Before No. 1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) travels to No. 5 Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC) for the biggest game ever played between the two rivals, the Vols must take care of business against Frank Martin’s pesky Gamecocks (12-11, 7-3 SEC) on Wednesday night.
Here’s everything the two head coaches had to say about each other ahead of the second match-up of the season. Tennessee won the first meeting 92-70 on Jan. 29.
We’ll start with Rick Barnes.
On what he expects from South Carolina on Wednesday:
“I think any time you are going up against South Carolina, I think you know they are going to play an extremely hard and physical game. I think everybody knows that. We fully expect it. They compete as hard as anybody you are going to play against. That’s what we expect.”
On if his team is looking ahead to Saturday’s game with Kentucky:
“I would be shocked. I think our guys have so much respect for South Carolina. They understand where they are right now. I think they have a great respect for our league, and I thought we went out and competed hard against Florida. I expect them to understand today’s preparation is really, really important and tomorrow to get ready for that game. That’s what we have always tried to do, and that’s what I expect from them.”
On Chris Silva’s 28 point and 10 rebound double-double performance against the Vols in the first match-up:
“I think what he did. He had a lot to do with it. I would tell you this, if you talk to our players, they have as much respect for him and how hard he plays as anybody we compete against. He is going to play extremely hard. What he did, he did it. We have tried to guard him the best we can, and we will continue to try and do that. He is a terrific player. It’s hard to keep a guy like that from not being effective. He was terrific, and he made it happen himself.”
On the four SEC teams atop the SEC standings playing each other this week:
“I think in terms of sorting itself, it will sort itself out in another eight games. That’s how I feel about it. I think we have to be focused on what we are doing right now. I don’t know the other teams who are playing in the league. I think you have to be so locked in on your next opponent that that’s what you’ve got to stay focused on. If you start trying to play this, that, or the ‘what if’ game, it just never plays out like that. I think it’s important from our standpoint that we know we are on the backside of the conference (schedule), and the next couple weeks are important to all of us. Regardless of where we are in the league, and there’s so many games, you look at how Arkansas who went on a four-game winning streak. It can happen that way and it can happen the other way. That’s why I think you don’t even look at it like that. I think you just look at like this is what we’ve got. If we get sidetracked from that, things can snowball for you if you don’t stay focused on exactly what you need to do. That’s to focus on our next opponent.”
On how Tennessee is enjoying what’s ahead while also focusing on what’s coming up:
“Really what I just said. What we’ve done is behind us. We have a lot to say we are proud of right now, where we are. But that is over and done with. I know I sound like a broken record. But it’s about the next game, and it’s about today’s practice. When the game is over with, we told our guys we want them to compete and enjoy that. But when it’s time to come back and get locked in on our next opponent, that’s what we have to do. It is fleeting. If you start trying to bask in what you’ve done up to this point, you lose sight of what you need to keep doing to do better to move forward. That’s all we have focused on is can we find a way to get better today.”
On having three straight games against teams Tennessee has already played – Missouri, Florida and South Carolina:
“You go back to our game with Missouri, our game with Florida, I thought their coaching staffs made some adjustments, and there’s no doubt that Coach Martin is going to do the same thing. The second time around, you’re a little bit more familiar with what you’re seeing because it’s the second time. I fully expect them to do the same thing. One thing about his teams, as well as Missouri and Florida, they’re going to play hard and they’re going to compete. We’re all playing for something. There is a lot of basketball left to play in the regular season before we all head to Nashville. There are a lot of games, and I’ve got a lot of respect for not only the coaches, but the players in this league because this league is very competitive, and we’ve got really good players in this league that want to win. There isn’t a team in our league that still doesn’t have a chance to do something special with their season, because you’ve always got a conference tournament regardless of what happens in the regular season. We have a great respect for who we’re getting ready to play, and obviously I can sit here and speak volumes about Frank and his team and the things that he stands for and the way he does things. Again, I know our team feels the same way.”
Here’s what Frank Martin had to say about the Vols.
On how South Carolina is going to correct the final stretch of the previous match-up while also realizing the Gamecocks played well for 30 minutes:
“Obviously, that’s our job, to watch that game. Which is what we did, at least Bruce and I did yesterday, to scout and see what things they did that hurt us and what things we did that hurt ourselves that maybe we thought we could take advantage of and didn’t work. We obviously have to make some adjustments on things we did.
“Here’s where the game turned. We’re down two. Tre makes three free throws to cut it to two, and I give Chris a breather. And there’s 13 minutes to go in the game or so, and I put Mike in who had three fouls, and we have a bad breakdown that next possession and Mike picks up his fourth foul on a real cheap, cheap – it’s a foul – but it’s a cheap play, a play where he cannot commit his fourth foul. Then we hang around until the 10-minute mark. But then the wheels came off. Missed shot, missed shot, missed shot, missed shot. They score, score, score. All of a sudden, a four-point game becomes 14. Then when it got away from us, we didn’t do a very good job of fighting to give us a chance coming down the stretch.
“We better rebound it on Wednesday, I tell you that. We’ll have a long, long night, knowing Knoxville, if we don’t engage on the glass.”
On what Gamecocks’ freshman Ke’Shawn Bryant needs to do to match-up better with Admiral Schofield:
“It’s the same deal. The match-up is not a schematic thing. One guy is 260 pounds, the other guy is 185 pounds. One guy has been in college. Schofield, when he was a freshman, he got his lumps on his head like Ke’Shawn gets them this year. But Schofield has worked his tail off and has made himself into one of the better players in this conference. Ke’Shawn has to deal with it. We’ve gotta help him, and we’ll show him film.”
On the key to being able to contend for 40 minutes:
“When we made mistakes on the perimeter, and they got open threes, they made them. When they made mistakes and we got open threes, we missed them. You’re not going to beat the No. 1 team in the country shooting layups. That’s the objective, but you have to make jump shots.
“If you’re going to beat Tennessee, you’re going to have to make your open perimeter shots. You don’t have to make 100 percent of them – that would be nice – but you’ve got to make a good percentage of them.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance when we had open opportunities.”
On Jordan Bone:
“We gotta be better in that match-up. I think we’ve got the personnel to try to neutralize that match-up, but we’ve gotta be better. If you remember Bone when he was here two weeks ago, he got that ball downhill and into the paint way too easy and too much. It’s what he does. When he came here as a freshman, there was a guy here named Dwayne Notice who said you’re not doing that, and he couldn’t do it. He’s continued to get better.
“Our big guys have to do a better job helping his match-up to keep him out of the paint. I didn’t think our big guys played particularly well defensively in that game against Tennessee. We have to be a lot better in that match-up. We have to identify him earlier.”
“We never really put up a fight in that match-up.”
On how South Carolina needs to slow Tennessee down off a made basket:
“It’s all our bigs. We say our bigs didn’t play well defensively. The immediate reaction is well they didn’t guard Grant Williams in the low-post. Had nothing to do with that. Our bigs didn’t do a very good job of helping with Jordan Bone in the open court. Our bigs didn’t go a very good job of changing ends of the court so we get out-run down the court. Our bigs didn’t a do a very good job on responsibilities on back-side rotations. That’s where we have to be a lot better.
“Yesterday as I was breaking down our film to try and make some adjustments for us to try and get our guys ready for today, there are four situations where we score, and they just get run-outs on us. That’s a combination of guards reading the floor, identifying the ball early. And No. 2, big guys flat-out getting out-run.
“There’s not a schematic thing that we can do better. It was a point-blank, we kinda relaxed and they make you pay. That’s where Tennessee’s experience is good. They play every play. They don’t just play when they’re in a good mood. They play every play, so your team has to play every play.”
More on Jordan Bone:
“He set the tone for the first whole game. He came out and came right at us. We didn’t do a very good job of saying ‘stop.’ Not just one-on-one, collectively. He basically set the tone for them.
“Identifying Bone earlier so he doesn’t get so deep on the floor with the ball. And No. 2, when he says, ‘I’m coming at ya,’ putting up a better fight. We didn’t do a very good job there.”