistakes, but all this is going to come back and help us down the road. Still, some of the other guys that have played minutes, I mean, look at Robert Hubbs’ line. He didn’t have a rebound. A guy that has got to rebound the ball.
“Admiral had one rebound. Derek Reese, no defensive rebounds. And that’s our front line. Kyle, at the end of the game, again, had nine. And he played. Kyle, we know he’s only been playing basketball three years. He did some things.
“Shembari really got himself in trouble. We didn’t really run a whole lot of our offense, and I can’t blame it on Shembari, he’s just not the point guard that KP has been all year. KP has played that spot and averaged, what, 36 minutes a game? We didn’t have any transition game whatsoever.
On Robert Hubbs having ice on his knee in second half
“Had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t going back in the game in the second half regardless.”
“They tried to take out me and (Armani Moore) because we were controlling the team. We have a whole bunch of young guys trying to run the offense. That was really what they (did). Denied Armani a little bit. He can’t do everything. It was just really tough on us.
On South Carolina keying on him in the second half
“They were denying me. So really when I had my looks I had to take it.”
On being out of sync without Kevin Punter
“Road games are tough anyway, but everybody has to figure out what they need to do and do their role, like coach said. The main thing (is) everybody has to know their role and do what they have to do.”
On defensive struggles
“They took advantage of our bigs, feeding the post … then kicking out to shooters and they were knocking down shots. That hurt us.”
On being challenged by Rick Barnes
“It’s basketball. You have to learn criticism. A lot of guys are new to it; it’s a new experience for them.”
On feeling like he need to pick up players like Robert Hubbs and Detrick Mostella after they were benched
“I feel like I have to talk more with them. Be more vocal, communicating and be more positive if something happens if they put their head down. That’s the job of me and (Moore). Just keeping their head up and keep them moving, tell them everything is going to be good.”
On frustrations at this point in the season
“It’s really hard not to get frustrated. You just have to remain focused and stay on course.”
On difference between home and road records
“I just try to stay positive … do what coach tells me to do.”
On his shoulder
“It’s not 100 percent. I’m really comfortable. I just have to not think about it when I go in the game.”
On bouncing back from loss at South Carolina
“I think we can. It pushes us to play harder and compete. That’s the main thing coach has been stressing. Playing harder and competing.”
On playing without Kevin Punter
“He was definitely out there, coaching us up every play he could. Just giving us direction from where he’s seeing that we need help at.”
On playing out of sync without KP
“He left us with a lot of points out there, 20 a game. We have to find ways to make up for that. It can’t just come from one individual. It has to come from the team, everybody has to step up and account for his points that we’ve lost right now.”
On South Carolina’s defensive adjustments in the second half
“I think we just got a little out of sync. That came with me. I had a few bad turnovers. We’ll get that together. For the most part, give them credit. They defended us well.”
On how the game got away
“I think we just got away from the scouting report. Duane Notice, he started to heat up a little bit. He hit about five or six of them. We had to contain him. Then on the inside they got what they wanted tonight. We’ll get to practice and work on some things, come back stronger.”
On Barnes saying he’ll “lose games to set the culture”; benching players
“At the end of the day it’s respect. You’ve got to respect coach. I respect him with the utmost. He definitely knows what he’s talking about. He’s been doing this too long (not to). When he gives us direction, you shouldn’t talk back. When you do talk back, he feels disrespected so he has the right to sit you. I think that’s a good thing he should do, to stay in tune.”
On trying to help pick up his teammates after getting benched
“Me being a freshman in that aspect, it doesn’t really affect right here or whatever. I’ll definitely talk to them. Let them know just to stay calm. We need Detrick. We need Hubbs. We need them to play if we’re going to win. If we’re going to be good we need those two guys to score for us and defend.”
On the biggest breakdowns against South Carolina
“(Duane) Notice definitely got some wide open looks that we made a point not to give him. On the inside, we needed white line help, we needed backside help and we didn’t have it. They just took advantage of that.”
On having those breakdowns late in the season
“We got some tough guys on this team. But we have to spread it out. Just have everybody. We get up for good games like Kentucky at home. If we had that same energy every night, we would be pretty good. But we don’t, so we have to make up for it in other areas.”
Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey