Category Archives: Tennessee Basketball

Postgame Quotes — Arkansas 75, Vols 65

RICK BARNES

(Opening statement)
“In the second half, we looked like a team that was trying to hold on as opposed to a team that was really trying to win a game. Our defense wasn’t very good. When you look down and someone shoots 59 percent in the second half, nothing else really needs to be said. We had a couple opportunities where we turned the ball over and where guys weren’t ready to catch the ball and do something with it. We knew today that we were going to have to get a lot from (Devon) Baulkman, (Detrick) Mostella, (Shembari) Phillips, and even (Brad Woodson), and they didn’t have a great day shooting the ball. I thought Armani Moore played as well as he’s played all year for what we asked him to do. He had so much on his shoulders to try to do, but he really tried to run the team. He made some terrific passes where guys weren’t able to convert them. We needed to have some guys knock down some threes. We started the game with exactly what we said we didn’t want to do, not finding our shooters in transition. We fought back, but we didn’t play as hard as we have to play in the second half to win a game.”

(On scouting report for Arkansas)
“I think it goes back to basketball IQ and transition defense. I’ve said before that bad offense could lead to bad defense and sometimes the post player has to step out and pick up a guard. I know early on that was a situation and a couple of guys were losing. I think it’s a matter of mental toughness because everyone knows that we’ve shown it to them enough. It’s a matter of getting back to the sense of urgency and knowing that is something that they’re looking for. We gave up a three early when we didn’t have our hands up and that was Armani (Moore). What can you say, he played and he was unbelievable at what he had to do but he needed more help from his teammates.”

(On the absence of Robert Hubbs III)
“He said something was wrong with his knee. I didn’t expect him to play by looking at the way he walks around. I’ve learned not to have any great expectations there.”

(On his analysis of tonight’s game)
“We’ve got guys that played enough minutes. You can look at (Devon) Baulkman’s 2-for-9 (field goals) and 1-for-6 (3-point field goals), (Detrick) Mostella’s 1-for-8 (field goals) and 1-for-6 (3-point field goals), or Shembari’s (Phillips) 6-for-14 (field goals) and 1-for-2 (3-point field goals). Shembari’s 14 shots, some of them weren’t very good shots. (SID Tom Satkowiak) just told me that it is the first time in a long time that Tennessee has started three freshmen. They got 55 percent of the points but we need those other guys. Detrick had a shot block and turned it over and I actually took Shembari out of the game because he wouldn’t shoot the ball. You’ve got to take open shots and we’ve done that all year. Our second-half defense is what hurt us today. They started driving the ball back at us and we didn’t respond very well.”

(On how the he will keep the team morale up after a couple losses in a row)
“We’ll rely a lot on Armani Moore. Armani has too much pride to let his teammates quit. You feel for him as much as anybody, I’ve said it before, you know what you’re going to get from Armani. He made some passes tonight that should’ve been easy plays and guys weren’t paying attention. But he’ll help us, and Kevin Punter will do his job. But we can’t put everything on Armani or even on our freshmen. We need right now Baulkman, we need Mostella, we need Shembari, we need Brad (Woodson), we need those guys to do more. We need them to do more on the defensive end.”

(On Admiral Schofield’s bounce back performance in the second half)
“He did play well, and we keep telling him to go at people. We knew that (Arkansas forward Moses Kingsley) was a guy they were going to throw the ball to a lot and we wanted to make him play defense. I think they came into the game surprised we even threw it inside. And we have to keep throwing the ball inside. But I say that, and Armani threw it in to Kyle (Alexander) and he wasn’t ready. We need Kyle to take the next step. We can’t continue to play with four offensive players on the floor. We need Derek Reese also, he had some shots tonight and he kept dribbling the ball out of there. We have to make those plays, we can’t just keep playing inside out. We need to get to the free throw line more than we’ve been getting there.”

(On Kevin Punter Jr.’s injury status)
“If he could play today, he would play. He doesn’t have a full range of motion to play. But I can tell you, he’s one kid, that if he could help the team, he would. But we’re not going to let him do something that’s going to hurt him moving forward, and we’re not going to put him in a situation where he won’t be successful. But he would play on one foot if we let him.”

(On winning the rebounding battle but losing the game)
“Well we lost the game because we couldn’t make out three-point shots. We were 4-for-21 at the three-point line. And some of those were good looks. We know we had to try to rebound the ball, but it goes back to transition defense in the first half hurting us and we didn’t get matched up. And if you look at their three guys that they count on a lot, two of them pretty much got their average, (Dusty) Hannahs and (Anthlon) Bell, but (Moses) Kingsley didn’t, and he’s the guy that hurt us up there (in the last game against Arkansas). But we just need to make some shots. And when you shoot 4-for-21 from three-point range you can’t win. And we had some good looks. We had plenty of looks and we just need to knock them down.”


 

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson
(Opening statement)
“First of all, I’m proud of our guys tonight. Our defense was excellent. Especially the second half. We wanted to disrupt what Tennessee wanted to do. (Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes) had those kids ready to play. I thought our energy was good from the beginning to the end. Our bench played really well; (Manuale) Watkins, Anton Beard really made some big plays for us in that game there. Trey Thompson continues to get better and better each and every game.”

(On Tennessee being short-handed with Kevin Punter Jr. out of the lineup)
“No, I didn’t know Punter got hurt until today, or (Tennessee wing) Robert Hubbs. I did not know. We prepare like everybody is going to play.”

(On getting into the zone in second half)
“They were doing a good job of attacking. We were getting a bunch of fouls called, a bunch of hand checking and all that, so I want our defense to be in attack and make them a jump-shooting team. They’re doing a good job of being there where they were. They got a lot of offensive rebounds. I thought our defense was effective. We want to be unpredictable. That’s who we are. Obviously, you like to press and go up-tempo, and I thought we ran out of that. It was working.”

(On his team’s effectiveness from beyond the arc)
“Well, we’re a small team by college standards, I think. We have a lot of guys who can knock shots down. If you got them, use them, and you have to make them. I thought our guys were off to a slow start in this particular game. I thought we pushed the ball in transition, but I always come back to our defense. We have to get stops. I thought that was the biggest difference in this game.”

(On the importance of this road win)
“It’s important in a lot of ways because of the next game on our schedule. We haven’t won since we’ve been down here. So this team is coming together and starting to see the potential, especially when they go on the road. Tennessee, to me, playing here other guys had to step up when people are hurt. I’m excited to see what our guys are doing right now. This time of year I get excited because my body tells me it’s getting postseason time. Our team is built for this time of the year—to get better. So, I’m glad to see it. Our depth is really paying off.”

(On if he would be interested in seeing men’s NCAA basketball games moving to four quarters)
“That is an odd question, isn’t it? I don’t think that’d beat me.”

(On if beating Tennessee is a big deal)
“Any win for us this time of year is big, isn’t it? Kudos to our guys. I thought they have the energy. They have the right mindset. They got better today. We got better.”


 

ARMANI MOORE

(On the Vols’ struggles to get defensive stops in the second half)
“It’s very tough. It’s bad when you see the offensive team scoring on you. You always have to take the ball out. It just drains your team defensively. We definitely have to get better from this, and work on paying attention to what our defensive assignments are.”

(On good shots not falling)
“I think our guys are just thinking about it too much. I was telling DB (Devon Baulkman) and Detrick (Mostella) that they have to just shoot the ball, they are known as shooters, and that’s what they do. Once they put the ball down and start play-making it kind of throws us out of offense, but for the most part those guys did a great job tonight taking some of the shots that they took, but we just have to be focused on the next game and making those shots.”

(On staying focused on the close of the regular season)
“It’s very tough. I don’t feel like we have anybody on this team that will lay down no matter who we play, and no matter what the adversity may be looking like right now. No matter what our record looks like I feel like we will always be playing for something.”

(On the freshman competing)
“Those guys are competitors. Like I said, there is no one on this team that is going to lay down. Shembari (Phillips) has been doing a great job lately, and showing what his talent has done for them. I think Admiral (Shofield) has been doing a good job, especially being undersized playing against bigger guys and figuring out where he needs to score. Both of those guys have been effective and have helped us this season.”

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

Rick Barnes Transcript — Friday, Feb. 26

Looking back at South Carolina loss
“We watched film yesterday for a long time and talked about a lot of different things. I think what they know from our staff, we watch tape, we do a lot of things with them, I think they know we’re going to speak truth. I think after seeing tape they realize what we’re talking about. What we’ve talked about more than anything else is just great effort. When we’ve played our best basketball that’s what we’ve done and we have done that on the road at all, hardly ever, the way we need to consistently. Again, it’s not everybody, but overall the thing that we’re not going to tolerate is a lack of effort.

On if players have gotten the message

I think it’s a never-ending message. Everyday you’re dealing with young students that don’t understand they’ve been given a great opportunity. What we don’t ever want anyone to feel—coaches included—is a sense of entitlement, that it’s just going to be there. Take advantage of every single day, we want them to get up knowing that. Practice. When you’re dealing with young people it’s a constant reminder that we need to make something out of today.

On where the program is, the program’s future

“I think the good thing that has happened this year, there’s been some good moments, probably the brightest thing has been that the freshmen have gotten to play some quality minutes. They do understand what it’s going to be about. They’ve had to learn. The other night (at South Carolina) when we finally felt we had a team on the court that was competing, it was four freshman, one of them a walk-on, and Armani. The one thing that’s non-negotiable, that everyone understands…everybody wants to win. All you can control are your mental approach to the game and your physical effort. That’s what we want. We’re hoping that this group understands what’s going into it. We’re still building this culture. There’s no doubt we’re not where we want to be. I’ve been in this long enough to know that at this time of year, things haven’t gone well, people think they find places that are better, which can happen at some point and time. The fact is we’re all blessed to have this opportunity to be at the University of Tennessee and I want a group of guys that understand that.”

On Kevin Punter’s status, stress fracture

“He’e day to day. He’s not going to play tomorrow, but he’s still trying to do the rehab. The kind of kid he is, he’s hoping to have a chance to get back and play, but what he’s got, that stress fracture is something that’s tough to deal with. He’s doing everything he can to where hopefully he can get it quieted down enough. It’ll be up to him, but he won’t play tomorrow.”

On being brutally honest with players

“I don’t think you walk the line. I think you’ve got to speak truth. I don’t think it does anybody any good if you’re not very transparent, if you’re not very open and honest from the beginning. I think that’s how you’ve got to do it. I just think that’s important. We knew we started the year with a group of guys that had all come together at once, and I’ve said it before, I’ve really enjoyed coaching this team. I know as a coaching staff we’ve enjoyed coaching this team, and we’ve got a good group of guys. We’re not always the only one talking to them, and we can only control what we can control. We’re going to be honest. It’s a privilege to play here, and we want guys that understand that.”

On talking effort with players at this point in the season

“It is. Absolutely. From the beginning, that’s what we talked about. I also think this: Guys that have that innate ability to work hard every single day, I think it’s a talent. Armani Moore has a great competitive talent about him. It’s a gift, but if it’s not there, it’s something that you can develop. I do believe that, that you can develop a work ethic. I think you can develop a mental aspect to the game. I even think you can develop a degree of mental toughness, but it takes great effort on the individual to want to change his thought process and understand and embrace what it is he has to do. That means getting out of your comfort zone most of the time, which is very hard for all of us to do.”

On scouting Arkansas second time around, what jumps out
“Taking care of the ball. If you don’t take care of the ball, they’re going to get out in the open court. They’re going to score layups. They’re very good at layups, they’re very good in transition, finding shooters that get those open looks. If you turn it over, they’re going to jump right back on you and will try to do it again. So you have to protect the ball. We’ll have to play against man and zone. So we have to, no doubt, do a better job in transition and do a better job taking care of the ball.”

On Shembari Phillips’ six turnovers at South Carolina
“I think it’s him still going through the learning process. We knew going in we thought we would have to play Armani (Moore) there more (at point guard) because of South Carolina’s pressure when they go zone. He saw it on tape yesterday where he was just making some careless plays. Got back to where he was over-dribbling the ball. The biggest thing he learned (in film session on Thursday) was he didn’t get us in our offense. That affects us two ways, because Armani is very effective in the step-out four position for us. So when he has to come out to the point it changes things for us. It’s all a part of the process moving forward for Shembari. It’s going to help him in the long run.”

On Robert Hubbs, Derek Reese and Detrick Mostella responding to being benched
“In terms of what they’ve said, yes. But they’ve got to come out here today and put it into action. We’ll wait and see today (in practice).”

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

Postgame Quotes — South Carolina 84, Vols 58

RICK BARNES

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.”


 

DEVON BAULKMAN
“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.”


 

SHEMBARI PHILLIPS
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

Postgame Quotes — Vols 81, LSU 65

RICK BARNES
(Opening Statement)

“What can you say? Armani (Moore)—look at his (stat) line. Shembari (Phillips), (Robert) Hubbs—I mean everyone. I told our guys if we had to give a game ball out it would be to Derek Reese. A guy who has had to sit there behind a freshman this year but when he was a called on he really did a nice job for us. A great win.

“We wanted to keep them off the free throw line which we did a good job of that. Without KP (Kevin Punter Jr.), we weren’t in as good a sync offensively. But once we settled into a few of our half-court sets, we did start doing some things pretty well. It was really a nice win for us.”

(On when he knew Kevin Punter Jr. would not play)

“Well we weren’t sure because he’s such a tough kid. Yesterday he came in and (athletic trainer) Chad Newman was doing a great job treating him, so we weren’t sure until probably this morning in shoot around. I walked into shoot around and he was out there just standing and shooting. But we pretty much knew that he wasn’t going to go more so this morning more than anything.”

(On the prognosis regarding Punter’s injury)

“It’s day-to-day. It’s a right ankle injury, and it’s day-to-day.”

(On Armani Moore’s performance)

“He had to do a lot of things for us. We needed him to guard (LSU freshman) Ben Simmons at times and help Shembari (Phillips) a lot. He had to do that a lot. Again, a lot was put on Shembari’s plate today. We tried to lighten it as much as we could, and I think Armani probably helped him as much as anything. We told everybody, ‘All you guys have practiced all year long, you’re here, you’ve worked hard, and when your number’s called you have to be ready.’ A couple of really huge plays, I thought Kyle’s (Alexander) three-point play on that rebound. And if you look at Armani, just a great line, 17 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and four steals. And a big play for him was when he knocked that ball out of bounds, because they were running the ball at us pretty quick at the end, just trying to drive. They went with four guards and tried to put pressure on us, and we went zone once and it wasn’t a good call on my part, and it gave them a wide open three. But again, just a good win.”

(On if losing Kevin Punter Jr. motivated the team)

“Honestly, we didn’t make a big deal about it. Thinking back to practice, one of the greatest things that I think has happened for Shembari (Phillips) was from the time he got here, before Lamonte Turner was in school here, he went the whole summer having to play the point. And he’s never played it before in his life either. And you go back where he’s gotten better at it and I think it’s a great opportunity for him, but I don’t think he could have done it without Armani back there with him, the way he was. But that’s another reason we had (Derek) Reese out there because he does a good job handling the ball. We needed all of them to do it. But even when I go back to the Mississippi State game (when Moore was out due to injury), we didn’t make a big deal out of it, we said, ‘This is what we have. We have to go play, we have to believe in each other, we have to play with a lot of emotion, we have to play every possession, and we’ll guard and we’ll find a way.’ And that’s kind of what we said today, we’ll just guard and we’ll find a way. And we missed some shots early as they did, but again, we’ve just never made a big deal about it when somebody is down with an injury.”

(On being successful at home and not so much on the road)
“There’s no question about that, and it’s consistency. It goes back to just that. We can play the ‘What if?’ game. I think I mentioned a week ago, when we were in film room looking at some stats—which we hardly ever do—we talked about how many games we could’ve won that we didn’t, but we also talked about some that we won that we could’ve lost. It evens out. The fact is, you are who you are. We are right now, 13-14 (overall), 6-8 in the league. If I played that ‘What if?’ game, we all do that, but we are who we are right now. It doesn’t do any good to do that.”

(On the team’s ability to distribute the ball)
“We actually told our guys, ‘Let’s rely on our offense, and let’s let it work for us. Cut, get the ball moving.’ Once we get out of our initial thrust down the floor in transition … People have asked me all year. We don’t run a lot of plays for (specific players). We have counters in the offense. We have some drivers, like in the first half when Shembari (Phillips) drove the ball. I think you might think we’re running the same thing, but that was what we call an empty set where that was set up for a drive. That’s what it was set up for. Armani (Moore) driving from the top, we call that basic run four. We try to pick up some things. We wanted to drive the ball today, that’s why I got upset a little bit early in the game when I thought we settled for some quick threes where we (should have) wanted to drive. We can hit those shots any time. We have some things, I’m not going to say that we don’t, but you’d be amazed how much. I’m going to tell you why we’ve done that. It’s just for this situation. We didn’t want to have a team where we’re running a lot of plays for Kevin Punter in case he got hurt, or a lot of plays for Armani Moore in case he got hurt. We looked at it and said we played the ‘What if?’ game. If it could go wrong it could, so we had an offense that with whoever we put out there, it would work. It’s pretty interchangeable.”

(On what he sees in Robert Hubbs III)
“I love the kid, I really do. Frustrating kid to coach. I’m telling you, before he’s done here, I’m going to figure him out. I promise you that. He’s going to kill me or I’m going to kill him, one or the other. I’m going to figure him out, because he’s too good a kid not to help him figure it out. He’s too talented not to. He’s got to get a game, but I’ll go back, too. He missed a lot of preseason, which is a lot of the grind. He does some things really well. He’s got great hands, he sees it, and he can score around the basket. He rushed a few tonight. I love the kid, and there’s just so much more that we know he can be.”

(On the game plan against LSU forward Ben Simmons)
“Five guys guarding him (was) what we wanted, because he’s a terrific passer. We wanted to fill up the lane, and try to take away as much space from him as we could. We were ready to double more. I’ll tell you something that impressed me about our guys: This is the first time we’ve had a turnaround like this. We treated it like we’ve always treated a Saturday to Monday game. We came in yesterday, did nothing physically with the guys, just strictly talked to them mentally. Walked through it today a little bit, not much. I thought they were really locked in, from something that we haven’t had to do all year. As a group, we wanted to shrink the court. They score a lot of points in the paint. Where they’ve beat a lot of people is the free throw line. You look at the paint numbers. In the paint, we won that battle. We wanted to close down that lane as much as we could, and some of that was a little distorted at the end where they got some of those dunks there. A big stat was keeping them off the free throw line, and obviously we talked about rebounding the ball.”

(On his team having a sense of urgency without Kevin Punter Jr.)

“Yeah, I think so. We don’t do very well when we stand and watch. We’re thinking really hard on defense. We’ve become a really good defensive team. We’re scrambling and what we have to quit doing, and Detrick (Mostella) does it more than anybody, he’s the one that’s always slapping the ball on rebounds as opposed to going and getting it. And he’s knocking it out of our own guys’ hands. He shouldn’t be slapping the ball. The guys were getting on him during the game saying, ‘Either get it or leave it alone,’ because he’s the guy that keeps knocking it out. Again, we’re a team that on any given night, we have a bunch of guys that could do some things. I’ve said to all of you, I love these guys, and just know that they’ve worked hard, but we’ve become a really good defensive team, and I think that hurts you a little bit sometimes on the offensive end because we put people in long possessions sometimes. Then, if we come down and shoot it quick, which we don’t mind doing with the right guy, it could be us on offense for six to eight seconds, then we have to come back and grind it again, but we’ve gotten better on the defensive end.”

(On senior Derek Reese adjusting to getting limited minutes)

“Well what he did is what we’ve asked him to do from day one: guard somebody. He can guard. He’s a smart player. He’s a guy that can handle the ball. He knows how to run offense. I could put Derek Reese any spot on the floor and he would know how to work it. But the one thing we’ve told him all year long is that we need defense and rebounds in that position. We don’t care if we score there. He’s not going to play what we would call the trail position—he doesn’t have to score—but he’s got to play defense and rebound. I think it’s tough when you’ve got Kyle (Alexander) playing in front of him, Admiral (Schofield) down there—two freshmen—but for him to stay on edge and do what he did, I think it shows great character. I think it shows that he’s not giving up. It’s not an easy role to be in. He changed his role a little bit today. If you go back to the beginning of the year, that’s what he was doing, and then he got away from it where he just watched it a little too much, but I’m happy for him. He’s been a good teammate. He hasn’t ever been a problem. He comes to practice, and we told them that everyone has got to be ready because who knows what is going to happen.”

(On Shembari looking unaffected during his season-high 38 minutes of action)

“Oh, he was affected. You guys wouldn’t know, but I did. How I know is that he didn’t run our offense. He just stayed down the sidelines. We haven’t done that all year. We do love his demeanor. We do love his competitive spirit, but he’s got to fight for his space. He had chances to get out and run with it today, but he was content bringing it down the floor. Armani (Moore) kept telling him to come on. I think today he was not as sure of himself as we want him to be, but today has to be a big day for him. He’s going to learn a lot because that’s the most minutes he’s ever played. He had to play 38 minutes. I would say he had a lot on his plate. He did a good job, but he didn’t get us in our offense the way that we needed him to.”

(On if he’ll need to be diligent in keeping Kevin Punter Jr. off his feet)

“No, he’s smart enough now because he’s such a tough kid that he understands that he’s got to. It’s day to day, and he’ll do the right thing.”


 

ARMANI MOORE

(On the team’s play without Kevin Punter Jr.)
“I think tonight, the guys came out and they were poised. They made great decisions, and most importantly they just gave a lot of effort.”

(On guarding LSU freshman Ben Simmons)
“I had the same mindset going into the game. Obviously, he’s a talented player. I give him credit for what he did tonight. He carried his team. I just said I was going to come out and try and defend without fouling, and I think I did that tonight.”

(On his leadership tonight)
“I knew I was going to have to do more than just score the ball tonight. I knew I would have to be the one who, when things get rough, brings the team together and just lets them know that we have to settle down and keep on pushing. I think the guys, from an individual standpoint, did a good job of that, of just staying in control.”

(On having just a few more games left in his career)
“I just have to keep on doing what I’m doing. I’ve been enjoying my time here at Tennessee. I’m just going to keep on playing hard and make sure I leave a good mark.”


 

SHEMBARI PHILLIPS

(On his expectations coming in as a freshman)
“When I first got in, I felt like somebody owed me something. I had to take a step back and think to myself, ‘I’m not as good as I think I am.’ Ever since a couple weeks back, I have been in the gym a lot more and started attacking the game differently. I let the game start on defense from now on. It has been working out great for me. Being in the gym is key.”

(On what worked well against LSU on Saturday night)
“Sharing the ball. We could have done a little better cutting. We never got rattled by pressure. Give credit to them, their full court pressure started to get us a little bit at the end. We just stayed poised and got what we wanted.”

(On the Vols’ strong opening the second half)

“We just said that we can’t let up. In the past, we have had leads going into halftime and (have) given them up. At halftime, we made it a point to not let up. We came out, and I was glad we were able to push the lead up a little bit and not get complacent.”


 

LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones
(Opening statement)
“Coming in, we knew it would be a tough basketball game up here. We didn’t think after we got the news that one of their premier starters wouldn’t be available to them that we should be able to relax. We talked to the team about (Tennessee) being a great shooting team with guys that have the ability to step up. They were able to show that tonight. We just didn’t do a good job on the defensive end of the floor, especially in the second half. Guys had their way making layups, second-chance opportunities, offensive rebounds, making plays. They shot 64 percent in the second half. We came up short against a very good, talented basketball team. We did not have the flow that we needed offensively, in terms of making plays in the first half. We got a little bit better flow in the second half, but I think we were playing a very confident basketball team. Unfortunately tonight, we came up short.”

(On if he felt like the team relaxed when they found out Kevin Punter Jr. was not playing)
“No. I think a prime example is Mississippi State played today in Tuscaloosa with their premier players out. Mississippi State was able to go in there and win a big basketball game. Any time you find a team like that, other teams have a little edge about themselves and they step up, and I think that’s exactly what happened here today.”

(On if his team feels any pressure this late in the season)
“No. I don’t think that we are as locked in, possibly, as we were early. I think that we had the flow that we normally play with tonight early on in the game. I thought we wanted to try to concentrate and go on and punch the ball inside. I thought they took us a little bit out of a rhythm, primarily our shooters. That hurt us a little bit in terms of scoring.”

(On difficulty bouncing back from Wednesday’s loss to Alabama)
“(Tennessee) is a good team. They’ve knocked out some good teams here: Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida. We knew that they were very capable. We know they are efficient offensively and they make plays.”

(On why Ben Simmons did not start)
“I had to address some academic stuff with him. It was early in the week, and it was an attention-getter for him. We are hopeful this will help get him closer to concentrating on what he should be doing.”

(On if Simmons not starting affected the game)
“No. He played 36 minutes in the game, so I don’t think it had any effect.”

(On if Tennessee did anything unique on Saturday night)
“No, I think they just had guys step up. Other guys that maybe had been looking for an opportunity to play additional minutes, the opportunity was tonight. They had a great flow offensively and I think it showed in the percentage they shot, 64 percent in the second half. Nineteen assists on 31 made baskets. I thought they played well.”

(On his perceptions of his team’s performance)
“I thought we had a little bit better of a flow going before the second half. We wanted to win; to be able to win you have to have a certain level of focus. You have to concentrate and be able to play through the runs in really tight games. It was a good opportunity today and we didn’t take advantage of a good opportunity.”

(On the areas that his team came up short)
“They made plays and there were several times that I thought we had good defensive possessions. The shot clock was about to go out and they winded up hitting threes. We got second-chance opportunities with rebounds around the basket and we just made plays where we thought we had good defensive possession. We had good defensive possessions and winded up not finishing them. You have to finish your possessions off and they made two or three shots from deep when the shot clock was actually running out. They made a bunch of plays and we turned it over.”

(On suffering consecutive defeats)
“It’s never easy. We have four left. All four games will be extremely tough and difficult. We have to make sure that we prepare and try to win the next one. They’re never easy.”

(On his message to the team)
“We just have to do some soul searching. We have to dig down deep to see if we’re a part of the problem or a part of the solution. That’s all we can do to get better so our team will make the type of progress that it needs to and have success down this stretch.”

(On his team’s mindset entering the final stretch of the season)
“We want to win, winning it important. We will prepare ourselves and we have to focus; that’s what we have control over. “

(On the challenges that face his team the rest of the way)
“I know where we were at this time last year. I know how our team plays and we’re in a tough conference. It’s difficult and winning is hard; you just have to make sure that you win games but unfortunately, we didn’t win the tough one today.”

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

Postgame Quotes — No. 14 Kentucky 80, Vols 70

Game Story: Kentucky pulls away from Vols, 80-70

RICK BARNES

On what Derek Willis’ shooting does for Kentucky…

“When they shoot the ball like that, we’re the ones that need to make 11 three’s, we’re the ones that need to be doing that. They shot it well. Again, it’s my fault. We probably should have started switching a little bit earlier. We got a couple of them in transition that needed to get back. At one point in time we started to switch our 1-4 and then at the very end we put a small lineup out there and started switching everything. That’s my fault. I probably should have done that earlier. But the fact is they played well. I said coming in here, ‘you take away the Kansas game, which I thought they really had a great chance to win, (and then when they came to us) we obviously played a great game and our best game of the year, but you go back and you look at the scores, they’ve been playing terrific. I felt coming in our game in Knoxville they were starting to find themselves and it’s really impressive the way John (Calipari) has his team really understand their roles. The chemistry is just great. They know what they’re looking for. Coming in we knew, you look at a guy like Tyler Ulis who is terrific, controls the game, and does so many things, you have to believe he and Jamal Murray are going to get theirs. What you hope is that you don’t let a guy like (Derek) Willis breakout like he does. They do enough that they’re going to get there so you can’t let the third or fourth guy get going. That’s what happened.”

On how being on a streak from the perimeter helps Kentucky build from game to game…

“I think it does. We know because we’ve had games where we get going and we have games where we know we’re not scoring well and have a hard time putting the ball inside and doing something to break that rhythm. I think they take good shots. I think they played the way John wants them to play and I think he has a terrific point guard. Defensively they’re not going to give you anything easily. Ulis affects the game that way. They did a great job on (Kevin) Punter tonight. They were working so hard to keep him away from the right side of the court. (Punter) has to make that adjustment because he can go left. He needs to do it more. They worked hard at slowing him down early. Our guys fought to stay back in there. Every time we thought we could get it close they would hit a big three. Then they grabbed some offensive rebounds in the second half that really hurt us too.”

On what Armani Moore did for his team tonight…

“All year Armani and Kevin Punter we’ve just put so much on them. What we said coming into this game, when you go back and you look at when we play our best basketball we have more coming from Robert Hubbs. We’ve got more coming from Admiral Schofield. I think it’s really neat watching Shembari Phillips. I really liked his domineer tonight. I thought he came in here and was really poised. I thought Kyle Alexander (had a lot of poise) too. Kyle has literally only been playing three years of basketball. He played on the same team as Jamal Murray and he hadn’t played very much. For a guy that has only played competitive basketball for three years he’s doing everything that we could ask him to do. We need more guys. Armani, we put so much on him to defend and rebound. And he is a big time competitor too. But again, sometimes my frustrations I kind of take out on him because we want to win and we expect so much from him. When you look at it when it’s all said and done, you look at what he does and he does it out of sure determination. He and Kevin both need more consistent help from his teammates.”

On Devon Baulkman’s left shoulder injury

“He was back there getting X-rays when I walked in. He’s had that problem before. They thought it might have popped out on him, which has happened to him in practice some. He’s had to deal with that for the past couple years. ”

On how well Kentucky is compensating for not having a post presence

“I think John is doing a good job trying to build a little bit more of that into what they’re doing. There was a difference when he threw it into the post when we had Kyle in there. Kyle made it a little bit more difficult. They made a couple post moves where they took advantage of trying to throw the ball in there against Admiral Schofield, and you would expect a guy that big to score over top of him. I think they still, you look at it and points in the paint, I count those baskets as Murray and Ulis’ getting down the lane. Those are points in the paint too. That is as affective as throwing the ball to a post player there. Just like we’re trying to continue to develop our young games, I think John is trying to do the same thing. Again, I just think they really understand their roles. Each guy that goes into the game really understands what is expected of him. I think that is a sign of a team that is really starting to figure it out.”


KEVINPUNTER

On the quick turnaround with LSU game Saturday

“Yeah, quick turnaround, got to get our mind right. You know, go try to protect our own court and get back to school and watch some film and get ready for our next opponent.”

On how hard it was to see Baulkman go down again

“I saw him step and he was just like, you know, reaching at his shoulder and was just in pain. I already knew like, his shoulder popped out, again. You know, I can’t tell you how many times since I met him his shoulder popped out. ”

On the biggest difference in the second half

“Those guys had a lot of 3s, you know, and with us, we kept fighting man. We just tried to chip at the lead.”


 

ARMANI MOORE

On the quick turnaround with the LSU game

“I think the biggest part about that is just making sure that we get home and practice. Make sure that we eat the right things and be ready for that game.”

On how Moore and Punter are key offensive players…

“It is tough at times, but I mean, that just shows that me and KP gotta get more people involved. You know, we are just trying to do everything ourselves. You know, we gotta try to be playmakers for

On if he felt like it was his best offensive performance in awhile with 21 and 11

“Yeah, for the most part. I mean, I just feel like I came out, didn’t try to force anything tonight. I took the right shots and the points came and the rebounds came.”


JOHN CALIPARI
On what happened to Marcus Lee there?
“No, no, his back tightened up, so didn’t think he could go. That was fine, it gave Isaac [Humphries] a chance. I thought Isaac was tremendous for the minutes he was playing. He’s just got to get on the floor more. He’s got to be out there. I thought he tries and he fights so I was happy with how he played.

I told — Tyler Ulis passed on good shots and took tough shots. I said you can’t do that. And if you go 1-for-12 and we lose a game because you’re taking open shots and they’re not going, that’s fine. But you can’t pass on open shots and then take tough shots. I thought Jamal [Murray] was good, and obviously Derek [Willis] offensively did what they had to for us to create a gap. So it was a good game.

“We didn’t have the energy that we’ve had in a couple of games, but I’m telling you, they’re not machines. It’s hard in every game. We had three games in five days. I said would you rather be practicing or playing games? Playing games. So we’ve got a tough road ahead of us, but that’s fine.

On Isaiah Briscoe’s had ten rebounds, Jamal Murray’s nine
“It was even before because he wasn’t getting balls and one-handed rebounds. I just said go get balls. Isaiah, he’s just got to take shots and not worry about missing. He’s shooting way better in practice, and I’m even saying our post players are scoring in practice, and they’re just not carrying it over to a game right now, but they will. The same with Isaiah. He didn’t have to make every shot. Just there’s a couple if he made it creates a gap especially when they’re not playing them. It makes them pay for that.

“Like I said, we’re defending better. We’ve defended way better than we did up there. We still broke down some, but we did a better job today.

On Jamal Murray scoring in different ways, getting to free-throw line
“It’s exactly what we want. How we want him to play. He took one bail-out three and he knew it. I said ‘why’d you do it?’ What we were doing is we were drag screening, which meant the whole lane was open. So whoever had the ball, all you had to do was beat somebody out of bounds. Other than that one, I thought he played an outstanding game. He’s trying to defend better. Couple breakdowns defensively, and it’s mostly that we’re not talking and communicating. But, you know, again, he goes 3 for 6 from the three. That’s perfect. Then get your other baskets going to the rim, and ones, make free throws, 9 out of 10, nine rebounds. It’s a good game. Two assists, a steal, a block. I mean, he did a little bit of everything today.

On how Jamal Murray has his approach changed over the last five or six games
“Well, again, instead of making hard plays, like ‘I got this lay-up, but you watch this.’ You try to explain to him really, really good players make hard plays look easy. Bad players make easy plays look really hard. And he started the season, that’s what he was doing. So you saw turnovers like ‘why is he doing tough shots?’ Now if he has a shot, he’s taking it. He’s getting the ball by the man, so he’s creating fouls. You know, he’s creating for his teammates.

“He’s becoming — he’s a big guard and a well-rounded guard who can play and pick-and-roll, and he can handle, he can score it. He’s a big lead guard is what he is.

In what ways has Isaac Humphries improved the most since he got here
“Well, he just fights. He goes after balls, and that’s all you want guys to do. You’re not going to get them all, but try, attempt. He’s not afraid to contact. When there’s contact, he’s in the middle of it somehow, and it gives us what we need. I mean and he waited a long time to get this opportunity. Now he’s got an opportunity to play and he’s taking advantage.

“But, again, if we’re without Alex [Poythress] and Marcus Lee and we go to Texas A&M on game day with a day off, not going to be easy.

On adjustments made against Kevin Puner Jr
“Well, we played that middle pick-and-roll to where, if we played it so we could switch it or stay, depending on what they did, and it gave them no easy baskets, which they got a ton of those up there (in Knoxville). The guy that hurt us was the [Armani] Moore kid, and again, what he did was he beat us on the bounce. He had 15 in the first half or 14 in the first half. Again, he was driving right and he kept beating us on the bounce.

“He’s a strong kid, and he hurt us on making shots in the first half. He had 21 points and 11 rebounds. But the kid, Punter didn’t do as much, but again, he had 19 points. It’s not like we shut him out.

On Derek Willis
“Yeah, I think as he defends better and rebounds even better and becomes where he enjoys physical play like he wants it like ‘this is how I want to play,’ he becomes as good as anybody. Think about it, he’s 6’9, 6’10. His arms make him about 7’2. Think about that.

“He’s making free throws. He’s confident. He takes responsibility when he’s playing poorly. He’s not looking to make excuses, and everybody, you know, Tyler didn’t play great today, nine assists, two turnovers. He didn’t play great today. He didn’t play where he had been playing.

“But what’s changed our team is Derek. He made us a totally different team. The minute we said — then you say why didn’t you do it earlier? Didn’t know. When we went to it, it was obvious everybody could see he just changed our team. The other thing is he’s coming every day. Doesn’t mean he makes shots every day, but he comes every day and gives you everything he has.

On Thursday-Saturday games
“Probably the guys that played a lot of minutes will do treatments and stretching and that kind of stuff, and then have the guys that didn’t play as many minutes do individuals and then we’ll come together and maybe script some of our stuff that we want to use against them. Then we’ll probably walk through their stuff before we get on the plane and go down there and that will be about it.

“We’ll have a shootaround the day off, get a great shootaround in, and let’s go play a ballgame against a really good team. They just won their last game against Mississippi down there, and they won by 15. They played Tuesday, so they’ve got a little gap in between the game. But like I said, if it’s practice for three days or play a game, I think all of these kids would rather play games.

On if his team is “figuring it out”
“Yeah, I think last game, the best part of last game is I could step away — didn’t do it on purpose — but I could step away and see that this team was empowered. That they were running and doing the things that we had taught and they didn’t need me there.

“There were calls from the sidelines, so it wasn’t just random stuff. We watched tape, who made that call, we made that call. Who did that? We did that. So it wasn’t just random. There were things we grounded out, guys played aggressive, and I walked away saying this team is empowered now. They need to take us for the drive. It’s not me driving them anymore. It’s not me battling them anymore. I don’t need to. Today I had a couple guys we’re telling you how to play, just go do it.

“So there were a couple guys we got on and mostly just for scrappiness and stuff like that. They’re dragging us now, and that’s what I try to do every year. If I don’t have a team empowered and it’s us and we’re dragging them, it’s hard to advance. If your team’s empowered and they’re playing and holding each other accountable, I don’t have to do it, they’re doing it more than I am, that’s the way you want it.

On his teams becoming empowered at different points of the year
“It all depends on the team. And sometimes it’s my view of it too, and sometimes I’m wrong. Like this team, I did not think they were ready to say let’s go do this. Then I sat back and I watched and I’m like, they are. They are ready. Yesterday’s practice and the day before, you’re talking about short bursts, let’s go. And again, I think Tyler, they’re feeding off Tyler’s confidence, and he is helping all of those guys be confident. He really is.

“Like I said, I know there are some really good players out there in this country, but he’s got to be in the equation for Player of the Year what he’s doing, the numbers and what he’s doing for our team, phew.

“And if you don’t think he’s very good, you better hope you don’t play us. ‘Not that good. He’s small.’ Okay. Then the game’s over and you say, ‘oh, my gosh, he controlled the game.’ If you remember early in the year, I told you, he didn’t know how to lead off the court. He’s now leading off the court. They started a breakfast club, he and Isaiah, and all of a sudden they’re dragging guys in with them. Sometimes there’s 12 of them there in the morning. I don’t know. I don’t see it. I don’t ask about it. It’s their choice to do it. They’re probably doing it four days a week, and that was him and Isaiah, which it’s a big step.

“He’s talking more. He’s talking to guys off the court. I told him, you can’t just lead on the court. You’ve got to lead off the court. They’ve got to know you’re there for them. He’s truly a servant leader right now.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Vols 71, Auburn 45

RICK BARNES

Tennessee 71, Auburn 45

(On the performance of wing Robert Hubbs III)

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

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

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

(On guard Devon Baulkman’s performance)

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

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

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

(On his team’s defensive performance)

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

(On Detrick Mostella’s continued improvement)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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


 

Robert Hubbs III

(On his increased production Tuesday night against Auburn)

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

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

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


 

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Press Conference — Rick Barnes (Feb. 8)

Rick Barnes, Monday, Feb. 8

(On the first meeting with Auburn on Jan. 2)
“When you go back to January, most teams change (from then to now). I would like to think that we are a better team, and I think Bruce Pearl would feel the same thing (about his team). Kareem Canty is a good player, but when you go back to our game down there, he played well, but there were some other guys that hurt us, too. It wasn’t like he was the one guy that beat us when we were down there. There are other guys that we are going to have to deal with. January was a long time ago, and the fact is I do think we are a better team, but we are so up-and-down that I don’t know what to tell you to expect. We seem to think we are going to turn the corner in some ways, and then we revert back to doing something that isn’t very good.”

(On Tennessee’s defensive struggles on the road)
“That is a tough one to answer. We always try to look and analyze and keep things as much in a pattern as we can, but I don’t know. Sometimes, you leave a timeout and guys can’t remember what you said 30 or 45 seconds ago. I don’t think it is just us. If you look around the country, other teams struggle with the same type of things, but for various reasons. You have to come back, analyze and then keep fighting forward. It’s the little things… We have to have more than two guys playing well for us. When we are playing good basketball, we are getting more of an all-around team effort, and we haven’t gotten much of that on the road. The only time I can say we did it was the one game that we won at Mississippi State. When you think about it, a lot of guys made some plays in that game, and it was without Armani Moore.”

(On if he expected the team to struggle Saturday at Arkansas)
“Yeah, that has been our pattern. It is not a great feeling when you go into games wondering who is going to show up and who is not. When I say `show up,’ I don’t want you to think that guys don’t care. I don’t know if it is a mindset or a comfort level. I don’t know. When you go on the road and you are like we are, you have to have more than two guys ready to play. We haven’t gotten it consistently. You guys have watched us and you know. Kevin (Punter) and Armani have been pretty consistent all year. We put a lot on those guys, and you think about the minutes they play… they play almost every minute in practice. We need all of our players to help us. We are really happy with our younger players. If you go back and look at what Kyle (Alexander), Shembari (Phillips) and Admiral (Schofield) have done, they have been getting a lot of quality minutes. They have combined to average 17.3 points over the last three games, which has been good, but we still have a lot of basketball to be played, and it is consistency. I will tell you what we tell them: It goes back to preparation two days out. It goes back to practice. You can win a lot of games during that time, but you can lose a lot of games as well.”

(On other players helping take the load off Armani Moore and Kevin Punter’s shoulders)
“You keep coaching. You have to find ways. You try to get to the core of it. You try to get them to a correct mindset. Every guy has a different mindset. You have to look at where we think Robert (Hubbs) is and Devon (Baulkman) is, and I think they are both great kids with great hearts. When it comes to basketball, they both have different issues in terms of why they do not play well. You have to be able to spend time with them, talk to them about it. I don’t think you can just push it to the side and think it will take care of itself. As long as they are willing to be coached… that is what coaching is. It is an everyday kind of situation. As much as you worry about the physical aspect, the mental aspect is just as important. You just simply talk about it with them, you talk about it as a team. They all need each other. I will say that when most guys aren’t playing well they feel like they are on an island by themselves. They are just thinking about themselves. Coaches use a lot of different clichés about getting lost in the game and doing this and that, and I do think when most guys struggle they are being one-sided and all they are thinking about is taking shots. When they do that it really affects them. You can tell in their body language. No one went through a tougher time than Armani. He went through a couple games there where you could tell he doubted himself. Players go through that. The thing is, he put more time into it and he started controlling the things he can control. He got back into the team and stopped worrying about making a shot or a free throw. He just played the game. We have a good group of guys. If they keep working at it, we will keep fighting with them. We will help teach them to get through those demons they have to deal with.”

(On players being engaged mentally)
“I think it’s confidence as much as anything. We were able to overcome a deficit here with Kentucky and we were really good defensively. We weren’t good in the first four possessions of the game at Arkansas. We were not very good. I’m talking about the little things, showing on the screens, talking on the transitions, getting back, and you wonder why. We actually showed in practice the night before (the Arkansas game that) we were really locked in defensively. We never once got there during the game. All five guys being in a stance… that is what is baffling. We have to get them to understand that we cannot leave it on the practice court. We have got to move it forward and get out there. They know it. For instance, you guys have heard us talk about guys getting to the corner, and we watched tape and some guys still don’t do it. We ask why and they say `I don’t know.’ We won’t let that slide. They do know. What it gets down to is commitment. Doing your job. A guy can’t execute a play because of spacing, and that is simple commitment, and I think that comes down to–where their minds are. The are thinking that they have to make a shot as opposed to going through the process. They want the results real quick, and it doesn’t happen that way.”

(On Auburn playing without Kareem Canty)

“Everyone knows that Canty is the kind of guy that can make spectacular plays, he can do a lot. He can get going and make some really difficult shots. There were other guys that hurt us equally as much down there. I never thought they were a one-man team. I never thought that … We’ll go about it (the same). I think we all know the only game we won on the road was without one of our best players. I don’t think as a team, ‘Ok, here’s this guy, one of the leading scorers, they can’t win without him.’ Firsthand, we know that we did it without Armani (Moore at Mississippi State). Their players look at it as a challenge, that we can win without him. I think you better be ready to play.”

(On the best thing that Auburn does)
“I think they’re like most teams: if they get a chance to take advantage of you, they can. On the offensive end, I think they do a really good job of executing their offense. I think they know what they’re looking for, and they’re going to work hard at making all their possessions count.”

(On where he’d like to see freshman Shembari Phillips progress)
“In terms of this season, I think the game is slowly slowing down for him a little bit. I think he’s starting to see it different, where he doesn’t have to do something every time he gets the ball. We’ve always thought he could be a defender. He’s done a pretty good job guarding the ball. He would tell you that he’s still working to be a better defensive player away from the ball, where he doesn’t ball watch. His ceiling will be his commitment to it–you know, how much he wants to grow. He’s had a great example in Kevin Punter. They all have. He’s got a great example in Lamonté Turner. Lamonté is like Kevin. He’s in the gym constantly. The ceiling will depend on his commitment to a great work ethic when the season’s over. This time of year, they’re going to do what they need to be doing. It’s when the season’s over and they’ll have a little more time, the guys that have that high ceiling are the ones that are going to utilize that time to get in the gym.”

(On what he’s seeing from Lamonté Turner)
“He’s helped us this year. I think he’s helped Kevin [Punter] a lot in practice, Kevin having to guard him. Obviously, Lamonte’s learning our system, which is going to help him going forward. He’s going to be a terrific player. I don’t think there’s any question when you work as hard as he works. He is a guy that loves being in there. He really wants to be coached. He’s one of those guys that you love. When you tell him to do something and you walk out of the gym, he’s going to do what you tell him. He’s been a really nice addition to us. Obviously we wish he was playing, but the fact is he’s helped us in his own way just by what he’s done in practice. Going forward, you talk about the ceiling, he’s one of those guys with these other young guys that we’re expecting to be the guys that are going to lead the way going forward.”

(On Lamonté Turner’s work ethic during his redshirt season)
“I think he has struggled a little bit, but I don’t think he ever struggled on the court because he loves basketball. You can tell he loves it. I don’t think it is easy for what he has had to go through. Like I tell him everyday, he is closer and closer to being eligible. Shembari and these other guys are going to be sophomores before you know it, and he is going to be a sophomore, but with four years left. When the season is over with, he is just like those guys getting ready for next year. The fact that he has been in it–he cares. You watch him during a game. It tells you a lot when you watch him during a game. He is locked in. The other night during the game that we were playing Kentucky, we watch these guys, and they get tired. Somebody yelled out to me, ‘It looks like Detrick is getting tired.’ I heard one of the coaches say, ‘Who do you want to get for Detrick?’ Lamonte said, ‘Detrick? He just made a three, Coach. Leave him in.’ He is engaged. He gets excited for the guys during the game. That part of it is good. He will be a really good teammate and has been a good teammate for these guys. Like all young guys, he is learning how to play defense. That has probably been his hardest thing. All kids love to play on the offensive end, but in practice in the last month, he has really worked harder on that end. He needs to.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Arkansas 85, Vols 67

RICK BARNES, Saturday, Feb. 6

Arkansas 85, Tennessee 67: Inconsistent Vols ‘got outplayed from the start’

“Really we just got outplayed from the start. I think all the credit goes to Arkansas, they did what we thought they were going to do. They did what they do.

“As a team, we just continue to put way too much pressure on Kevin Punter and Armani Moore. To bring the ball up expecting those guys to get things going that way. When we’re going to win the way we’re going to win, we have to have more production from somebody other than those two guys.

“But again, you have to give Arkansas credit. We broke down (in) our scouting report.

“I thought a big play for us in the game, even though I’m not sure what difference it would’ve made, we had it down to 10 after the way we started. Admiral gave up a big offensive rebound at the free-throw line and if we would’ve secured that, maybe go down and get it underneath 10, give us a little life that way.

“He didn’t come up with it and they (had a 3-point play) and it went to 13. We never could get it back after that, really. We came out to start the second half and broke down defensively, just fighting uphill all the way.”

On if it was just poor shooting or a hangover from the Kentucky win
“I don’t believe in the hangover deal. Again, scouting report. We want to guard Dusty Hannah, obviously, and we leave him wide open early in the game. We just lock in and they break out and get a wide open shot.

“We had too many offensive rebounds that they put back. Offensively, I didn’t think we kept moving the way we need to. We knew they were going to deny us, switch, do all that stuff. We worked on that. We’ve played against it before. We just got outplayed.

“I don’t think it has to do (with the win over Kentucky). You look at our record, we’re 11-12. That’s kind of been our season. Up, down, up, down, up, down.

“We’ve got to get more production from more guys. They got pretty much what they wanted when they wanted it.

“Obviously, Moses Kingsley had a big night in there. They threw it in there and he’s 8-for-11 (from the field). I thought they were smart, obviously. We knew they were going to do that. They were going to throw the ball inside, even though they’ve got guys that can shoot it.

“I think Mike (Anderson) does a great job. He was going to make us defend him and we didn’t do a very good job.”

On Arkansas getting balanced scoring, having to defend multiple scorers
“Again, I think Mike does a terrific job with his team. I love what they do in terms of they’re moving. They do have an inside-outside game. They have someone they can throw it to (in the post). We’re getting better there. I think Kyle Alexander is getting better and better. The more he plays the better he’s going to get; the kid has only been playing two years and he’s really trying.

“You look at it, we need Robert Hubbs to play. We’re in the zone, we just changed it up. We let it by a couple possessions there where he doesn’t slide and they end up scoring coming out of the timeout, which is just, we didn’t execute from the timeout and they did. (Detrick) Mostella was 1-for-7. But he and (Devon) Baulkman early didn’t defend the way we needed to.

“I thought Shembari (Phillips) played really well tonight. He’s getting better and better, getting a feel for it. I thought he was really good defensively. He’s learning.
“Mostella, Hubbs and Baulkman, we need those three guys to give us more than what they gave us tonight, in games like this.”

On shooting 24 percent in the first half
“I don’t think we ever got rhythm (on offense). I think you have to give them credit. Give them all the credit. I thought they outplayed us every way they can outplay us. When you give up free-throw blockouts it usually leads to (bad) basketball. But we’ve played against teams that defend us the same way. It’s not like something they did differently.

“We knew they were going to make Kevin (Punter) work. That’s fine if defenses want to extend because Armani (Moore can handle it). We’ve seen that all year. You have to give them credit for everything. They beat us every way you can beat us. Mike has done a terrific job with this team.”
On being competitive, staying in the game when shots aren’t falling

“You saw us do it the other night. We played much harder defensively the other night than we did tonight. That’s all we’ve talked about. I don’t think you can win on the road if you don’t defend. I don’t care if you’re making shots. I think you’ve got to defend. I don’t think we’ve had a great defensive effort on the road yet. They shot 52 percent. We didn’t defend.

“I can tell you this, we defended ourselves better yesterday in practice than we did today, with the effort, being in a stance, being locked in. Too many offensive rebounds, too many little things. Too many breakdowns.

“Like I said, the scouting report early, free-throw blockouts. It’s not like we can throw the ball inside. We just put too much on Kevin and Armani to do too much for us. Look at Admiral, he got five rebounds but that was a big one he gave up. Then he went back in the second half and did it again at the end of the game. We’re trying to talk to those guys as much time as we can, but that has to become important to them. Those type of things. Just like I think Detrick and Devon, I don’t know if Baulk has played well on the road all year. He’s a senior, been around. Those are the guys you expect to do that.

On if those little things are capable of being taught at this point in the season
“You see us taking them out. We’re taking them out for things. You can’t breakdown defensively the way we did. I thought we had too many guys making excuses, too. When they would come to the bench they would say something. I think that’s a sign of immaturity, too. We just weren’t tough enough, weren’t good enough to win.”

On 1-11 road record
“I bet you if you asked anybody in the league, I don’t think anybody would’ve thought we would win on the road. I think we win anywhere, but we have to have everybody playing. There’s a lot of basketball left. We’re going to have more chances to go on the road and win. We’ve played well at times on the road. We haven’t finished.

“We don’t have a post game. It’s hard. At some point in time you need to throw the ball inside. (With) Kyle, we don’t have a lot we can do. He’s learning. I’m glad at least the guys are looking to throw it to him a couple times. He put it on the floor, which he can’t do. The fact is, we’ve got to be better defensively. We’ve got to be on edge with our scouting report. We didn’t do either one of those.”

On facing Arkansas’ Moses Kinglsey without a post presence
“It’s tough. Kyle gives us a little length. The other guys, tried to get Ray (Kasongo) in there a little bit too. He hasn’t played very much. We get him out there a little bit, maybe he can get a little more feel for it. We know that when they get one post guy up at the foul line area, they’re going to look to go high-low on us. We were sitting on top, playing over top of it, and we can’t do that. That’s not how we teach it.

“They just outplayed us. They executed better than we did on both ends.”

On what he can tell Roebrt Hubbs at this point
“Some point in time he’s going to have to look at himself and think, ‘What do I have to do different?’”


 

KEVIN PUNTER JR
On this team battling inconsistencies
“We just have to try to control it. As rough as it is, we just have to stay the course and hopefully we’ll have a breakthrough. It’s as simple as that.”

On trying to stay in game when shots aren’t falling
“It’s tough. We need everybody, down to the last guy on the bench to win games. That’s just how it is for us. Not all teams are like that. For us to win, we need that. We don’t get it all the time.”

On battling frustrations when shots aren’t falling
“I wasn’t really worrying about me starting the game 0-for-7. I need to make shots to get going, but I knew I would find a groove and get it going.”

On Shembari Phillips’ progress
“A lot. He’s learning. Sometimes it may take a year, but he’s learning things. I’m trying to take him under the wing, to teach him as much as possible.”

On appreciating the progress made because of the work he’s put in with Shembari Phillips
“I just try to set the example. I’m not going to be with him, obviously, as he continues his career here. So I try to give him tips and let him follow me. Anytime coach (Barnes) talks to me, he’s with me listening and looking in at what coach is saying to me.”

On trying to fix the road woes
“We just have to keep pushing, stay the course. It gets frustrating, yes, but we just have to stay the course.”


 

SHEMBARI PHILLIPS
On the progress he’s made
“I think I’m just learning to get a little more comfortable. I’ve been in the gym a lot more than I was before. I think the fact that I’ve been working on my game is helping me out.”

On getting better as a team on the road
“We just have to learn to put good games back to back. We win one, we lose one. So we just have to learn to be consistent with what we do, play Tennessee basketball the way we know we can play.”

On being a better defensive team on the road
“I feel like everyone just needs to look at themselves. I feel like if everyone is guarding their man properly and playing good help defense, then everyone collectively looks good and we get stops.”

On fighting frustrations with inconsistent team performances
“It’s very frustrating. We just have to learn to bounce back. After a big one like that we have to learn to stay with it and stay consistent.”

On the areas where he’s progressed
“I let the game come to me through defense now. So I go out there and on defense just trying to put in the effort, then let the game come to me on offense.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Vols 84, No. 20 Kentucky 77

RICK BARNES
(Opening Statement)
“Really happy for our guys. Obviously we’ve had the wrong formula, getting some leads in the first half and letting them get away. But I just thought our guys really deserve all the credit in the world, the way they hung in and hustled. They weren’t playing very well early, but they stayed with it. They really did. There wasn’t one person that played that game that didn’t help us some way, somehow. Again, I said it and you’ll hear me say it many times over, there’s not a better guy in the business than John (Calipari). And one of the hardest things as a coach when you win a game, is to have to go down and shake your friend’s hand. But like he said, if you’re going to lose, you want to lose to a friend that you really respect. I can’t tell you how much respect I have for him and his program and what he did. For us to come back obviously was a terrific win for us.”

(On what the message was when Tennessee fell behind early)
“You go back to the way the game started, they were just kind of playing volleyball with it around the rim. We fouled a 3-point shooter. We turned it over three times, just uncharacteristically. You think about it, we ended up with eight turnovers and three of them we just threw out of bounds, maybe four. They had a lot to do with it too but I just didn’t think that we were running offense. I thought we were trying to run offense, not really playing it. But we weren’t doing the little subtle things that we needed to do to be effective with our offense. The zone was okay, but they’re so well-coached. We just said we’re going to have to get more aggressive on the glass. That was probably the biggest thing when we got down. They really had a wide margin over us on the boards. When we started working our way back into the game, that is one area that changed a little bit. Our crowd was tremendous. I think our guys certainly appreciate them staying with us, because early it would have been easy to stay away. But I think our players deserve the credit for giving them something to stay with them about. But it was a big win for us, huge win.”

(On what was different production-wise from the game against TCU)
“I thought a couple key plays were very big. I thought at the start of the second half, it looked like we were again starting to rely on (Kevin Punter Jr.) a little bit too much. Admiral (Schofield), we ran a little set that you guys have watched us run. He stepped out and knocked down that three. I thought that was a big one. I thought the fact that we drove the ball one time, Armani (Moore) made a great kick-out and Detrick (Mostella) knocked down a three. We got out in transition, I think it was Shembari (Phillips) that kicked back to (Punter) for a three. I think Robert Hubbs breaking down the lane and scoring that basket out of bounds was a huge play at that time. Maybe the biggest play was the last play, they must have batted that ball around seven, eight, nine, 10 times where a lot of time went off the clock where they missed some right around the rim. That was a lot of seconds that ticked off the clock and we were able to come up with it. And you look at it, we did a nice job at the free throw line.”

(On watching film before the game and warming up a little bit later)
“What it really got down to, we’ve got a group of guys that really put time in the gym. I walk in today, three or four guys are up there doing the individual workouts that we normally do. So you think about it, they did that, then we come out for shootaround, and then we come up and warm up before the game. I told the coaches, we’ve just got to try to cut this down a little bit. As much as we tried to keep them off the court ourselves, they all had gotten into their own little routine that they feel most comfortable with. We don’t want to break that routine, but at this time of year, you’ve got to be conscious of their legs and their minds. You play Kentucky, they’re juices are flowing and I’m sure they were amped up wanting to do it. We didn’t do anything different back there, other than we as coaches, without them really knowing it, really tried to keep them back there a little bit longer so they wouldn’t be out there on the floor as long during warm-up.”

(On the importance of post-play)
“We tried that with Kyle (Alexander) and he got a travel. Armani went in and had a nice post up and it was nice, we also tried to drive him. Armani without question played the best basketball he’s played since I’ve been at Tennessee. Defensively he was outstanding. You’re talking about going against the top players of basketball. There’s a point and time in the game where we can’t just run off of Kevin Punter. That’s why we tried to change some things up and give other guys a chance to get flowing. We said to them, ‘execute our offense and you’ve got to take shots.’ We told them at halftime that we had already made a few threes and we can get going from there, believe me. Just keep running and taking shots but we just can’t be a one and done jump-shooting team.”

(On disciplining the team’s in game judgement)
“We’ve talked about that all the time but some of that has to do with taking bad shots offensively and we don’t have enough guys going to the glass. We haven’t done as good of a job as we need to pursuing balls and coming down when teams shoot threes. Really it’s competing and I give our guys credit for that, I thought they really competed hard. Something that we’ve talked a lot about is that we’ve got to play for 40 minutes. When we were down I told them that we’ve been here and we’ve been on the other end and teams can come back but how are we going to change it. We’re not going to change our game plan and probably stick with a zone, we feel comfortable with that with Kyle’s length around the basket. What can you say about Kevin Punter, he had one of the best guards in the country getting after him. He played about 37 minutes and got more rest than I thought he did. It was truly a great effort from everyone.”

(On defending Kentucky)
“I really have a lot of respect for Tyler Ulis. He turned his ankle pretty good and he stayed in the game and playing through (Jamal) Murray we felt like we had to make them score less on the other end. He’s a very hard player to defend and we said before that Robert (Hubbs) is the guy for when we do have a player that can score all around the rim, he can do it. We did have two things in mind for him to try and get fouled and trying to make Murray have to guard him.”

(On if it ever crossed his mind that his team wouldn’t be able to get up after falling far behind)

“No it didn’t, for two reasons. You might think about changes that you want to make, But Armani and Kevin were competitive, and Detrick proved that he wanted to compete. As long as you have guys that are willing to compete, I don’t think that you think that way. And we’re still learning things. Tonight, we’re really playing with five guards, and the fact is, we really don’t have a point guard. But that’s where Kevin has done a great job. I thought Armani was really terrific, other than the one time that he threw it away. When he was at the point, he got guys into things, and took a little pressure off of KP. People want to take him out, and we knew they were going to try to do that, most teams do, but we really don’t care. Because we’ll have Armani handle the ball, because KP likes to play without it sometimes. I thought we did a pretty job when we knew they were going to start doubling to get it out of his hands. As I’ve said before, I love these guys, and they’ll tell you that I’ve told them that if we can learn to play, and fight for every possession, we’ll have a chance every time we go out. The other thing I would say is, I could tell they were disappointed too, when we let games get away that we felt like we should have won. Because I don’t think you’re a big time competitor if you don’t think you can win them all. And the way we let some of them get away, it hurts. But it goes back to what I said to them, it’s a 40 minute game. When we took the lead with about four minutes to go and they were getting all excited and jumping around, I said to them, ‘We haven’t done anything yet, we’ve been here before. So if you want to get happy and get excited, you better play this game out.’ And I thought that had a lot of that had to do with Armani and KP hitting. When those guys are playing well, they’re the guys that get other guys to play off of them.”

(On if he saw anything in his team when they fell into a large deficit)

“Again, you try to break it down to them as, ‘Why are we in this deficit right now? We fouled a three-point shooter, had three unforced turnovers, we broke down the baseline out of bounds, we had a couple seconds on the shot clock where we weren’t on edge, and they scored. So when you add all that up, you can get up to 12, 13, 14, 15 points really quick. So we just talked about whittling it down. And they got it down further than I thought we would. I didn’t say a number, but in my mind I’m thinking, ‘If we can just get it down around 10 before halftime, we’ll have a working margin,’ but we ended up getting it lower.”

(On there being a change in demeanor after two losses last week)

“We don’t change much. You can ask the guys. We have some pretty tough film sessions, I tell them, ‘I’m just going to tell you the truth here.’ I love these guys. If we would have walked in here and lost this game, I would have told you the same thing. I’ve really enjoyed these guys a lot because I don’t think they’ve ever had an attitude of ‘We’re going to quit.’ There’s still a lot of basketball to be played. Obviously, as a coach, after you lose the way we did, you think, ‘What will be the mindset?’ But you have to trust them. And that’s what we told them – ‘you’re capable, but you’re going to have to go do it.’ And they put up a great effort.”


JOHN CALIPARI

(On why the game changed so dramatically)
“We’re up 21. Possessions don’t matter right now to certain guys on the team, so all of a sudden (they’re saying) ‘It’s only one play. It’s only two plays. It’s only three plays.’ All of a sudden, it’s a six point game at halftime, then you’re in a dog fight. We’ve got to give great credit (to Tennessee). (Rick Barnes) had them ready. They fought like heck. How about getting down 21 and not stopping? It shows what a good coach he is.

“I’m just disappointed. You can’t win making those kind of plays. It is not ‘I’m just trying to do something.’ You can’t play basketball that way. Out of bounds play, they run and get a layup late. There’s no way. Not if your mindset is ‘We’re winning.’ … There’s more than just one guy. Our execution down the stretch, we throw it to the post and the guy has a layup, and he bounces it off his leg. We drive into the middle, and instead of just getting there and making that pass, he tries to go an extra step. It’s all stuff that you look at, you just say, ‘Guys, you’re not winning playing this way.’

“I’ve got to give Tennessee credit. We had them down 21 and they came back and blew our brains out. You think about it, they would’ve beaten us by 30 in about 25 minutes. It could’ve been 50. We’ve got a ways to go. I was worried about this game coming off the Kansas game. The way it started, I thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to be fine.’ We had them ready, and I think they just did their normal, ‘I’m going to back up. I’ll get out, and I’ll foul out.’ You know what I’m saying? ‘Then the stuff gets too rough, and I just back up.’

“We’ve got to do some soul-searching, individuals and as a staff. We’ve got to keep looking at ways that we can help this team get better, and demand more and more winning plays, but we are what we are right now.”

(On if he’s ever lost a game that he led by 21 before)
“Historically, you may have to look back, but if my team’s been up 10, it’s like 100-2. I’m coaching a different kind of team.”

(On Alex Poythress’ performance)
“He’s not here, so I would tell you you’d have to ask him.”

(On the team defending without fouling)
“We can’t.”

(On if the team lost confidence as Tennessee was coming back)
“You’d have to ask them.”

(On the team’s need for a post player)
“Alex (Poythress) did alright the first of the game, then it got a little rough. He kind of did some fades, and all that. He’s our post presence, and if he can’t play, and they have 6’5” guys that can really guard him, it’s tough for us.”

(On the frustration of the loss)
“I’ve done this 30 years, and I’ve had teams up and down. I’m just ready to get on the plane, because I don’t want to have to bus back. That’s my thought right now, just so you know.”
(On Tyler Ulis’ visible frustration)
“He was just upset because we kept breaking down, losing plays. (He was saying), ‘Why would you do that? How did you lose him?’ They kind of talked like my son Brad (mumbles.)”
(On Tyler Ulis’ performance)
“He was fine. We’ve got to have more than that.”

(On what he needs from this team)
“I’m just trying to demand that they do it the right way. I’m asking them, ‘Why would you do that? Why didn’t you do what we’re teaching? Why are you trying to break up?’ Then they do the same thing three times, then I get a little aggressive. Obviously you’re not hearing me, so I’m going to say this louder and a little bit closer your face, so you can hear what I’m saying.”

(On if the team was past this kind of performance)
“No, because it’s a long season. Here’s what I see. We had four unbelievable efforts in a row. It’s hard to have ten of those. When you get up 21, you know, ‘Alright, we ain’t giving this up.’ I’m not taking that shot. I’m not losing that man, because we’re going to win this game. They don’t think that way. They just [say], ‘What do you mean? That was a good play. It’s only one time.’ That’s where we are.”


DETRICK MOSETLLA
(On having a much better second half)
“We felt like if we weren’t going to bring energy in this type of environment, that we were never going to bring it. We knew what we had to do, to keep our foot on the gas and keep pushing.”

(What changed the game for Tennessee)
“It was rough, but we knew if we kept fighting that we would come back. We were missing good shots. We didn’t have our feet set, we were rushing things, afraid to get our shot blocked. But we kept pushing.”

(On needing a win in this kind of environment)
“We needed it a lot. Coming off a tough loss against TCU and not having that much energy on our side, this is just a big win for us.”

(On this being Armani’s best game)
“No doubt. This was Armani’s best game. He was getting it done on the offensive end, just letting it come to him. He was blocking shots, rebounding. We know what we are going to get out of Armani, and that’s toughness every night. If he keeps bringing that, we’ll be a pretty good team.”


 

ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD
(On keeping the energy in the second half)
“Our biggest thing in the locker room was, we’re not going to talk about it…we’re just going to do it. We want to be about it, and just do what we’ve got to do and come out in the second half. We’ve struggled the last couple of games. I think after this win, we’ll go over film and we’ll understand even more what it takes. Now that we’ve done it, we know that we can do it.”

(On taking the lead in the second half)
“I’m very confident in my teammates. Three words: Kevin Punter Jr. He’s amazing. I love playing with him. I love playing with Armani Moore. The older guys really propelled us this game. They carried us. Armani set the tone on defense, and I think everyone just embraced it and took on the challenge.”

(On producing when the focus is on defense)
“It’s amazing. When you don’t have to worry about scoring, it just makes it easier. As a young player, I didn’t understand that coming in. I always thought I had to score and Coach Barnes has really been on me about it. I had a good couple of games, but I understand now what he means by playing defense first. When you have that defensive mindset, everything opens up.”


 

ROBERT HUBBS III
(On Barnes’ message of driving the ball)
“It was good for us. He influenced us a lot. We talked about pounding the ball inside, putting fouls on their big guys, so I think we did a pretty good job with that tonight.”

(On being down by 21 and fighting back)
“To be honest, none of my teammates and I were really looking at the scoreboard. We just kept fighting. We knew we were missing easy shots, but we just kept fighting and plugging away bit by bit. After a couple of timeouts, we were just trying to cut the lead down by five points each time, so that helped us out a lot.”

(On needing this win)
“We really needed this. We are a competitive team and we have to go out there and play like it each and every night. Some nights we might not play like it, but tonight we showed it”

(On if he did anything differently this game)
“No, I just went in and played my role. I rebounded the ball pretty well and I got extra possessions. I was just trying to create more possessions so that I can impact the game without scoring. Those four offensive rebounds I got really helped us.”


 

KEVIN PUNTER JR.
(On how it feels to win)
“It feels good. I don’t know if it was because we were down, but our guys’ mindsets were different. I’m not sure what happened, but we came out great in the second half. We started off with the dunk and Armani ripped it out from a guy, so we started off really well defensively in the second half.”

(On the mood in the locker room after the game)
“It was beautiful. It feels great to beat any team, especially Kentucky. Everyone wants to beat Kentucky. The locker room was great and we can enjoy this for the time being, but the reality is that I have to go to class in the morning. It is what it is. Reality will hit in the morning.”

(On what Armani Moore brings to the team)
“Armani does everything for us. People will check the box scores and he will not have a lot of points, but you saw how he got those rebounds in the end. After they got three offensive rebounds in a row, he came up with it. When coach says that, he is dead serious. Armani literally does everything for us (including) the little things that certain players don’t practice or want to do.”

(On the difference in the defense this game)
“I felt as if we had been coming along in terms of defense. Obviously we understand how important it is to play defense if you want to win. Everyone on this roster wants to win. Everyone understood that and did their job.”

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

Monday Press Conference — Rick Barnes (Feb. 1)

RICK BARNES, Feb. 1
(On if there is a common thread from the second half of the past two losses and how to get a team to develop a killer instinct)
“Well, there’s a couple things. One, I think at some point in time you do have to give your opponents some credit, too. It’s not always on us, even though you always look at it like it is us. It’s been our defense as much as anything. We came out, even again at TCU, our offense wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but defensively is where I thought our aggressiveness wasn’t there. We knew they would come out and start driving the ball. They made some shots, too. In the second half, they started making some shots and we didn’t make any.

“I think what it gets down to, as much as anything, is how do we handle adversity when we’re playing well, understanding the game well enough to have enough respect for the game, knowing that we’re in a league and we’re playing against teams that are going to fight back and they’re not just going to go away. When that happens, when they start coming back, how do we respond? That’s what we haven’t done a really good job of. It’s really been, for the most part, either at the beginning of the second half or somewhere before the five-minute mark to go in the game. So it’s something that we continue to talk about. I’ve got to get them to understand, I’ve said it before, after every game, I look at myself and know that I can do a better job, but we know that we’ve got to have everybody doing their part.

“When you’re not making shots, we need to be able to go inside and try to score a little bit. The guy that we really need to do that for us, as much as anybody, is Robert Hubbs. He had a tough game at TCU where he just really wasn’t engaged the way we need him to be. But teammates know, he knows, we’ve all obviously talked about everything, that we need him. We need him in a big way. We need him, if no other reason, in a big way like that when we’re struggling to shoot the ball. It’s missed shots and that’s part of it, but driving, a big part of what we need to do is we need to be aggressive driving it, try to get to the free throw line that way, and not just rely on shooting threes.” (On Kentucky coach John Calipari calling him about the Tennessee job last spring) “I don’t think you know everything about any job until you really get there. I have known John for a long time and he is a true friend. If I called him and tried to explain something to him he would say, “stop, what do you need.” That is the kind of friend he is. I think he is a great basketball coach and a Hall of Fame coach. He should be. He has won everywhere he’s been, and what I love about him is the tremendous loyalty he has with his players. They love him, and I think that speaks volumes about him. I trust him to know that he would not tell me anything that he didn’t believe. He wouldn’t just say something to say it. His exact words were, “one of the top jobs in this league and can be as good as any (job). You need to take that job. I don’t like the way you are being treated (at Texas), and I think you should take that job.” Like anyone on the outside, you don’t know until you get in, and I obviously knew (athletics director) Dave Hart and what he is about and that was a comfort as I started talking to him.”

(On people who claim John Calipari isn’t a good floor coach)
“I think he is a great basketball coach. I think he is great. (People who think otherwise), that is jealousy. People who try to say that he is not a good coach border on ignorant. I mean, John Calipari has won everywhere he has been, and he hasn’t always had the best players. I do not think people know what it is like to have a group of great players to coach. It is one of the hardest things I learned in this business. When I was at Providence, George Mason and Clemson I said I wish I had a job where I can get all of those great players. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks to get, and when you get them it is totally different because you have to understand that everywhere they go to play they are someone’s Super Bowl. They got the A-team for radio and TV, and for anyone to not think he is a great coach… he is one of the greatest. If you look at what he has done and how he has done it… he is not afraid to speak the truth, and because of that some people don’t like him. He isn’t afraid to take people on, either. He is very loyal. I know how he is with the media. If he feels as if you are unfair with him, he is going to let you know, which he should. A lot of coaches won’t do that. I think he is as real of a coach as there is in this game. I know him on a personal level through a friend we met years and years ago and I know him on a different level, too, how kind and generous he is about things. If anyone ever says John Calipari isn’t a Hall of Fame coach, then they are speaking from jealousy or idiocy. You cannot deny it.”

(On if he thinks about giving younger players a chance at this point in the season if upperclassmen are struggling)
“You think about it. You do, but you still want to win. You’ve got to manage it in a way. You don’t want to put an upperclassman in a situation where he doesn’t have some success, and it really messes with him for a while. When you make that decision, you sort of want to know that they’re really ready to take the good with the bad, because there’s going to still be some bad with it.

“The fact is with our guys, I really like our guys. I really do, and we all hurt when guys aren’t playing well. We’ll still do what we do based on effort probably as much as anything right now. We’ve had every guy at some point in time show that he can do some things, it’s just we haven’t had the consistency that we need.

“If you really look at our team this year, you’d have to say that Kevin [Punter] and Armani [Moore] have been consistent. They’re like anybody – they’re going to have some up and down games, scoring, this and that – but their effort, their focus and all that, they’re the two guys that have been very consistent. Really in the last two and half to three weeks, Kyle [Alexander] is starting to figure it out. He’s going to be a good player for us. I think he knew he could do it, but I’m not sure he thought he could do it early. I think he’s starting to realize that he can do one thing, and he can help us on the defensive end. I think his offense is going to come. You take a guy like Devon Baulkman, that guy is as loved as anybody on this team. He’s a great teammate, and he struggles, but he’s got a big heart. One thing you know about him (is) he’ll accept any role that you put him in. We still need them all, and I think as coaches we still think that we can win games and find a way to be there, and hopefully get enough of them. As a group, we just really like these guys. We need Robert Hubbs. We need him. He’s the one guy – and I talked about it last time – we really need him to play at the highest level he can possibly play at.

“That’s a great question, because you do think about it, but I don’t think I could ever go into a game without thinking for our team, `What’s the best lineup to win a game?’ To say we’re just going to forego the season and just play freshmen, I don’t think I could ever get to that point.”

(On what he’s seen from Kentucky in the past few games)
“I think chemistry has been good. I think that’s the one thing, the fact that they’ve got terrific guard play. I still think they’re looking to establish an inside presence, too. It looks like they’re wanting Alex Poythress to be that guy that they can get to. (They have) excellent guard play.

“I go back to John (Calipari’s) teams. He’s going to keep fiddling around with it, and meshing it together, and figuring out what works. If it means shortening your bench to do that, he’ll do that. They’ve just continued to improve.

“When you think of Kentucky, they’ve got to be on every night. Some kids take a little bit longer trying to figure that out. I don’t care how many stars you put by a recruit’s name. They come in, it’s never as easy as they thought it would be. I think (John Calipari) does the best job of anybody at working those guys in there early. The environment they live in is incredible. I think it takes some guys to adjust to that as well, but on the court, his teams have always gotten better. They’ve never stayed the same.”

(On Tyler Ulis)
“He is quick. I love what he does on the defensive end, too. He is a competitor. When you are five-foot-nine and getting done what he is getting done, I think you have to put big-time competitor in front of that. He is fearless. A lot like Kevin Punter Jr., he is really continuing to learn to play that point position. He is learning that when teams do different things defensively, what adjustments does that point guard have to make? He can shoot it deep. When you can shoot it deep and are that quick, you become very hard to guard. If you get out there too far, he has explosive speed to get by you. I think he is a terrific defender, but I think he is also a big-time competitor.”

(On impressions of Big 12/SEC Challenge)
“I think that going in, everyone assumed the Big 12 would be the favorite to win. I would think that. I think it was probably tougher for them in some ways because you play a round robin, then step outside the league like they had to do. In our situation here in the Southeastern Conference, we don’t play everybody [twice]. To me, it was no different than playing one of our opponents that we only play once a year. I think it was an opportunity for our league to show that we are right there. Kentucky going into Kansas and playing the way they did with a chance to win it tells you that Kentucky is right there with anybody when you start talking about national championships and a team getting to the NCAA Tournament. I think they would have to be put in that position. Then, Oklahoma going into LSU and coming out of there was a huge one for them. That will be a big game when you get to seedings and postseason tournaments. Texas A&M beat an outstanding team. Obviously, that was good. We had a chance, but we didn’t get it done. Texas beat Vanderbilt, and I think that was a crucial game for both of those teams in terms of postseason play. I think ESPN got what they wanted out of the challenge. They have always wanted to put it in this time slot the week between the Super Bowl game and [NFL conference championships], trying to really hype it up and make it an event that people really get excited about. From that standpoint, I don’t think anybody got hurt by it. We all can say we wish we could have won some more games.”

(On opposing teams focusing on Kevin Punter Jr.)
“I think you would be surprised. We don’t run a lot of set plays for Kevin Punter. We really don’t, because we went into the season thinking that for us to be a really good basketball team that we had to have really good balance across our team. What he has evolved into is really a credit to him. If you had told me he was going to shoot 48 percent… he’s taken 318 shots, he’s shooting 48 percent as a point guard that’s getting game-planned for every nigh–that’s phenomenal, what he’s doing. We’re trying to get him to shoot it more, but what we need is for him to get more production from his teammates to help him. We’re putting everything on him. I told the team yesterday, ‘we’re just crushing him. We’re asking him to do everything on the offensive end.’ When Armani (Moore) fouled out (at TCU Saturday), (Kevin) needed some help from some other people, and he didn’t get it. He’s not afraid. He’s such a great kid. He wants to win. He’s trying to do everything he can do. What we need is help from his teammates.”

(On Tennessee’s rivalry with Kentucky)
“I think I’m right in saying that I think Tennessee has had more success against Kentucky than anybody in the history of the league, which is something to be proud of. But I’ll say what I think, and Kentucky being a two and a half hour car drive from here, it should be a big rivalry, it should be. But the fact of the matter is, I want our program to get where we’re like their program in the fact that everywhere we go I want people to get really excited. So we don’t have to look far to see what we should be striving to be. We could look that way, we could look to the East a little bit and see some ways that it needs to be done. And so I obviously have great admiration for John, and I have admiration for Kentucky basketball through the years. I also know that the University of Tennessee has had success and it’s about stability and consistency. That’s what we hope our staff can do — that we can make it one of the great rivalries, what we all want it to be. But to do that, to make it a rivalry, you’ve got to beat somebody, you’ve got to beat people. I hope over time that we can do that.”

(On being contacted about the previously open coaching spot at Kentucky)
“I did. I was contacted about it, but I was in a situation at Texas where, and I’ve said to you guys before, that being there and working with DeLoss Dodds is where I had hoped to finish my career and I wasn’t looking to go anywhere else at all. I really wasn’t. But the fact is, it didn’t work out that way and I think I’m right where God has put me and I’m excited about that.”
(On if Tennessee’s defense is better from a month ago and if he’s ever used a triangle-and-two)
“Yeah we’ve used it this year. We’ve used a triangle, we’ve used a one-three and a chaser, we take guys and try to take a couple guys out and replace with some other people. When you’re small like we are, we trapped the post different ways. John knows, we’ve played against each other a couple times and he knows that we’ve done things like that. We’re not going to catch them off guard. When we got back, I got to see the tail end of that game, and I saw Kansas was in a triangle-and-two, and what they were doing. I know John knows I’d rather play man-to-man, but he knows we’re going to do whatever we think we can to win a basketball game.

“Yeah, I do think our defense is better. We’ve gone through losses. That’s what let us down. That’s what let us down on Saturday at the start of the second half where they went on that 10-0 run. We just didn’t defend at all and the turnovers hurt us, too, which I can’t put that on our defense. It goes back to what I’ve said before: bad offense normally leads to bad defense. But overall, we really are better. We still have to get a whole lot better and we have to be able to sustain it — which we haven’t done.”

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