Everything Rick Barnes said after Tennessee’s win over Texas A&M

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    Vols head coach Rick Barnes met with the media on Saturday following No. 9 Tennessee’s 68-54 win over Texas A&M to discuss what went well for his team.

    Barnes discussed the performance of Santiago Vescovi and Jaden Springer, matching A&M’s physical style of plays, the impact of Yves Pons’ defense, Tennessee’s rebounding and offensive depth, Vescovi improving on turnovers, and much more.

    Here’s everything Barnes had to say:

    On the importance of Santiago Vescovi’s performance against Texas A&M:

    “It was really important. It reminded me of his first game here when he walked on the floor with two days of practice against LSU. I remember he came out and hit some shots like that. He has struggled a little bit lately. I think some of it is me maybe asking him to do a little bit too much. He knows that he wants to be good. He was playing with a lot of confidence today and every game. We’ve still got to get his teammates wanting to go get the ball some and let him not have to work so hard bringing the ball up the floor. People are going to try to do that all season long to try to wear him down. Santi was terrific. Jaden Springer, I thought, played his best game. He had some turnovers there at the end that he shouldn’t have, but those are learning experiences.”

    On freshman guard Jaden Springer’s performance:

    “I thought he was really solid defensively and he’s going to learn so much as he continues to go. These next couple of weeks are going to be huge for him, Keon (Johnson) and the other guys that we get out there. These minutes are really valuable. Jaden handled himself really well today. He’s a really gifted player, certainly offensively. I think he’s deceptive in what he does. He made a great pass. We ran a little set to get he and Fulky (John Fulkerson) down there in a two-man game. He made a great pass to Fulky. Fulky missed the dunk but that was a great pass. That’s talent – seeing it and making the play.”

    On the possibility of playing Vanderbilt back-to-back next week:

    “We’ve heard it, but we don’t know. Reid Sigmon just told me that he thought we’d know something definitely by tomorrow. By the time we get back to Knoxville, maybe we’ll know. That’s something that we’ve heard as well.”

    On Vescovi improving his turnovers:

    “The big thing is that he’s gotten himself in shape. He’s in so much better shape. What he did a year ago, I’ve said it many times, it’s unbelievable how he walked out of the NBA Academy, gets here with two or three days of practice and then goes out onto the floor. We are in total disarray of what’s happened. I’ve talked about it many times – how many different times we had to remake ourselves a year ago. For him to come in and do what he’s done (is impressive). As soon as Covid hit, he went home. He was one of the last players to get back, but we appreciate the fact that we told him what he had to do and he came back in the best condition that we’ve ever seen him in.” He continues to do that. He’s a smart player, crafty, anything you want to put on it. He’s competitive. He’s a very deceptive defender. I know for a fact his teammates love what he’s about. We still have to help him more. We’re putting too much on him. We’ve got too many guards that can bring the ball up the floor. He’s very good off the ball. Some of that is his pride that he wants to handle it all of the time. I get that, because that’s a part of who he is. We’ve got to continue to teach him that he has to conserve some energy along the way.”

    On Tennessee’s rebounding performance against Texas A&M:

    “We knew coming in that a big part of Texas A&M’s game was rebounding. We knew that we were going to have to do different things. There are so many things that go into it. If you’re going to be a heavy gap team, that means you’re going to be closer to the basket, that means you’re giving your opponent a chance to get a running start. You have to be able to turn around, get back and try to make some contact and go get it. I think our guys battled. We gave up two to start the game that we weren’t really happy about, but overall, I do think our guys fought against the team that does an unbelievable job of rebounding the ball.”

    On Tennessee’s offensive depth:

    “I thought we showed versatility today. We put a team out there that we have never played with, or practiced with. We put Keon at the four along with Yves in what we would call our post position. Then we had VJ, Jaden, and Santi. We were going to run into a couple of possessions and see how it goes because we do think that those guys can guard anybody for possessions. I think that’s where the team makes up, we don’t have to be a one-man team and that’s what we’ve tried to talk to our team about. There is a way we’ve got to play. We knew they were going to double team Fulky today. We weren’t sure which way they would come with it. For the most part he did a good job of getting it out of there and that’s what got us going early. We knew that we were going to get the ball side to side. We could really start a different lineup every game, it wouldn’t bother anybody in our room, and I see scoring being different every game too.”

    On the impact Yves Pons had on defense against the Aggies:

    “He is as big a part of winning every game we win is anybody that we have. He’s always making winning plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet. He blocks shots, we know how good he is there. We love him. Everybody knows how hard he works. Once he makes a couple three’s, he’s only going to get off going because he works too hard. Just like Santi went through a stretch for a couple games. We know he can shoot; we know Yves can shoot. Yves can do so many other things. He is just a great weapon defensively because as we’ve said many times, we can put him anywhere on the floor to guard anybody and then when he’s away from the ball he does a tremendous job of coming over and making plays.”

    On Tennessee limiting Texas A&M’s leading-scorer Emanuel Miller to just eight points:

    “Obviously, it is important. I can rave about our assistants. They do an unbelievable job of scouting teams and trying to give our players the best cheat sheet that they can give them. I thought our guys did a really good job of helping each other, trying to do the things that we ask them to do through our scout. It’s always a team effort, it’s never going to be one guy, even though we know Yve anchors at defense. It is a multiple effort by a lot of different guys having to play against players like that.”

    On how he felt about Tennessee matching A&M’s physicality:

    “We went back and looked at that game and it was a really hard game to watch. We weren’t very tough. They came in and beat us any and every way that you could beat somebody. We talked about it, that’s what they do. That is part of their identity, their makeup is that they’re going to make you work on the boards. We talked a lot about it. We knew we had to rebound the ball. We want to win the rebounding battle but I thought our guys held their own against a team that is as good as anybody we will play against.”