Rick Barnes was not a happy camper with how many threes his team took in its 84-80 loss to Auburn over the weekend.
No. 8 Tennessee (27-4, 15-3 SEC) took 28 three-pointers against the Tigers on Saturday, the second-most it’s taken all season. That total was just one shy of the 29 attempts it took against No. 1 Gonzaga earlier in the season. The Vols won that game, but they didn’t win on Saturday. Against the Tigers, the Vols made just nine of their 28 three-point attempts.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said his team took too many threes on Saturday. As for why his team attempted so many, he didn’t have an answer.
“I can’t answer that, because that wasn’t our game plan at all,” Barnes said on Monday. “You go back and look at the losses we’ve had, we’ve done that. I can’t tell you why because we keep talking about, we should know who we are and what we are doing.
“I can’t explain that. I really can’t. We talked about what we needed to do, and we just settled. We shouldn’t do that.”
In Tennessee’s four losses this season, opponents are shooting more free throws, and the Vols’ 3-point attempts are much higher than in their wins. Against Auburn, that was once again the case.
Along with taking 28 threes, Tennessee attempted just 16 free throws. On the season, the Vols are averaging just over 20 free throw attempts per game.
“The fact is we didn’t do the things we needed to do to win at the end,” Barnes stated. “Too many turnovers, shot-clock violations, you name it. That led to easy baskets.
“You would like to think where we are and what we have been through, we wouldn’t make those type of mistakes this time of year. But we did.”
Barnes’ comments during his press conference on Monday were also echoed immediately following Saturday’s loss in his post-game press conference. In terms of poor shot selection, junior guard Lamonte Turner was one of the first names that came to Barnes’ mind. Off the top of his head, Barnes said Turner took at least three ill-advised shots.
Though Turner drained his first attempt of the day — a three in the corner — he finished just 1-of-8 on the afternoon for three points. In the last five games, Turner is just 3-for-26 from the three-point line.
“He’s pressing too hard to make a three,” Barnes explained. “He’s taken tough shots, and when you take tough shots, it puts more pressure on you to make a shot and in your mind, you’re thinking, ‘I need to make a shot,’ which is not the way you think to begin with.”
On the season, Turner is shooting just 29 percent from three, a big drop off from his 39 percent clip last season when he won SEC Sixth Man of the Year. Turner’s free throw percentage is down nearly 10 percent after missing just 10 free throws last season.
“Players can shoot their way into slumps and put pressure on themselves by taking shots they shouldn’t take,” Barnes said. “He’s done that.”
The good news for Turner, though, is that his field goal percentage is actually up from last year, and he’s finding ways to positively impact the game in other ways. After shooting 39 percent from the field last season, he’s shooting 41 percent this season.
Defensively, he’s averaging 2.7 rebounds per game and 1.1 steals. On the offensive end, he has an assist/turnover ratio of 2.5 and is averaging 3.7 assists per game.
“He has to recognize that he’s such a better basketball player than thinking he has to make a three,” Barnes said. “Lamonte Turner can affect the game in so many ways if he never made a shot.
“He’s become one of the best defensive guards in the country.In that way, he can disrupt a game. The way he’s making plays for his teammates, it just gets (hardest) for him when he starts trying to make shots from behind the arc. That’s when he doesn’t play as well.”
Turner may be in a shooting slump from the 3-point line, but just two weeks ago, Tennessee doesn’t beat Ole Miss on the road without his contributions. The North Alabama native was aggressive on offense, money from mid-range, and tenacious on the defensive end. He finished that game with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
That’s the Lamonte Turner that Tennessee needs going forward if it wants to leave Nashville as SEC Champs.