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

Rick Barnes Press Conference — Monday, Feb. 22

RICK BARNES
“I’m really happy for Armani Moore being Player of the Week this week in the Southeastern Conference. As you all know, he has done so much for us. Whatever the challenge is, he just keeps accepting that challenge. He would be the first to deflect that to his teammates, but we all appreciate what he has done for us all year long.

“In Kevin Punter’s situation, he is dealing with a stress fracture in his right foot. It is day-to-day. We have no idea other than that. He has been working. I saw him a little bit this morning. He is doing his training and everything with (athletic trainer) Chad Newman and (strength coach) Garrett Medenwald and his rehabilitation and what he has to do with that. The fact is he was over in the gym this morning and had a boot on. He said it was feeling a little bit better, but it is still going to just be day-to-day. I don’t see him playing, certainly, Wednesday night, but I have been fooled before. We are just going to monitor it day-to-day.”

(On earning the win over LSU without Kevin Punter Jr.)
“I don’t think we surprised them because in a situation like that, we didn’t change anything that we have done all year. Shembari (Phillips) obviously played more minutes, but we just told our team that this is what they have worked for all year. Guys that haven’t had the minutes–when you are called on, you have to be the next guy up to do your job. We didn’t change a lot. We prepared the same way. We didn’t make a big deal about it. We pretty much felt after the Kentucky game and especially the next day that (Punter) probably wouldn’t be around to play because he didn’t practice. Not that we did anything in practice, but he really didn’t even do the walkthrough with us. Nonetheless, I think it’s just a credit to our team. They showed some character. Derek Reese, who had not played very much, stepped up and did some nice things for us. Everyone made a contribution. We didn’t change a whole lot, didn’t really change anything.”

(On difficulty of seeing Punter’s injury this late in the season)
“It is tough. Looking back, I did not think he had been himself for the past three to four games. Actually, at the start of the Kentucky game, it’s probably the first time all year that I took him out [two minutes into the game]. I asked him, ‘What was going on? You don’t look yourself.’ He said, ‘I’m all right.’ He told me that the last couple weeks, his foot would hurt a little bit, then it’d go away a couple days, then come back. He said it really started bothering him in the warmups of the Kentucky game. It’s hard. I hurt for him. We all do because he is, first of all, a great person. He works hard. He is a great teammate. He has been a joy to be around. You hope that he will have a way to maybe get back and work through it. For him, it is tough on him because he is a competitor. He loves the game. He has done everything a coaching staff could ask him to do, so to see him in this situation at this time of year, we all feel for him.”

(On potential of Kevin Punter Jr. playing in the NBA)
“There is no doubt, I think, that he will get a shot at it. I think he will be one of those guys that will be invited to some camps. Once people really get into it and get to know him, they are going to want him because of all the intangibles. He is just getting started (as to) how good of a basketball player he can be, (especially) when you can score the ball like he can score it. He can score it in a variety of ways and has improved his shot to the point where you think it is almost automatic when he shoots his perimeter jump shot. He is long-armed. He has a really nice midrange game. He is still learning. I think what he had to go through this year, really trying to learn to play the point guard, is going to help him tremendously going forward. He has just scratched the surface, and I don’t think there is any question. There are too many good basketball people out there that will look at him and say, ‘We want to have him in and see what we can do.'”

(On the consistent success of home teams through SEC play this season)
“You have to look at your team, that is all you can really do. Our fan base has been tremendous this year. I think they have fallen in love with this group of guys and they see the effort they play with. Our guys don’t want to let them down. They want to compete and play hard. I think you can say that about other teams in the league on the road. Looking at it statistically, you will see that most teams do play better at home. To go on the road in a very balanced league, the talent level is probably more than people might want to give credit towards. To win in this league you have to have a competitive spirit about you. When you go on the road and play tough games there are a lot of factors that go into it. Refereeing is a part of it. You have to hope you get good referees and they have good days. Referees have good days just like teams do. When things are really close it is like a perfect storm coming, you obviously don’t have the emotional lift on the road like you do at home unless it comes from within, but that comes down to competitive spirit. I think there are trends that we go through. With the league, if you look at the coaches you see there are a lot of coaches in this league with a lot of experience. Every game is a grind. It is what it is. I wish we could all put our finger on it, but we earlier in the year we played well on the road and sometimes in the league we have and sometimes we haven’t.”

(On if senior Armani Moore is feeling a sense of urgency as the season winds down)
“I don’t know. That’s a good question, too. It’s one that you’d probably have to ask him. I think he’s been competitive for us, and there’s certain things that we know that we can count on every night. I said before, he doesn’t play perfect. He’ll take some shots at the wrong time, but I think that comes back from maybe his frustration, too. He wants to pass the ball, but he knows there’s times where we need to score. We all know–our coaching staff and our players–by our players’ body language if they’re playing with the kind of confidence that they need to be playing with. The one thing I know, Armani enjoys seeing his teammates playing with that kind of confidence. He’s often barking at them for not carrying themselves the way that he thinks you have to, and he’s right. I don’t think he tries to force a lot of things when he knows his team’s engaged with him. It’s when he senses that they’re not, that he’s going to try to do a lot, and sometimes a little bit too much. You’d rather have that than the other way. In terms of if he’s coming down the stretch, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think his effort’s been good all year. I do know this, that he realized going into the game Saturday that (he’s) going to have to really help Shembari (Phillips) through this now. I thought he was great with Shembari. We try not to put a whole lot on his plate, knowing that he’s going to have to do a lot of different things. We weren’t really fluid offensively because Shembari, I’d rather have him play at the pace he was playing than that out-of-control pace he was playing at earlier in the year, but he still didn’t get us in the offense as smoothly as I know that he can. Armani was really trying to help him with that. He took the ball at the point a little bit. It’s good having a guy that’s willing to do that.”

(On maintaining a defensive intensity on the road)
“It’s focus. It’s understanding. You go back to the (earlier) South Carolina game (Jan. 23), a huge stat in that game was we were 30-for-32 from the free throw line. They’re a team, I think they average about 19 or 20 (free throw attempts). Defensively, we’ve got to work hard at not fouling against a team that’s aggressive and puts you in situations where you do have to foul. It’s a mindset, and it’s a nine o’clock game, so that’s a little rhythm. We’re all asking the question, ‘What’s different on the road?’ One, it’s going to be that late game, so you have to try to get guys to understand that when it’s time to play, you’ve got to be ready to play. You hope there’s not a lot that changes their rhythm throughout the day in a routine. It’s just being on edge, concentrating, and knowing that you’ve got a job to do, and you’ve got to do it.”

(On being short-handed at South Carolina and what that means to the younger players)
“I think going forward, there’s always those blessings in disguise. The minutes that Shembari’s (Phillips) getting right now, the minutes that Admiral’s (Schofield) played into this year, and Kyle (Alexander), and you throw in Detrick Mostella. Those are big minutes for those guys. The thing I like about this group, and again, we didn’t make a big deal about it. It’s not like I stood up in front of the team (at Mississippi State) and made this great pep talk about, ‘Armani’s not going to play here.’ We did the same thing with (Kevin Punter Jr.). This is what it is. You other guys that have been here, we’re not going to ask you to do something that you can’t do. We didn’t say, ‘Let’s win one for the gipper here.’ We didn’t do any of that. We said we’ve got enough, and we’ve just got to go and everybody’s go to be willing to do more. I think it goes back to our team showed a lot of character. I think the players individually did, and we need to build on it. I think we can. I think this time of year, you’ve got to love it. If you’re a player, there’s four regular season games. They’re huge for everybody. If you’re a competitor, you’ve got to love it, knowing that you’ve still got four games to play and a chance to do some things.”

(On South Carolina’s recent play)
“Well, I think when you really look at the program that Frank Martin inherited, and for him, where they started, what, two years ago and be where they are this year, playing in a game, I can only imagine the hype before (last week’s) game (between) South Carolina and Kentucky–both teams tied for first place, playing for outright first place. So you’ve got a group of guys who have never been there in South Carolina, and I’m sure they were anxious, but that’s just part of the building process. I think it’s great that for Frank and his team, and I think he even said it, a game of so much meaning for a group of guys who have never experienced that. So, I mean, that’s part of building a program that guys understand that, hey, it’s a game, but it’s not any bigger (than any other game). But I can imagine the hype around it all, going around town there and everything. But when you look at their team and what he’s done, I’m not surprised. We became good friends while he was at Kansas State and his teams are tough, hard-nosed; they truly do personify his personality. He looks for a certain kind of player that he wants to have in his program. He believes in fighting you on every inch of the court. He’s not going to let you think that you’re going walk out and get the ball on this area of the floor or this area of the floor, he’s not going to let you reverse it easily. On offense, I think he’s like everybody. He puts his system in on getting everyone to play to their roles. But it’ll be a much different game in terms of they’re going to be a much more aggressive team. I would arguably say that they might be the most aggressive team in the league in terms of their half court defense, really getting after you and contesting every pass and every shot. That’s what they do.”

(On Shembari Phillips’ development as a point guard)
“Well, that is a big surprise because he certainly found a way to turn it over early on in the year. He was playing way too fast, and some of it was his footwork, where he’d get in a hurry and travel. But it goes back from the time that he got here this summer, he had to play the point and he’s never played it before. So he and Kevin Punter started a position where they had to guard each other every day and they had to try to learn what we’re trying to do. You know, Shembari has really good vision, he’s not afraid to throw some passes down the floor. He threw a great over-the-top pass and a baseball pass the other day at the end of the game. He seized the floor and he’s working. He’s a guy that, I think, he takes the ball hard to the basket, he’s our best guy on the team with movement without the ball. He makes great cuts, he does a great job on getting fouled with his cuts. He’s got great pace to his game there. But he’s not a point guard yet. He’s not, but he is a guy, that when you look at certain guys, you think, you know he could possibly really develop those traits because of the fact that he does see it. He doesn’t totally understand the position yet, but he’s learning it. In the past, he’s been a guy that just runs and shoots and jumps, those types of things, but now he’s being asked to make everybody else know where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do. Overall, again, I think he’s come a long way and I think moving forward is going to help him grow and develop as a player.”

(On how he determines Ray Kasongo’s minutes)
“Practice and match-ups and different things. One reason we wanted Derek Reese in the game the other day, was that Derek does handle the ball well, he sees things well, he’s a guy that understands what we’re trying to do defensively, whereas Ray is still trying to figure out that part of himself, where he fits in and what we need from him. But, again, I give Ray credit for continuing to work and do the things that we ask him to do. But we go into games, I will tell you this last couple of weeks, thinking that there’s not a guy that we’re not willing to use if we need him. But the situation and what happens in the game really determine what ends up happening.”

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

Kevin Punter Jr. out against LSU; Devon Baulkman will try to go

Tennessee senior point guard Kevin Punter Jr. is out for today’s game (TV: ESPNU, 5 p.m.) against LSU (16-10, 9-4) at Thompson-Boling Arena with a right foot injury.

First-year Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Punter played through “a little ankle” injury during Thursday’s 80-70 loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Punter scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half of the loss, playing 34 minutes.

More on injuries to Punter, Baulkman: Not much time for ailing Vols to recover

Punter leads the Vols in scoring at 22.2 points per game and is second in the SEC behind only Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody. Punter is 10th nationally in scoring.

Devon Baulkman left the game in the second half with an injured left shoulder, but will attempt to play today against LSU.

Baulkman went through pregame with his teammates. Punter did not dress for warmups.

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

Tuesday Press Conference — Rick Barnes, Kyle Alexander

Rick Barnes

(On if he’s ever had a player with similar experience to Kyle Alexander)
“It’s been a long time. I’d have to think back, probably while I was an assistant at George Mason, and we were trying to build that program. We took some guys like that, that hadn’t been playing very long, and guys that ended up having pretty good careers. I think with Kyle, what you see with him and what you like about him as a coaching staff is he listens. He wants to do it. There’s a lot of things that he’s done well for a guy that’s only played two years, but he knows he’s got a long way to go. He’s got to still develop a real feel for the game offensively. As he gets stronger, it’s going to change so much of how he plays. The fact is, he wants to be a good basketball player. He wants to be a great teammate, and he’s willing to put in the time that you have to do to not only do that, but be a good student, too. He takes it very seriously. Everything about Kyle Alexander, he takes very seriously.”

(On if he expected Kyle Alexander to develop so quickly)
“He’s probably helped us more than we probably wanted him to. We thought we would get some more out of some other guys on the front line that we haven’t. What he’s done, and the reason he’s played – it’s not like he’s been, you look at his numbers, overwhelming there – it’s just that he’s trying to do what we need done at that position. That’s what you like about him. He’s really trying to do the things we ask, that we think it’s going to take to win. Sometimes he gets over-matched physically, but I would say there’s no doubt, we think he’s got a terrific future. How much we thought he would play? We knew through the summer that he was going to play more than probably he might have thought, because we watched the way that he would run the floor and do things. We watched how much time he put in the gym. We watched him hit a wall, too, where it really just flooded him all at once, I think the grind of the summer, the academic side, everything. He’s bounced back pretty nicely. If you watch him on tape, I think what he’s tried to do is really put his thought process on the defensive end. We still tell him that we think he needs to be more competitive in terms of trying to score the ball, and want the ball and be a factor there. He’s trying, and we’re just all pleased to death that he’s a part of this program.”

(On if the Feb. 2 comeback win over Kentucky lit a fire under the Wildcats)
“I thought they were playing really good basketball coming in, before us. If you go back before that game, I made the comment. I thought they were starting to take on [John Calipari’s] personality and the way his teams play. They really take great advantage every time they have the ball. They’re not going to have too many empty possessions offensively. Defensively, I thought they were really starting to come into their own. I think you look at it in roles. I mentioned their roles, and I think that’s more so now than ever. I thought they were playing good defense coming in, too. I think they’ve done that extremely well. I do think that they’ve continued to mesh really well. The roles are even more defined now than when we played them, because I thought that they were coming into that. It’s impressive when you think about it. I don’t think Alex Poythress has played, what, two or three games now? It’s allowed other guys to do some things. I also think that you can’t say enough about a guy like Tyler [Ulis]. He’s terrific. I just love his competitive fire. As a group, they just seem to have a real belief in each other right now.”

(On needing greater consistency up and down the roster)
“You could go back and look at every game that we have played well and we had more than one or two people play (effectively). We need Admiral (Schofield) to be a factor; we need Robert Hubbs III to be a factor. We need those guys to score for us because we can’t put all of that on Kevin Punter Jr. He’s had to do a lot this year and he’s carried the weight for so long. I feel like Armani (Moore) has gotten himself into a good spot but we need Admiral to be the factor that he can be. We need Robert Hubbs and consistent play from Detrick (Mostella) and Devon Baulkman. We need those guys and to just know what we’re going to get from them every single night whether we’re home or on the road, but that’s just what we haven’t had.”

(On needing better ball movement on the offensive end)
“I think (the ball) sticks with certain guys. I’ve explained to our guys that we start the game (at Missouri) and have great execution on the first possession then Armani comes down and throws up a terrible shot. Then the play right after that, Shembari was open on the wing and took a three. When you’re going one-pass three’s early in the game, those guys have to be 45 percent 3-point shooters. We’re 10-1 when we get to the foul line more than our opponent. You can’t get to the foul line making plays like that. We want all guys to shoot the ball when they’re open and in the rhythm, but they have to understand the possession. They have to understand that any time a guy is open, you expect him to shoot it and sometimes when he might not be all the way open (but still shoot) is Kevin Punter. Everybody else, we should be working a little bit deeper into the clock. Sometimes those guys are open by design. But we can’t settle; we’ve done that too much. Some of that has to do with the fact that we have some young guys. Admiral has taken some quick early shots that I think kind of unsettles him a little bit. Shembari has gotten so much better and he’s trying to understand that we’re not telling him not to shoot the ball but we’re telling him that he has to pick his spots when he does shoot it. If you’re that open its maybe by a reason and plus he’s a guy that we know can get fouled, drive the ball and make some things happen. Sometimes that’s just youth, but we need Admiral and Robert Hubbs. Robert has a tendency that when the ball gets in his hands to hesitate but if he would just move more within the offense and let the offense work for him he’ll score better that way. Detrick (Mostella) is a guy who will take some tough shots at the wrong time. I’ve talked to Armani a lot about his threes and he’s going to have a chance to shoot threes all he wants to. He just has to be selective. When we’ve gone three or four possessions without scoring, he can’t settle at that point in time unless the shot clock is down. The concentration has to be there better; I think they always give effort. I just think our concentration and our basketball decisions have to be a lot better especially in the way that we’ve lost some of these games. ”

(On whether or not the players have a comfort level with his offensive schemes at this point in the season)
“At times, they are. Whether you would believe this or not, there’s still some guys that don’t quite see it they way they should Now, it’s a matter of making it work I think the majority of them understand what we’re trying to do. You’d still be surprised at how we talk about spacing. We still talk about it every game. We still talk about having to fight for your space on the floor, talking about setting your cuts up, hard cuts, scoring cuts, finishing your cuts. We still talk about it today as a staff. We’ve talked about how we’ve got to keep getting better. You need to continue to understand those type of things, and trust it and let it work. It’s such a fine line there… just space on the floor. If I showed you tape today, and showed you the difference of the guy getting to the corner, and a guy coming two feet short of that, and how it takes away the space that Kevin Punter needs. It’s those things. To be quite honest, some guys still don’t get it the way we need it to be. By now, we should have all of that. So, it goes back to them being totally committed to doing their job even if they don’t get the ball. So many guys don’t know how to play if they don’t have the ball in their hands. We’ve gotten better at that. Overall and defensively, we’ve gotten better. We’re not as consistent there as we need to be, but we are better there. It goes back to when the ball starts sticking, we really bog down.”


 

Kyle Alexander

(On his growth since the beginning of the season)
“I think I’ve definitely had my games where the coaches told me I’ve played well and definitely some games where I’ve had the coaches tell me there are some things I need to improve on. I haven’t been really consistent in the last couple months, so I’m just trying to work on being consistent and giving the team something they need every single night. But in terms of my progression, I think as long as I’m on the floor and I’m playing I think I’m always getting better.”

(On how his preseason expectations match his current role)
“I think, as a freshman, I didn’t really expect to much. You just kind of hope that you can make an impact on the team and just kind of contribute a little bit. But I think I’m definitely doing a lot more than I thought I could. You know, only playing basketball for two years I didn’t think that I could come in and have a major role on the team, but I’m liking how much I’m being able to contribute right now.”

(On if he and the other players hear Coach Barnes’ candid evaluations of them after games)
“I always hear it. It’s always good to hear what the coaches have to say after a game because you’re trying to improve. Getting good criticism, bad criticism from a coach after a game is almost like watching film. You get to hear what was going through (Coach Barnes’) mind right after the game, his honest thoughts. The coaches are always really honest with their opinions right after the games when it’s fresh in their minds. So I’m always listening to what (Coach Barnes) has to say and I’m always taking that into account when I go into the next game.”

(On becoming more of an offensive presence)
“I’m working right now on (becoming) a low-post presence, working on my shot around the basket. That’s where our team needs something right now is somebody they can throw the ball into on the inside. I’ve been making an impact defensively a little bit right now, so if I can add some on the offensive end I can really help contribute to the team a little bit more.”

(On if they can take anything from this season’s earlier win vs. Kentucky into Rupp Arena on Thursday)
“We came out with a win in that game and it was a great team win. Everybody was really hyped up about it and that does give us confidence because we know we can get the job done if we come out with the same energy that we did. And as long as we stay poised the whole game, I think we definitely have a chance — at least a good a chance as anybody else. We’ve definitely seen film (on Kentucky) from the last couple games and we noticed that they came out fighting and hitting hard with people. But I think that if we do the same thing we did last game that we could be surprised at what we do.”

(On UK’s loss at Tennessee ‘lit a fire under them’ over the past three games)
“I think that could have something to do with it.”

(On the confidence he’s gained after moving into the starting lineup)
“I think that it’s kind of shown me that the coaches have faith in me and have faith in my abilities and what I can be and in what I’m doing right now. So I just have to keep working not to let them down. (I’ve been) trying to stay in the gym and just make sure I come out every game with the mindset that I need to do something special so that the coaches don’t lose their trust in me.”

(On his relationship with Kentucky’s Jamal Murray, a former AAU teammate and prep school roommate)
“Living with someone for two years, seeing them every single minute of every day, sometimes every single day for seven weeks straight when you’re traveling every weekend, you learn a lot about someone. He’s like a brother to me. It was different the first time we played with him being on an opposite team as me. It was a different experience, but we both loved it. We talked after the game, we talked before the game. I’m looking forward to playing him again.”

(On his learning curve under Coach Barnes while having only two years of basketball experience under his belt)
“(The coaches) have done a great job of helping me this whole time. Since they day I got here they’ve told me what they expect from me, they told me what they want from me, and they’re really helping me and pushing me along the way. I don’t have a big role on the team right now. I just need to do what I’ve got to do.”

(On looking to the future with fellow freshmen Admiral Schofield and Shembari Phillips)
“It’s really exciting to think about what the future can hold for our team. We have a great recruiting class coming in. (Coach Barnes) did a great job with the recruiting and everybody on our team right now that is going to be coming back next year is doing a great job developing their skills. Admiral has been really impressive, Shembari in the last couple games has done a great job playing his position. So I think that next year we could do something really special.”

(On how he’s adjusted to living to East Tennessee from Canada)
“I love it here, to be honest with you. In the summer it took a while for me to adjust going through the weather adjustment from Canada back to here, but everybody here is treating me well. So it wasn’t a big adjustment.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Missouri 75, Vols 64

Missouri 75, Tennessee 64: Struggling Missouri adds to Vols’ road woes

RICK BARNES

“I think the most important thing that went on here today was what Missouri did for Rhyan Loos. It’s unbelievable that they would do that. I’ve always had great respect for the University of Missouri and their fans. To have a fundraiser like that, for obviously that disease that we all hate, that was the biggest win of all.

“I think you have to give the Missouri basketball team all the credit. I thought they came out knowing it was a game they could win. I know what it’s like to struggle when you haven’t won games in a while.

“Every time we would try to get back in the game we would have some missed free throws or turnovers, those type things.

“The bottom line is, if it wasn’t for our zone turning them over … then they shot, you look at their (shooting percentages), they were great.

“One of the big things we thought we couldn’t do coming in is let them get to the free-throw line. Again, they did a great job. You have to give them credit.

“Certainly, I’ve got a lot of respect for Kim (Anderson), and I know he’s walked into a tough situation here. But they certainly made the right to get it turned around. I know a lot about this program, the great tradition they have, and he’s going to restore it back to where people here want to see it.”

On Missouri forward Ryan Rosburg
“We normally play five guards, but when we play zone we like (Kyle Alexander) back there. I think Kyle is going to be terrific for us. He’s only been playing basketball for two years. I mean, literally only two years. We’re watching him get better and better.

“When (Rosburg) was scoring there we had some blown assignments. In our zone, we’re always looking to double the post and we doubled the short corner. Early Kyle let them walk up the lane when we were man (defense).

“We’re not surprised when people really look to go inside. We’ve had trouble with that all year. We’re the kind of team, we can’t be relying on two or three guys every night.

“We haven’t been good on the road because we haven’t gotten consistent play. We don’t know what we’re going to get from certain guys and it shows up. It gets down to having that competitive spirit, and we don’t have enough of it when we need it on the road.

“When we got it down to a working number there we missed key free throws, some huge free throws. (Kevin) Punter and Armani (Moore), free throws were big at the time. We got in the open court and should’ve had easy plays. I think we ended up (shooting a 3) when we missed one of the layups.

“A couple big offensive rebounds we gave up. Then another crucial play, I thought we kind of had them a little out of sorts, then we fouled with four seconds left on the shot clock. That was a big play. When you’re fighting uphill, those plays mount up on you.”

On missing 10 free throws
“We’ve been good at it all year. I can’t tell you. Armani has struggled.

“We start the game doing what we exactly what we want. Then the second possession Armani puts his head down and throws up a shot that he’s not going to make. Then he drove it one other time.

“We just gave away some possessions we don’t give away. You expect Kevin (to make free throws). What was Kevin shooting, 80-something percent from the free-throw line? And he has a tough day.

“It’s the timing of all of it. When we had a chance to get (the lead) down, put some pressure on them, we just kept giving them enough breathing room. We couldn’t mount the kind of pressure we wanted to.

“The free-throw line, again, they were 22-for-30. Anytime you can make almost more than the other team shoots (24), you’re going to win a lot of it there. Then you look at the field goal percentage. They shot the ball well.

“The only things that kept it close was we turned them over. I think there were a little confused with our zone. We still had some chances but we didn’t make the winning plays when we had to and they did.”

On message to his team after the loss
“I just told them, again, I don’t know why anybody would get worried about us coming on the road. You look at our record.

“It goes back, I mean, you go down our lineup. I think Kyle is doing a lot for us. KP’s free throws are huge there. Shembari I thought did a good job today. Baulk (Devon Baulkman), you look at his line, it looks pretty good other than he only had one rebound.

“Ray (Kasongo) played eight minutes, no rebounds. Robert Hubbs, a guy that I’ve said before should be our second leading scorer, plays 19 minutes, has one rebound, has two points, two turnovers. And a big turnover. Admiral plays, what, seven minutes? Doesn’t do much. Detrick, guys we’re counting on, eleven minutes, doesn’t do much. Derek was in there trying to rest Kyle and that’s when Rosburg really went to work on us a little bit more in there. When Kyle’s in there we have a better chance in the low post.

“We just need everybody to play. It goes back, we’ve simply put too much on certain guys and we need other guys to help us.”

On the frustrations that come with inconsistency
“It’s frustrating. It really is. I think as coaches, if we knew what we we’re going to get … and certain things you want to get. We have to rebound the ball. You can’t look down and see certain guys you’re counting on.

“We’re small anyway. And the best games we’ve played this year are when we rebound the ball collectively, as a group.

“Again, our rebounding today was 41-26 (Missouri). You look at certain guys that don’t do that for us. It’s frustrating, it is.

“That’s why you don’t take playing hard for granted. I think playing hard is a talent. Not everybody plays hard. Not everybody can figure out what it is they can do well and can’t do well. But there is certain things that have to be non-negotiable. That’s your effort on the boards, in the zone, coming over (and helping on defense) and doing your job, basically.

“We just aren’t consistent with everybody doing that. And we have to have that as a group.
“The question is why do teams play well at home, as opposed to on the road. I think it’s confidence, but more than confidence I think it’s toughness. I think to be a really good road team you have to be really tough, tough-minded.

On players not staying with the game plan early in games
“I think it goes back to not understanding what goes into losing. I think you have to understand what goes into losing, too. Everybody talks about what you have to do to win.

“(Armani Moore) has played enough to know those are empty possessions. Again, we want him to do it. We don’t care if he takes the right three at the right time, but he takes some at the most inopportune time for him, when we haven’t scored.

“At some point in time you have to know your teammates and know we’ve gone three possessions without scoring. We got to get something good here.

“There are a lot of guys that are open by design. Believe me, we leave certain guys open hoping they shoot it. The (Missouri) guy that hit two today, I don’t know if he’s hit two (threes) this year, has he? Hadn’t hit any from the corner. And he had two that went in and out. Those were shots that were too easy. We didn’t bump off them when we needed to.

“Still, I think it gets back to being competitively tough on the road. I just don’t think we’ve shown it but one time this year. We’ve shown it early, gone on the road and played well early. But later on, we haven’t done as well. It goes back to what you’re saying. Scouting report, not putting them on the free-throw line and we did. Reaching fouls, stupid fouls. Can’t foul with four seconds left on the (shot) clock, stuff like that.”

On if fatigue is a factor this time of year
“I think we’ve rested them, we’ve done that. I think some guys, Kevin, we put a lot on him, but still, he hasn’t played well the last three games. He’s gotten himself in foul trouble. It goes back, when he’s really playing well he’s running our offense. And he’s scoring his points.

“I’ve said to you guys before, we don’t run a lot of set plays for him. When he was scoring 25, 30 points a game, we weren’t running set plays for him. It was all happening in the flow of our offense. But he’s a guy that’s got to get it going. And we can’t get it going when we’re making quick, poor decisions in transition. Putting our head down, driving, not getting the ball moving.

“I don’t think fatigue (is a factor). I think this time of year what you’re playing for and hoping your seniors, your seniors have to give you that leadership when you come down the stretch. Some of these guys have never gone through this. We have to get better leadership and got to keep going with it, get our seniors to do that for us.”


 

KEVIN PUNTER JR.
“It’s rough anytime you go on the road and lose.

“We’ve got to stick to the game plan. That’s it, really.

“I don’t really have much to say. I’m not going to lie to you.”

“I missed what, four (free throws)? I missed way too many. I shoot it too much to come up to the free-throw line and miss.”


DEVON BAULKMAN

“It’s just me coming into the game with a defensive mindset, taking open shots.

“We have to continue to stick to the game plan, execute our plans. At the end of the day we need everybody to do their work and jobs.

“We just have to go into the game, stick to the game plan and scouting report. Defend and bring energy.

“It’s really aggravating. We spend so much time in the gym. In big times, we need to knock those down. We have to continue to keep working. Be positive.

“It’s just a mind thing at the end of the day. We practice it a lot. It’s just something we have to overlook and do better the next game.”

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