Monday Press Conference — Rick Barnes (Feb. 8)

Rick Barnes, Monday, Feb. 8

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

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

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

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

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

(On Auburn playing without Kareem Canty)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postgame Quotes — Arkansas 85, Vols 67

RICK BARNES, Saturday, Feb. 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postgame Quotes — Vols 84, No. 20 Kentucky 77

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JOHN CALIPARI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Press Conference — Rick Barnes (Feb. 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postgame Quotes — TCU 75, Vols 63

RICK BARNES, Jan. 30
“It’s been kind of the same thing the last couple games, when adversity starts coming a little bit. You would expect them to make a run. We told them to start the second half they would come out and look to really drive the ball at us.

“What happens when it starts swinging the wrong way for us, we have too many guys that just go and hide and put everything on KP. And everyone is game-planning for him anyway. He needs some help.”

“I thought Armani and KP (played well). And I thought Kyle Alexander did a terrific job. He’s been playing basketball two years. He’s going to be a really good player. I thought Shembari and Admiral, those guys, (played well).

“We’ve got to get more out of Robert Hubbs and Devon Baulkman. Detrick (Mostella), too many turnovers. He just gets, I don’t know where he gets going.

“It’s just handling adversity. And we haven’t done a good enough job of that.”
On building a 41-27 lead in the first half

“We turned them over twice, which we’ve done to people all year, then we turn it right back without a shot at the basket.

“ … We should’ve been up 20. We really should’ve been. But knowing they’re going to make a push, we know that. We just haven’t handled adversity well. We just put way too much on KP. It’s amazing what he has to go through. We need everybody. But some people did some good things.

On TCU extending its defense
“We hope people extend their defense. We like that. We like playing with an open court. But what happens, when KP comes down the floor and we get going, other guys that would have shots won’t make them.

“(Punter) wants to pass the ball because he wants to play without the ball. He doesn’t want to particularly keep the ball in his hand that long, but guys weren’t cutting for him. Then when he passed it, he’d go away and keep telling guys to move and screen. He was having to do most all of it.

“We do run some things (to get others involved). Hubbs is the guy that can score inside. What’s most disappointing is he didn’t get one rebound. The guy that plays on the front line has to rebound the basketball.”

On lack of intensity in the second half of games this season
“We talk a lot about how important the first four minutes of the game, obviously the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Those are really important minutes, how you get things going, get it set up.

“We didn’t make any shots in the second half. The first half we were moving, the ball didn’t stick too much, it got going. The second half it just stuck in KP’s hand, because nobody else when it went there would do anything.

“I thought Armani (Moore) did some good things. I think he had five assists, I don’t think he had a turnover. But when he got in foul trouble we had to get him out.

“He and KP are definitely the guys that give us the toughness we need. Now you’ve got some other guys that have been through this long enough. They have to give us more.”

 

 


 

KEVIN PUNTER, JR
On recent losses
“It doesn’t feel good at all. I just tried to regroup the guys. Everyone knows we’ve been here before; we’ve been here numerous times. We know how to handle it, we’re just not doing it.

“Why? I don’t know. It’s just frustrating, man. We’ve been here I don’t know how many times and we just lay down.

On getting help from his teammates
“It’s tough. I just have to take my game to another level. That’s just how I think. I have help; we have guys on this team that can provide me with help. I don’t think that’s the issue.

“I feel like guys don’t make shots and maybe kind of go into a shell a little bit. I really feel like I have help, guys that can make shots and guys that can create. I really don’t know what happens when we’re hit with adversity. I really don’t know what happens.”

On shooting 64 3s last two games as a team and only 18 free throws
“It’s easy to settle. The hard thing to do is try to beat someone off the dribble and get to the rim, that’s the hard thing to do.

“I just feel like we settled (against TCU). And once again it happens that we’re up, what, 41-27? And they instantly come back in the second half and go on their little run. We were just put in a bad situation.

On facing Kentucky after these two losses
“We’ve got to find it. Time is running low. I believe we have what, 10 games left? Time is ticking, so we have to figure it out now. Guys have NCAA tournament aspirations. Everyone on this team wants to get there. We have to start putting wins together.

On Kyle Alexander
“Coach has him playing at a great level. I just can’t wait because he continues to get better each day and how he’s going to be down the road. He’s going to be great. He buys in every day. He blocks shots, he has great length. Pretty smart basketball player. Kyle is great. I wish I could be here to play with him for a few more years.”


 

KYLE ALEXANDER

On second-half performances

“You can always feel it. It’s kind of a trend for us, we go into halftime and we come out and we don’t have the same intensity that we just went in with. We’ve just got to work on that. Everyone has to contribute. We can’t put it all on one or two people. I’m not sure if it’s an away game thing, I’m not sure what it is. But it’s something we have to correct.

On facing Kentucky Tuesday

“We just see it as a challenge. I don’t think we’re nervous or anything. I think we’re going to get in the gym, get better individually. Then we’re going to go out and we’re going to give Kentucky our best shot.

“At an away game, when the crowd is into it and players are into it, they start feeling confident, it’s hard to throw them back off. It’s hard to maintain the composure. Everyone has to do the little things and we have to stay poised as a team, so we don’t let that lead keep growing and growing.

On his play at TCU
“I think it’s the most minutes I’ve ever played, but to be honest with you, none of this stuff matters to me if we don’t win. I know my stat line wasn’t too bad, but if we didn’t get the win it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to go back in the gym and get better, hopefully I can do more next game to help our team pull out a win.

On his progress
“I’ve had games where I’ve had zeroes across the board, so I think this is an improvement. But I still need to keep getting better.

On playing well without producing big numbers
“A good game to me isn’t scoring 10, 12, 15 points. That’s not what it is. If I can do the little things — diving on the floor, blocking shots, giving the team extra possessions like that to help the team win — then I’m having a good day. It’s not about me, it’s about the whole team.”

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

Rick Barnes Transcript — Friday, Jan. 29

RICK BARNES, Friday, Jan. 29

On mistakes made at Alabama

“Our defense had pretty done much what we needed it to do, but once we got the lead — and we knew they would make a run, we missed some shots — but I thought when they started coming back we simply didn’t defend the way we had to.

“We were very sloppy with the ball in areas where we didn’t need to do that. When we got the ball moving and kept it moving as opposed to trying to thread the needle on some passes we were getting some looks.

“I thought when the momentum flipped we didn’t fight back the way we were going to have to to win the game.”

On Alabama double-teaming Kevin Punter Jr.

“We’ve expected that all year. The thing you obviously have to do if they’re going to take him out is that other guys are going to have to make some plays and score some baskets.

“When they first started trapping him we dunked the ball once, hit a three, but then during that run we got away from that. I would expect people to do that. We’ve got enough balanced scoring to overcome that. And if we take care of the little things there they can’t stay in it. If they want to keep doubling, fine. Our whole thing is based on getting open, rhythm shots. If one of our guys is open we expect them to take it.”

On not being a “joystick coach”

“I think one of the most important things in coaching is for players to be able to play with a free mind. You have to get them to understand the game and what goes into it. To me ‘joy-stick’ is more every time down the court you want to call a play. We did not guard coming down the stretch. That was the bottom-line.

“It started with giving up an offensive rebound and a foul, but that’s where we got hurt, the defensive end. We got sloppy on the offensive end and I think the poor offense led to poor defense, and you can say the same thing vice versa sometimes. We were simply very sloppy.

On Armani Moore’s turnovers at Alabama

“It makes it tough. Armani needs to handle the ball and he’s better than that. He gets in too big of a hurry. He’s just sloppy with the ball. He does see some things and I think KP likes being off the ball a little bit. We need to get Shembari better, he’s been up and down. We just need to know what we’re going to get from him from day-to-day. The fact of the matter is that if he doesn’t practice well the day before we’re probably not going to play him in the game.”

On Shembari Phillips

“It has been (a pattern). Normally when he practices well he plays well. When he doesn’t practice well he’s normally not on edge and he’s very careless with the ball.”

On stepping out of conference play after the loss at Alabama

“I don’t think it’s a change of pace because you’re still playing a team in TCU that’s similar to and will do a lot of the same things that Georgia would do. Trent and Mark worked together so they do a lot of the same things. It’s going to be very much like a conference game.

“This time of year where conference (play) is different is where you’re playing a round-robin, then when you go outside the league…but we don’t play a round-robin, as you know we only play some conference teams once. It’s going to be the same feel as a conference game.”

On TCU

“They’re very disciplined. Simple. I think like Georgia they know what they’re looking for. They’re going to play deep into the (shot) clock if it takes that. I think they’re very solid defensively, they’ll probably mix it 60-40 man to zone, or maybe more than that depending on how we react to that.

“I’ve known Trent for a long time, coached against him. His teams aren’t going to beat themselves. They’re going to stay in it. They’re going to keep grinding, keep fighting. They have some size and I’m sure like anybody they’re going to try and go inside on us.

On Devon Baulkman on the road versus at home

“I think what we look at more than anything is we know our guys, we’re with them every game. Body language is important, how they look out there, if they’re engaged or not. He’s gotten better defensively. Where he gets himself in trouble is when he starts dribble, dribble, dribble, like any player. Not just him. When the ball starts sticking on any team, it’s not good. And it’s really not good for us. When he gets in trouble, and some of that is not his fault, because if he has to dribble, that means his teammates aren’t doing what they need to do to get the ball moving.”

On Kevin Punter adjusting to similar double-teams from Alabama game

“He’s seen some of that. But at the first of the game, Armani (Moore) set a screen in the middle of the floor at halfcourt. You knew (Alabama was) going to double, we knew that going in they were going to take that. So we didn’t execute there.

“What we showed them is we didn’t execute our offense early. You’ve got to come into a game with a game plan. You have to at least try to get it going and we didn’t do that.

“People would be shocked. We don’t run that much stuff for KP. What he gets is in the flow of what we do. When we went into this season, we weren’t sure, you think about foul trouble, all this. We wanted an offense and a team that, everybody if they do their job would find a role and do those type things. He got himself in trouble. Think about early, he charged. Came up the floor, didn’t have the numbers.

“I don’t think the double-teaming (is a factor). If we do what we’re supposed to do, we should be scoring at a very high clip because when they’re double-teaming, you’ve got an advantage somewhere. You’re playing 4-on-3 somewhere, and we ought to be able to pick that up.”

On Admiral Schofield

“I think he’s like any young player right now. We’re trying to make him understand there’s got to be more to his game than making shots. He’s got to rebound the ball better, he has to defend better. It’s not so much what the other teams are doing, it’s what he’s not doing to help us at the position he’s playing. He’s got to be a guy that’s constantly going to the offensive boards.

“When you play a front-line position, that has to be a constant. Both offense and defense, you’re going to the glass. He has a tendency to stand out and shoot 3s, which we want him to do, he’s good at shooting 3s, but at some point in time, he has to do the other things.

“Defensively, he had two fouls. One early in the game that he shouldn’t have fouled and the last one at the free-throw line was a huge play. The guy had secured the ball. And you tell those guys once they get the ball they’ve got to get out of there and not mess around. That’s, again, just immaturity and continuing to learn the game.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Alabama 63, Vols 57

RICK BARNES, Jan. 26
“That might’ve been the ugliest 20 minutes of basketball for two teams in the first half I think I’ve seen in a long time. Then second half, when we had a chance, had control of the game and let it go, it just gets down to competitive spirit. That’s all it gets down to. We weren’t tough enough to compete all the way through and play 40 minutes. That’s what it got down to.”

On shot selection with lead in second half
“We turned down too many shots in the first half. And then we came out and, we want to play a high-possession game, we want guys to take rhythm shots. We made a couple, then I thought we took some bad shots.

“Turnovers, we turned the ball over. We knew they were going to do the double team, try to get the ball out of Punter’s hand. Just made too many passes in difficult, tight situations. Even when the ball got through, we weren’t going to be able to do anything with it.

“With all that, it was our defense. We didn’t compete at all on the defensive end. It’s not like they did anything that was difficult to defend. We just, at times we did defend, but when it got down to winning time, we just didn’t have enough competitive fire and fight to win a game.”

On if his team relaxed when the lead was 48-33 in the second half
“That’s what I just asked them, and that’s what they said. But you know what, they didn’t say what they wanted to say. If your (record is) 8-8 coming into the game, 3-4 in the league, and you relax, I mean come on, what does that say? We’re a .500 team. You can’t relax.

“It’s not like we’re playing a lot of young guys. We have a lot of seniors out there. It gets down to you have to compete for 40 minutes. We turned the ball over. Free-throw block out, we foul on a free throw there to let them take the lead. You can’t make those type of plays.

“We didn’t move the ball. The start of the game, the very start of the game, first four possessions we did not do anything that we wanted to. You get a little bit of fool’s gold. You get going, you think you have control of it, but if you can’t play 40 minutes … I can’t say we gave the ball away. You can’t give it away if you don’t have it. We didn’t finish it. You have to give them credit, but we certainly helped them. I can tell you, we helped them. And the biggest was on the defensive end.

“We can talk about the turnovers and those type of things, but in the last four minutes we absolutely did not compete at all on the defensive end.”

On how to address poor defensive after playing well defensively against South Carolina
“I just told them what I told you guys. We talked about being competitive and every game you have to take it to another level. We didn’t do it offensively. What they were doing to double (Punter), believe me, it’s an easy thing to deal with if guys will just move the ball, take their shots. Guys were trying to make great passes as opposed to just solid passes.

“What bothered me, the defense. You can’t win on the road (like that). We took way too many 3s. But I will say this, I’d rather shoot the ball than turn it over. The first half we turned down some shots, but we didn’t get any rhythm offensively in the first half when we could have.

“Then from there, when we had the lead, we made some shots. Our defense, we were terrible. Terrible defensively. When we got the lead we stopped guarding. Offensive rebounds, there was one possession there where they got three offensive rebounds and we did not leave the floor. We had no one. I told them that’s stage fright. If you’re not moving your body, like Rigamortis sets in, you can’t move. I said you’ve got to compete, I don’t care if someone breaks it loose.

“They used the word complacency. That’s nice way of saying we didn’t compete hard enough to win. That’s the word they used. The real fact is we didn’t compete for 40 minutes. And we let a game go that we should’ve won.”

On Alabama
“You have to give Avery (Johnson) and his team credit, they were down and kept going at it. You know what they did? They started getting on the glass. They were having a hard time scoring and they found a way to overcome that. Getting on the glass. You look at it, there at the end, that’s what kept in the game. I know in the last minute I think we gave up three straight drives to the basket, uncontested. That’s not competing. We didn’t rotate. Where were those where we picked up charges in the first half, and there was no one around there (late in the game).

“Normally, what happens, bad offense leads to bad defense, bad defense leads to bad offense. That pretty much is how I would sum it up.”

On learning to use scouting reports, defeat other team’s scouts
“I don’t think they realize that other teams scout us. They come out, like Armani Moore was wide open at the top of the key, that was by design, hoping he would get in a hurry and try to dribble the ball and he did and he turned it over.

“We knew they were going to trap Punter, that’s pretty easy to figure that out. Think about the passes. Detrick Mostella threw one that hit the backboard, he threw one that’s over, when he got trapped in the corner, I’m telling you, it was closer to the scoreboard than it was the player. You can’t make passes like that. I just kept seeing these passes that we were trying to make when we should be looking at the rim, looking to attack.

“Our offensive flow wasn’t good. When we got going, that’s the way we normally play. We just got up and quit running. You have to play for 40 minutes. You have a 10-point lead, 15-point lead, whatever it is, you have to keep playing. With the shot clock being what it is, the fact that we don’t have a guy we can throw it into and say go score. If we had that tonight, I think things could’ve been different, but we don’t.

“The fact is, we have to be high energy and high effort and we didn’t have it coming down the stretch. And we didn’t deserve to win a game that we certainly could have.”


 

ROBERT HUBBS III
“We just didn’t execute. We were rushing. We just had to settle down and play our ball but we didn’t do that.”

On playing the lead instead of the game
“We got a little complacent, which we shouldn’t. We should’ve just kept on playing great defense, but we let up and let the game slip away.”

On not playing well defensively
“I thought we did pretty solid job for a little bit, but we just got complacent. We just let up. That’s all there was to it.”

On playing up and down games
“It’s tough. But we have to keep improving night in and night out. We have TCU coming up Saturday. Have to move on and try to get a road win.”

On fighting against complacency during the game
“We just have to stay locked in. Know our defensive task and know what we’re trying to get on the offensive end.”

On being where they wanted with 15-point lead in second half
“We just wanted to get as much as we can. We turned the ball over, I know I did a couple times, and they got some easy runouts.”

On fighting against frustrations when wins can’t be strung together
“Yeah, it’s frustrating. We put ourselves in position to win these games. We just have to figure it out and pull it off.”

On the mood in timeouts when another team is making a late run
“Just trying to stay calm. It’s a hostile environment, so we just try to stay calm and do what we have to do.”


 

KEVIN PUNTER JR.
On trying to stop another team’s late run
“It’s hard. It’s one of the hardest things to do in college basketball. When a team gets hot, they’re making their run and you just can’t buy a basket. It’s probably the hardest thing to do. And everything they’re putting up is going in.”

On hard not getting frustrated with up and down play
“It is frustrating, to be honest with you, especially in a game like this, when you’re right there. You’re up (15 points), the game is right there if you just continue to score the ball and stay solid on defense. We didn’t do that. We just let the game go. Just that quick.”

On if their style of play changed as Alabama made its run
“Maybe. I couldn’t even tell you. Obviously we missed too many shots and we turned the ball over in crunchtime. I really wished those guys didn’t double me. A few times I really, really wanted to score. But I’m not going to force it. Every time I came over halfcourt it was just them running at me, and there’s nothing I can do but give it up. After I gave it up, those guys got great looks, but they just missed it.

“I felt like them jumping me at halfcourt was probably smart because they didn’t let me get it back. We got the ball to the middle of the court and we shot some shots we always shoot, we just didn’t make them.”

On mindset with 15-point lead in second half
“To be honest with you, what was going through my head was we have to stay the course. You know how we get sometimes. They hit one 3, two 3s. They come down and next thing you know we’re looking at each other like, ‘I thought that was you.’ Then you look up and we’re just up 5.
“For us, we have to play until the clock runs out. We didn’t do that until the clock ran out.”

On the mood in timeouts in second half
“I was looking in guys eyes and trying to say we’re not letting this game go, trying to talk to guys. Defensively, we have to get it together. We just didn’t do it. And it really sucks.”

On difference defensively between South Carolina and Alabama games
“Defensively I don’t think we were that bad until the last four minutes, or last three minutes, when we totally broke down. Were we tired? I don’t know how I looked from the outside looking in. But I think we just totally broke down the last three minutes.

“First half was the lowest scoring game, 25-24. Our defense kept us with that one-point lead. Second half the defense was pretty good. But like I said, the last three minutes were just really … bad.”

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

Monday Press Conference — Rick Barnes, Armani Moore (Jan. 25)

Rick Barnes, Jan. 25
(On Kevin Punter Jr. becoming one of the SEC’s top scorers after tweaking his shot in the offseason)
“We have always tried to teach the high release to certain players. In terms of just tweaking his shot we’ve had guys that have done that, but I don’t think anyone has done it the way he has. He embraced it so quickly. He went through some real frustrations. There were some days that I would be out on the road recruiting and they would send me video and I would call back and say, ‘No you’ve got to move it this way two inches, or you have to do it this way.’ They’d send me a picture and I’d say, ‘Nope,’ and I would walk in when I got back and I would talk a little bit. I would say, ‘You don’t have to do it. It’s up to you to do it. If you want to do it, you can do it.’ He showed great determination, discipline, and what he did was pretty drastic when you think about it. I told him that this isn’t going to happen overnight. This might not take hold until October to where it would really be your shot. But it happened quicker and it was all because of him. He literally was in there shooting shots two, four, six, and eight feet from the basket for hours and hours.”

(On if he’s ever felt hesitancy to change a player’s shot)
“No. I believe you should change shots with guys. I think that is very important because when you watch NBA teams training camps, you see how willing they are to change player’s shots at that level. I think it proves that you should be able to do that. I think the guys who coach at the highest level will tell you that same thing. It cannot happen unless the player wants to do it and buys in to doing it. We have tweaked some things with guys on our team right now and we have done that numerous times. He had to make a drastic change.”

(On how hard it is winning every possession)
“Really hard. It is really hard. Not to play the score and to try to win possessions and finish possessions and it is hard. But that is what goes into being a program that is a championship-caliber program. That is where it starts and ends, winning possessions. You have to have the mentality that you want to win every possession on both ends. It has been hard. It has been one of the toughest things because we have had segments that you will watch teams that will do it for a while. The good ones, the ones that will really be successful and want to do something big, are the ones that keep building on it to where each game they are going further with it. They are going to win more possessions, and they are going to fight harder to finish possessions and it is hard. It’s not easy to ask players to do that because you are asking them to do a lot of little details that go into the game to get all of that done.”

(On the difference between the film session for the Vanderbilt and South Carolina games)
“It wasn’t that much different. I’ll watch the tape and you will put it under a microscope and it shows you that there are still a lot of things we can do better. We showed some things that we did do better, but we showed some areas that we wanted to improve and we didn’t. We have to continue to do better. We learned something from the Vanderbilt game. One being that if you do not play hard you do not have a chance. We have to understand that regardless of a big win, and it was a big win for our guys, that we can do more. We have to do more. We have to do far more. So the tone was that some guys didn’t do the things they talked about wanting to do. It is a matter of not just being a team that survives, you want to be a team that is really trying to accomplish something and to do that you have to constantly be looking forward and that is what we will try to build on. Some of it is individual players. Some of it are guys not going to the rebound. When you talk your post players you have to get them on the glass every time and there are still some guys that don’t do that the way they should every single time. We got active in the gaps. Kevin Punter did his best job of looking around. He looked back and forth as opposed to getting hammered by screens. I thought he was engaged away from the ball and so the whole session showed that we are not where we need to be and we need to move forward.”

(On Armani Moore scoring less)
“I don’t look at Armani being like that. I think Armani impacts us when we’re playing well if he never scores a point. Early in the year, and I think it’s a real compliment to him, we relied on him to do everything. He has a talent in that he’s a big-time competitor. He’s a guy that wants to win possessions. He’s a guy that takes it personal sometimes, and he’s hard on himself. He gets frustrated with himself and he gets emotional sometimes, which believe me, you’d rather a guy in some ways have that type of reaction as opposed to being nonchalant about it. Early in the year we were really trying to find ourselves. I think he’s rubbed off on us to where we’ve gotten balanced now. We don’t need Armani to score a lot of points. I think he’s going to be really important here as we continue to get in the middle of it before we head down the stretch, helping (Kevin Punter) because people are going to really try to take him out of it. Armani’s going to end up handling the ball. That doesn’t bother me because I do think that when he’s engaged and really in-tune, he sees the floor, he gets guys open. I think he can become one of the best defensive players in the country. If he locks in to do that, I think he’s got a great future with that. He’s competitive. He’s not afraid of a challenge. I think he can guard anybody on the floor. So he’s a guy that truly can impact winning for us probably more than anybody other than scoring points. He can really impact a game for us. If he scores, which I think he can, but I think where he gets in trouble is when he presses, like most players, not just him, any player that’s not making shots, when they start thinking ‘I’ve got to make a shot. I’ve got to make a shot,’ it normally doesn’t happen and they dig themselves deeper in a whole. It’s when they just let it come to them. I thought he had some great passes Saturday. We put the ball in his hands with that sole purpose of him trying to find teammates. He started the second half with a great drive and kick-out to (Devon Baulkman) in the corner. He had a great pass out to Robert Hubbs III who missed a shot, but just a great look. Armani can impact our team without ever scoring a point in big ways.”

(On maintaining a high level of defense)
“I’m not sure it’s a matter of maintaining it. We’ve got to go forward. We’ve got to get better. There were some things that we did well, but when you go back…South Carolina missed a dunk that would have cut the lead to six right around the two-minute mark. It was a close game, and we still have to learn to play every possession. I do know that we have proven that we can get up and guard the ball. We need to do that more consistently. We’re still not where we need to be with our ball-screen defense. This is going to be a challenge in Tuscaloosa. They’re going to shoot 25 threes, and so we’re going to have to defend the three-point line. When they’re knocking down 10 or 12 threes, like Vanderbilt, that’s hard to overcome. We’re going to have to work hard at shrinking the court and yet, still getting out there. We’re asking our guys to do more. We can’t ever get to a maintain mentality, like we are there. I’m not sure you can do that with anything, but that’s what we talked about yesterday, and tried to show them clips of where they’ve shown that they can do it. Now, can we do it longer and more often and stay with it.”

(On the key to last weekend’s South Carolina win)
“We have to rebound the ball. We talked about getting to the offensive boards. I can tell you, Derek Reese did his best job of getting off some block-outs, getting in there. We had more guys making an attempt to get to the offensive glass, but still not as much as we’d like. Defensively, we did have people (diving) down, coming up with some loose ball rebounds. We’ve got to have that. We can’t have five guys, when they shoot the ball, staring and looking at the ball and not pursuing it. When we were rebounding the ball well, we were really getting that type of pursuit. I think that’s where Armani [Moore], and even [Robert] Hubbs III got a couple tough rebounds against taller guys in there. We’ve got to rebound it, and so much of that depends on how well we defend. If we’re having to scramble around, and we get beat and get in gaps, they kick out, we start scrambling and get into those long closeouts, it makes it hard to rebound, because you’re just kind of flying all over the place and you give up position. A lot goes into how well we rebound, but so much of it is the mentality to do it.”

(On what impresses him most about Alabama)
“You go back and look, they probably did as much for our league in (non-conference play) as anybody. They had great wins over some top-25 teams. They might have more wins over ranked opponents than anybody in the league. They’ve lost some tough games. They do a really good job with their offensive scheme. They spread you out. They do a great job of driving and pulling your defense, and kicking out. That’s a team that can make 10, 12, 14 threes if they get going. Defensively, we would plan on [Alabama head coach Avery Johnson] trying to trap Kevin Punter as much as he can, get the ball out of his hands and those type of things. He’s going to work hard at trying to take our top players away. You’re looking at how Kevin’s scoring, teams are going to go in every game with some kind of approach, like `What can we do to slow him down, stop him from doing this or doing that?’ That’s why I go back to Armani [Moore], what he does for us… He’s a guy that gives us another guy that can run our team out there.”

(On what he remembers from being an assistant coach at Alabama in 1985-86)
“I learned a lot from coach [Wimp Sanderson]. I actually did a little call-in radio show with him and his son, Barry, this morning. Coach understood the `KISS’ theory, you know, `Keep it simple, stupid.’ He understood that. He understood players’ feelings. He was the first time I’ve ever been around a coach that once you get into this time of year, we might practice 30 or 45 minutes. I’ll never forget, I asked him `What was the key to being successful?’ and he said something he had learned from coach [Bear] Bryant. Recruit well, schedule well, and coach [well] is the third part. But don’t ever lose games by getting beat on the practice court. I thought our guys were always at their very best come game time. He had just a great, unique way, in terms of knowing players and knowing how far to push them, knowing when to back off. The scheme was simple. I think he was brilliant in the fact that he played through his best players. He knew how to get them ready to play. That year, I remember we were terrific, but I learned a valuable lesson. Our leading scorer, Buck Johnson, got hurt, and Derrick McKey had just kind of hung back. When Buck went down, Derrick stepped up and it just went great. I remember asking Derrick one time, `Why were you holding back?’ and he said, `This is Buck’s year, and he should do it.’ I’ve learned how players think sometimes. Derrick McKey went on, like Buck, to play in the NBA, but that’s what you’re aware of. Younger players, making them understand that they don’t have to wait. If you’re good enough to do it, go do it right now.
“The other thing that I remember was that we lost four times to Kentucky by a total of five or six points on buzzer beaters. I think they beat us by one point in Lexington, one point in–I can still see the shot that Roger Harden hit against us–in Tuscaloosa, then beat us in the conference tournament, then met them in the NCAA Tournament. Coach is a great coach. He is a great personality. We stayed in touch through the years and has given me some great advice throughout the years. He has watched us play. He is just a real genuine person, and if you have ever ben around him, he is a fun guy to be around. He is a terrific basketball coach. You think about where I have been. Everybody talks about me being at football schools. What he taught me is to just do your job and don’t worry about football. He really embraced it. I remember the relationship he had with (Alabama football coach) Ray Perkins. They had a great relationship. He said, ‘We’ve got a job. He has got a job. Let’s just do our jobs.’ Everywhere I have been, I have never looked at anything but our job. Let’s do it the best that we can do it.”

(On addressing lack of success at certain venues)
“No, we just get ready for the next game. People often ask me what are the hard places to play. Most places where it is hard to play, those teams have had success and had good players. That is what makes arenas hard to play in–the personnel you’re up against. There are some arenas that you can name where their crowds really do make a huge difference. I think our crowds have been great this year and helped us. I think there haven been times that we have hit some lulls, but the fact is that it is going to get done between the lines. I think the preparation the day before, I think where you are with what you are doing when you are away from basketball–where are your thoughts, what are you thinking–how engaged are you [contribute]. We talk about young players being immature and not understanding the sense of urgency with having your priorities straight with school, getting rest, eating right, all that–you are somewhat in a routine with them. We try not to break our routine very much. We change some things. We try not to let it get monotonous. Really, it is what we feel today that we need to do. We know what we are going to do in practice today. We want it to be short, sweet and to the point. In terms of going into buildings, you just have to get ready to go and win every possession if you want to win.”

(On Big 12/SEC Challenge)
“I don’t know if I do like having it this time of year. It is where ESPN wanted to have it. When we were at Texas, I wasn’t in favor of it because we played a great non-league schedule. We didn’t need to have a challenge. The thought there was that there were 10 of us, and, here, there are 14 in the league. How do you get a real challenge out of that? Then, there is the thought that at this time of the year, it could be an open week if you have injuries or would like to rest them a little bit. You’d have a week to do that. Nonetheless, it has been good. You could probably take a poll of where the Big XII is right now and the SEC, but I think it is great for our league right now. We have a chance as a league to do some things special. I think the Big XII has four teams ranked. You have Oklahoma going into LSU, Iowa State going into Texas A&M, Kentucky going to Kansas. Big games. You talk about our league wanting to have multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament every year. We have already talked about what we need to do in the non-league scheduling, and this is part of that. The reason it is right now is ESPN. They just got through with football playoffs, [Super Bowl] is in two weeks, so here is a great week to have it. They get to do that. This is something they can really promote, too. You go back to when it started The ACC/Big Ten Challenge was right there. They didn’t want it [to conflict]. Looking at it from [ESPN’s] standpoint, it is a great thing that they can really focus on it this week and make it something special. It is a great opportunity for our league and for people to see. We have a good league. Everybody is beating up on each other right now, but it is what it is and we have to play it.”

(On keeping the tempo up on the road)
“I think Avery likes to run, too. It’s hard to run against some teams. It really is. I remember at media day, Avery said he wants to play fast, fast, fast, and I think he really does want to play fast, fast, fast. We like to play that way. So, it could be a very high-possession game. I think both teams are getting better defensively. When you have teams that are getting better defensively, it puts you in longer shot clocks. Because, you normally are going to work hard at getting option one, two, or three and going deep, and getting them deep into the clock. That can kind of slow the game down a little bit. I do think we are pretty similar in the fact we both want to play a pretty high-possession game.”

(Asked if Kevin Punter Jr. is more important to his team than any other player in the SEC)
“I would say that about Armani, too. If you had asked me a few weeks ago if I thought we could go out on the road and get a win without Armani, I probably would have said no. What happens when you lose a player like Armani, it does allow somebody else an opportunity to step up and play. But, I think when you look at Kevin and you watch us, you’ll be surprised that we don’t do a lot of stuff outside of our offense to try to get him shots. People are going to try to take him away and, honestly, we say fine. Let the other guys play, and you do what you do. We don’t run a play for him every single time. What we do is in the flow of our offense. There are some (schematic) things that we do, but it’s not just designed for him. He’s valuable. He’s doing some great things, and he’s done some great things. If you ask me, do we want him on the court as much a possible? Yes. But, if something happens like with Armani, he impacts us in ways people don’t realize and we’ve had to play through some foul trouble without KP too, and we’ve gotten better. You would have thought we couldn’t have done that early in the year without he or Armani on the floor at some point in time. I think when you look around the league, everyone would agree that their top players are the guys you want to have on the court and you don’t want to be without.”


 

Tennessee forward Armani Moore
(On producing in areas other than scoring)
“I think that when it comes down to the team, there are a lot of things that a team needs to be successful. I think you have to have guys like me who are not only willing to score points, but also do things in other areas, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I think that’s one thing that that I have to really be aggressive doing. I think we’ve really been getting better as a team at defending the ball, but you definitely have to have a guy like me.”

(On not shooting as much in conference play)
“No, I just think it’s just understanding my role as far as being on this team. I don’t think it’s necessarily me shooting bad or anything like that, but there are other guys who are shooting better than me. We have a lot of guys who can score the ball. As far as me understanding my role, I know that we are still averaging at least 80 points a game without me scoring. So, that just goes to show you that I need to be an impact in other areas of the game other than just scoring.”

(On coming back after a big loss and how that’s different than coming back after a big win)
“I think that can go either way. Obviously when you win a game, you feel like you should carry that over. But once you lose a game, it upsets you and it gives you this hunger that makes you want to go out and win a game as well. For us, we have to develop a level of consistency. I don’t think we have had one time this year where we have won two or three games in a row. In the next couple weeks, we need to try and get on a winning streak, and get something started here.”

(On guarding any position on the court)
“Yes, sometimes there are times where there is a big height difference, but that’s what’s going to happen when you have a whole starting lineup with guys who are 6-4 or shorter. But it’s fun, and I like the challenge. I don’t necessarily look at it as ‘this guy might be taller than me’, I just think it all boils down to being willing to win.”

(On frustration from not scoring as much in SEC play)
“Yeah, being a guy who did a lot of scoring at the beginning of the season, for any player, once you see your numbers decreasing in one area it can be frustrating. But once I actually sat down with myself and realized that even though I’m not scoring, I can always be effective in other areas. Coach Barnes and I sat down and had some conversations about some of the things that I do great. I just want to be able to do those things to help my team. I think now I can come in and be a lot more effective in other areas other than scoring.”

(On winning one possession at a time)
“When you look at a game of basketball, I definitely think it’s about a game of runs. That’s one of the things that we chart when we come in to halftime. We see how many defensive stops we can get in a row. Coach tells us that if we can get three or four stops in a row, and at a consistent level, then nine times out of 10, you’ll win the ball game. I think here in the last couple of games, our effort as far as defensive–other than Vanderbilt–we had a whole lot of guys who have given it a little bit more effort.”

(On recent Tennessee results at Alabama)
“Every one of those teams who like to pressure the ball, kind of like South Carolina, are the same way. They’re going to try to feed off the crowd. You know, it’s not necessarily a big gym, so the crowd can easily get into it at any point of time, but I think the most important thing for us as a team, we just have to be poised with the ball and make sure that we aren’t making dumb mistakes like turning the ball over and letting the crowd get into it.”

(On blocking shots)
“To be honest, I think blocking shots for me is just something that I like to do. I think it helps me, as a player, to get going. I think it just boils down to the will to win for me. I have always felt like that was one of the things that I was good at and I think one of the most important things is timing it.”

(On if he learned how to block shots from Josh Richardson)
“We all know that Josh was a competitive player. I think he was just one of those guys who is always going to give that extra effort. Playing with Josh, I could see that he always wanted to win and I carried after the same thing, you know, just always wanting to win.”

(On how the team responded defensively against No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday)
“Definitely, I was really shocked at how we handled the last game. A lot of people say it’s easy to get up for a team who’s ranked, but if you take that out of it and just look at some of the film that we watch, a lot of guys like Kevin Punter Jr., Devon Baulkman, Derek Reese, Detrick Mostella, you can see how much effort these guys are putting into the defensive side of the ball. I think that’s a very big step for us because at the beginning of the year, a lot of people were saying that if we weren’t scoring, then we were looking terrible. But during that game, the game was pretty close throughout, but as far as our defense, we stayed consistent throughout the whole game. Obviously there were times when we broke down, but as far as a team effort, I thought we did a marvelous job on that side of the ball.”

(On his versatility as a player)
“It’s always been that way for me. In high school, obviously, I was one of the tallest guys on the team so I played post a little bit there. There was never a time when my coach said if you get the rebound you can’t dribble the ball down the court. As being one of the most effective players on my team in high school, I always had the ball in my hands, so, then in AAU I was a point guard as well, so coming into college, it was a bit different because the level of play is way up than high school. But I’ve been learning as I go. I still have a lot to learn, but I think Coach Barnes and his staff have really been helping me understand what I need to do as a player.”

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

Barnes looks back at South Carolina, ahead to Alabama

Rick Barnes on Sunday night joined WNML’s The Nation with John Brice and Chris Low, looking back at Saturday’s 78-69 Tennessee win over No. 24 South Carolina and ahead to Tuesday’s trip to Alabama.

On how his team has responded in the 24 hours since Saturday’s win
“If we don’t, we’ll just be a team that’s up and down like a roller coaster. Because you have to also analyze our next opponent. That’s a very tough game yesterday. Non-league (games), (South Carolina has) probably been the most successful team in our league. I think they’ve got two, three, four wins over ranked opponents. They’ve struggled a little bit here in the conference. You look at the schedule … they’ve got kind of Frank Martin was talking about us, we had a bad loss the way we did against Vanderbilt, you have to believe if we have any pride at all, we’re going to come out and play and play with a sense of urgency. We expect that every bit at Alabama.

“If we don’t learn from this tape, that we have to do some things better, it will just be an up and down ride.”

On making 30 of 32 free throws
“People have asked me through the years why some teams shoot well, some teams don’t. You can go through nights where you don’t shoot well, but fact of the matter is the best free-throw shooting teams are usually the best teams, best shooters. It was big. One of the big statistics, whether we made 30 or whatever it was, South Carolina had done a great job all year of making more free throws than their opponents shoot … we said we at least have to match them there.
“Obviously we made more yesterday than they attempted, which is what they normally do to everyone else. That was a really big statistic in the game. The fact that we knocked them down, and the fact that we made a bunch of 3s in the second half, that’s obviously what won the game for us on the offensive end.”

On getting stops when South Carolina was making pushes
“Looking back at the tape today, we went back and told, showed that we have to be even better than what we did. Because I do think guys are young. We did some good things at Mississippi State, came home and didn’t build on it.”

“The point we made to the guys today, a 10-point lead is not enough in today’s game, because they know we’re going to try and work the clock, they’re going to do everything they can to not let us work the clock. So you’ve got to be able to handle the pressure. What we did show, we had two terrific defensive segments in the last few minutes. Our ball pressure was better, we were switching with a sense of urgency. I think from the four-minute mark down to under two-minute mark, we were saying we’ve got control, let’s get it over with. I told them you can’t stop playing, you have to play smart. You can’t foul, stop the clock, like there at the end, we let them get the ball, go down and score, maybe took six seconds off the clock. Plays like that.

“That’s the thing we keep trying to teach these guys about this game. That you don’t ever stop playing. And the real objective, I think, in basketball is you want to win every possession. You want to win every defensive possession you’re in, you want to win every offensive possession you’re in. That’s what we’re trying to teach these guys. Talk about winning possessions and not worrying about the clock. Just win that possession. You have to work the clock, but you have to win possession.”

On evidence of this team progressing as the season goes on
“I think it’s important. I think it happens every year, even when you bring back an experienced team, if you have a team that’s been together. Still, there’s always a way you can build. With this team, it’s been a lot in terms of you’re trying to teach them clock management, how to you continue to be aggressive without fouling, how you be aggressive without turning the ball over, coming out of timeouts. One thing we’re still working with these guys is simply listening and taking care of the details. We’re still not where we need to be (in) learning how to use a scouting report to our advantage. It’s those kind of markers that you’re trying to get. And the other thing, it’s simply making our team understand transition defense, how important it is that guys get back and set their defense. And the other thing would be what I was delivering to them a little bit ago, just wanting to win every possession. And understanding that you’ve got to be on edge. When you play this game, at the end of the game you should be totally exhausted, mentally and physically.”

On the upcoming schedule
“I can tell you this, if you asked me right now, and I’m being brutally honest with you, who we play after TCU this Saturday, I promise you I couldn’t tell you who those other games are. I know this week we’re playing Alabama and then we’re playing TCU. (We) better be locked in, we better be thinking about Alabama and nobody else. We have to understand, we told them today, you have to start getting your mind right to know that you’re going on the road into an environment where a team beat South Carolina, it was almost a 30-point game, the way Vandy beat us. They’re capable of beating anybody, they’ve shown they can beat ranked teams.

“We better understand the only thing that’s important. I promise you that if anybody is thinking like that, you’re in big, big trouble. You have one game, and I talked about it, it’s day to day. I actually got a little heated up today during the film session. One of the coaches was talking about Alabama a little bit, and I said, ‘What did he just say?’ I want them on edge right now. When we’re together, I want them on the edge. When we’re on the floor tomorrow, we have to get our work done. This time of year we should be cutting back our practices. Everything should be more mental. I want them on edge every minute we’re together as a team, whether we’re in the film room, warming up, whatever it may be. That’s how I want it to be. I want them to think only about today.

“I’d be disappointed if anyone of those guys could tell you what our next six games are. Right now, Alabama. Obviously I know we’ve got to go to TCU, because I’ve got to make some decisions about travel, things like that. But the fact is, it’s all about Alabama right now.”

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

Postgame Quotes — Vols 78, No. 24 South Carolina 69

RICK BARNES

(Opening statement)
“Best 40 minutes of defense we have played all year. The thing as a staff we were most pleased with would be the fact we responded mentally after the way we played the other night. I thought we came out with the kind of focus we have to have.

“I know our players have great respect for South Carolina after watching them on tape and how hard they play. Actually, talked about understanding how it hard it is to play like that, and we have to match it. I thought our guys really tried as hard as they have all year it terms of really trying to stay focused.

“The second half we got going, and KP (Kevin Punter Jr.) was phenomenal. When he got in the flow, you could just see it. He was totally in control of what he wanted to do.

“A great team win. A lot of guys did a lot of good things for us. We had to work through some foul trouble and work through a team that is hard to play against.”

(On coming off the tough loss and bringing a lot of energy today)
“They were very disappointed. We spent a long time in the film room the other day. We never got into the second half. I’m not sure we got past the eight-minute mark. We were just very lethargic. We weren’t playing, weren’t giving ourselves a chance, but tonight, from the beginning, there was a different pulse with them, a different attitude. And we told them, ‘We’ve talked about it long enough.’ All I really said to them before the game after Coach “Rob) Lanier finished the scout was, ‘We’ve talked about it long enough. Let’s see if we are going to back up some of the things you guys talk about in the film room.’ I thought they were really talking to each other, communicating. And we have to have that, I think everyone knows that. The mental part of it was really encouraging today.”

(On hitting so many free throws in the second half)
“Well one thing South Carolina does a great job with, and I think teams that really understand winning do, they normally make more free throws than their opponents shoot. We were hoping we could at least match it, stay with them there. It’s a little skewed, we shot 32, but some of those came late when they were fouling. But the fact is, we did a great job on the free throw line. Really, they rebounded the ball and we knew that– we felt that would be a huge factor in the game, when the ball gets up on the glass. We actually said that’s when the game’s really going to start. They run their offense, and we run ours. Who’s going to go get some of those extra touches. They out-rebounded us on the offensive board, 16-11. They do a lot of things that, as a coach, you admire watching them play because it’s not easy to get guys to buy into it. Frank (Martin) has done a great job. He’s always done a great job getting his guys to do those things.”

(On defense near the end of the game)
“Everything we do as a team, we have to do as a team. I do think Armani (Moore) really set a great tone for us. I thought his energy, his intensity on the defensive end was really key. I thought Devon Baulkman played his best defensive game. He got out there and got aggressive. It only takes a couple guys to really pick you up. Kevin Punter, defensively, you look at him, he had four steals. Armani had five. He got active away from the ball. He did a really nice job. They work really hard at trying to hit you in that high-percentage area right below the foul line. They really work hard at getting it there. I thought we were doing a pretty good job of trying to jump in there and help each other. We switch a lot. We do different things. I thought our guys paid a lot of attention to the scouting report today, which we didn’t the other night. I thought they handled some of the personal assignments that we asked them to do in terms of how to play certain guys.”

(On the team responding to you challenging them)
“I’ve said all along, I really like this team. We’re hard on them. We expect a lot. We’ve never used that term ‘rebuilding.’ We’ve never said anything about that. I told them the other day, ‘You don’t play transition defense, you give up easy baskets, you don’t listen to the scouting report.’ We weren’t focused. I’ve talked a lot about that. Prior to the Vanderbilt game was probably the most I’ve gotten on guys where I felt like they just weren’t on the edge. I said to them, ‘ You can lose games the day before the game. I don’t know how we can ever think that we can just show up and play.’ We’ve been very honest with them, we don’t have a lot of room for error. One thing that can be non-negotiable is effort. I think it’s a real compliment to them, and maybe it’s a thing of learning to play the game. I’ve always felt that hard work was a talent because most players don’t really understand how hard you work. When you get (a player) that really works at it and plays the game hard, it’s special when you see a guy do that. I think Armani, and again he’s adjusting to a different role right now, but he was key today with a lot of good things. He’s still a competitor. He turned the ball over some and got caught up a little bit when we should have worked it in. But I just think this group of guys, they respect each other. All I said to them after the game really was, let’s see what we’ll learn from this game and keep moving forward.”

(On changes offensively in the second half)
“We kind of did a different set where we had two guys out front and two guys along the block area. We had a runner going back and forth and we knew they were going to continue applying pressure. We tried to drive up the floor a little bit more because they challenged a lot of passes. When guys get pressured sometimes they handle it and sometimes they don’t. I think in the second half Detrick (Mostella) got going and so did KP. We wanted to go through (Robert Hubbs III) a little bit, so this team is really learning how to make adjustments throughout the game. That’s something that we weren’t able to do earlier but they’re getting better at that. “

(On playing against a physical team)
“I knew it would be like that. We tried to explain that to our guys as much as we could. We knew it was going to be very physical, if we were going to accept the challenge of playing as hard as they play. They play really hard and they don’t stop playing hard. I said to the team during the first half that if we would respond and try to be as intense and work as hard as they do, both teams would have a hard time scoring in different ways. We knew they would stretch a little bit and run through the passing lanes but we tried to keep it as tight as we can. Honestly, that’s what I thought it would look like and I told the team at halftime to keep defending and move the ball and we’ll break loose and make some shots.”

(On South Carolina being a Frank Martin team)
“I love Frank Martin because he’s just going to line up and say this is who we are, this is what we do. I think any coach who can get a team to play as hard as he does is amazing. I don’t care where he’s been, I can tell you that when we had to go into Kansas State to play it was unbelievable. Every game is going to be like that, whomever he plays, they’re going to do what they do and they’re going to do it well. He’s done a great job at South Carolina. I’m not sure what people thought, but I remember telling people that I knew in South Carolina that ‘You guys have no idea how great of a basketball coach you guys have got.’ He’s going to play a style that if you love a guy that brings his lunch bucket everyday then you’re going to get one. He’s intense and his players love him. His players love playing for him and I can tell you through years of talking to guys that have been around him. He’s certainly one of the most respected players in the business I can tell you that. Everybody knows that it’s not going to be easy. It’s like going to the dentist with no Novocain and that’s what it’s like when you go up against one of his teams.”

(On the challenge of playing against South Carolina)
“We knew when we ran our offense that we were going to have to make multiple cuts. They do a great job of running off your cuts and they’re going to challenge every cut. They’re going to challenge you if you don’t more than one cut. When didn’t read the screen well and I saw Kevin was dribbling the ball too much. We decided to take him off the ball and let Armani handle the ball. We wanted him to see it and he does see it, but we wanted Kevin to try and move without it. Defensively, he was the best he’s been but he had to really work because guys weren’t getting open for him. He was just dribbling and trying to make some things happen and that’s tough. He got back in the flow with our transition game and you could just tell. We were talking on the bench and I said to the coaches, ‘He’s got it right now,’ and you could tell that he had control of what we needed to be doing.”

(On the minutes he got from forwards Kyle Alexander and Ray Kasongo)
“I think (Alexander) played eight minutes and got six rebounds. When we go zone he’s a guy that brings length in there. I thought Ray’s minutes were good; he did some good things. It’s hard to not foul, they’re very aggressive and they come at you. It’s really hard to not foul them because they do a great job, they’re a very disciplined team and they stay with it. They’ll put you in the long possessions and I thought defensively that we stayed with it maybe as long as we have the whole year.“

(On selecting particular match-ups defensively)
“We had so many guys in and out of the game. We did have different match ups and we switched. We switch and scramble. Some days guys just don’t make shots and it’s not their fault, things just don’t go their way.“


 

Tennessee forward Armani Moore
(On picking up a win over #24 South Carolina)
“We’ve been showing a lot of effort in practice. We picked up the intensity on defense. That’s what I thought we needed to do to win this game today, and I thought we came out executed very well on the defensive side of the ball.”

(On moving forward after Wednesday’s loss to Vanderbilt)
“You don’t to linger on it, and mope, and say ‘Hey, we lost last game so we have to drag through this game.’ I think we came out this time and showed that we had some fight in us. I think we sent a statement tonight.”

(On the performance from Kevin Punter Jr.)
“Kevin does what he does. He’s a scorer. We got on the ball, and he made some tough shots. One thing we look for him to do is shoot, and take the shots that he’s given. I think he did a great job tonight of shooting the right shots.”

(On hanging onto the lead over the final minutes)
“I think the key to that was being poised. Obviously once that cut the lead they tried to speed us up, and cause turnovers. Instead, we were taking care of the ball and they were fouling. We went to the line, and made some free throws. I think that was a big key for us in this game, making free throws.”


 

Tennessee guard Devon Baulkman
(On Tennessee making nine 3-pointers in the second half)
“This team is a really great shooting team. It didn’t surprise me. If everybody gets hot, it’s going to be a long night for the other team. If we get good looks, we need to take those shots when we can.”

(On defending South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell)
“I just wanted to bring energy, nag him a little bit, to aggravate him, get up in him and make him feel uncomfortable. But he’s a great player. My mindset was all on defense tonight.”


South Carolina head coach Frank Martin

(On if there was a change in Tennessee’s offense in the second half)
“I tried to be real positive at halftime, but I knew that we were lucky we were even in the game. I’ll tell you what’s awesome, is for Rick Barnes to be in our conference. I think it’s awesome. To see him animated and excited, and his kids playing so hard, it’s great to watch. It’s great to watch, but I knew at halftime we were in trouble. We had no fight. We got outplayed with the exception of Michael Carrera. We didn’t get outplayed, we got out-toughed. It’s a shame, but that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job. Obviously, I haven’t done a very good job here.”

(On if Michael Carrera had the toughness he was looking for)
“Yeah, yeah. Their guards just completely destroyed our guards. On defense, we couldn’t guard them. We couldn’t keep them out of the paint. We’re lucky they missed some shots in the first half. On offense, we couldn’t dribble the ball past the half court line. We couldn’t pass it. It’s hard to run any offense when you can’t pass. We just jogged around. Michael’s playing with stitches on his chin, a bloody nose, and he’s the guys that’s coming up with loose balls, taking charges, and getting rebounds for us. Nobody else would.”

(On the injury to Michael Carrera’s chin)
“There was a loose ball, and him and Armani (Moore) kind of just fell on each other, and his chin hit the ground. It cut his chin open, and we had to stitch him up. It is what it is. I’ve said it plenty of times: if I’ve got to go in a foxhole, I want Carrera with me. I don’t want to take anything away from Tennessee’s kids. They just took it to us, and we had no answer for their discipline, their toughness, their aggressiveness. We had absolutely no answer.”

(On a previous comeback providing a false sense of security)
“You play to the buzzer, and you coach to the buzzer. We’re in an eight-point game and we come up with a steal, then we miss a breakaway dunk. (If) we score that dunk, it’s six with about 1:50 to go, then get another stop and give yourself a chance to maybe get the ball to tie the game. It just wasn’t meant to be. It was unfortunate. We didn’t have it today. That’s two of our last three games. I was worried about today. It’s our fourth road game in six league games. Between travel and playing in foreign arenas, I was concerned about today.

“I know Rick (Barnes). When you know coaches as people – and obviously their players have been in the league, so I know what the players are about – I knew that the way that they played against Vanderbilt the other day was not going to be acceptable. You’ve got experienced players that are a good team, with a coach that’s just not going to accept guys not doing things the right way. I knew we were walking into a hornet’s nest today.”

(On knowing he would be let down today)
“Not let down. I kind of knew what was coming from Tennessee. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to answer the bell. We tried to act like we were answering the bell, but we didn’t have enough fight in us.”

(On Sindarius Thornwell’s performance)
“I got nothing. He’s one for his last 25 from the field, I know that. If he doesn’t play better, it’s going to be hard for us to win.”

“He’s had a real good year for us. He came off probably his three best games of the year, and then all of a sudden the last few games he’s one for 25, 26 from the field. They’ve both been road games. Free throws, he was 3-for-8 against Ole Miss. Today, I think he shot two free throws, and the only two free throws he shot, he missed them both. We’ve got to get more, not just from him, from all the guys. The starters right now, we’re just not getting much from three or four of our starters. They’ve got to play better.”

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