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Everything Rick Barnes said about Tennessee’s win over Kansas

Vols head basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the media following No. 18 Tennessee’s 80-61 win over No. 15 Kansas on Saturday night inside of Thompson-Boling Arena.

Barnes discussed what went well, his team’s rebounding effort, starting Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer together for the first time, Josiah-Jordan James coming off the bench, Victor Bailey Jr.’s play, John Fulkerson playing with physicality and much more.

Here’s everything Barnes had to say:

On Tennessee out-rebounding Kansas 38-23:

“That had a lot to do with it obviously. And we talked about it extensively the last couple days. We’re either going to get tough enough to do it or we’re going to struggle, losing games because of it. And we’ve just allowed to, honestly, play harder, be more aggressive and not go at it the way we needed to. We said hey, sooner or later we have to do it. We have to rebound the basketball. I thought early we were able to do that. Now we’ll see if we’re tough enough to continue to do it.”

On the status of senior forward Yves Pons after getting banged up in the second half:

“I don’t know. I just saw him in the timeout before he turned his ankle on that one drive. (Tennessee trainer) Chad (Newman) had something on his knee, so I think he might’ve got hit in the knee or something, I don’t know. Knee or quad. They actually said to me at one time, if we’re going to play him, we better get him out there before he tightens up. Then he went back in and played well. When he drove baseline, that was an ankle turn. They did tell me at the end of the game that he was available if we wanted to put him back in. But I thought Yves played really well. Carried himself extremely well today, in terms of his body language. The way we looked, like he was in total control of what he wanted to do and how he wanted to go about it. Fulky, I could say the same thing for Fulky. Without question played the best he’s played in a long, long time. The reason people thought we would be good was because of both of those guys. And both of them showed up tonight and did their jobs.”

On Tennessee’s 13 turnovers that led to 19 points for Kansas:

“I told the guys if I only look at one thing on that stat sheet, the only thing that bothers me, and you guys know how much turnovers bother me. You look at it, how many points did we give them? They had 19 points off turnovers. Some of it is because defensively, they switch aggressively. We were not being as aggressive as we needed to be with driving the ball, because we knew we were going to have to do that. But the fact that we were able to take those other buckets away from them was good for us. Overall defensively we were really solid. For the most part, once we grade it out, I would be shocked if everyone isn’t where they need to be from our standards, positive on the defensive end.”

On how he thought it went with Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer starting together for the first time, along with Josiah-Jordan James coming off the bench for the first time this season:

“I thought it played out well. All along, we thought a couple times, a couple weeks back, that we were moving in that direction. When Jaden got hurt, it really slowed it down. But the last, really, week, they’ve been able to practice some and put that group together the way you would like to. I thought they did it. And I thought Josiah came off the bench and did a terrific job. I thought Olivier (Nkamhoua) was really terrific in the game. Then you throw in VJ (Bailey), I thought he had great command of his game tonight. I would say it worked. And they both have started on and off, so I don’t know if it’s a really big thing for them. I think combined they had 21 points. Turnover wise, I haven’t looked at it that close. I don’t know how many turnovers they had between them. I would say five or six, it’s somewhere there I would think. That’s something they have to cut down on.”

On Tennessee shooting 8-of-13 from three while Kansas shot 6-of-24:

“We got in a situation where we were looking to not shoot the ball a couple weeks back. We just weren’t taking open shots and it was forcing us into late clock situations, turnovers. Eighteen turnovers in back-to-back games and the majority of it was due to guys not taking open shots. Then last game we took shots and they didn’t go in. The fact is, tonight we took shots and we made them. I think one of the keys is that guys know now that they better take open shots. And if not, it just bogs everything down. And if we can continue to rebound like that, we’ll get some more offensive rebounds. But I think we’ve got guys that can make shots. I think it’s a matter of them taking uncontested shots. We don’t want contested shots. If we move the ball around like we’re capable of, we’ll get the looks we need and we’ll make our share of them.

On preventing Kansas from getting in the paint:

“We played them out there last year and it was a close game, and I think we learned something from that game. We knew that if we guarded the way we like to guard their sets, and they were going to get the weave going and get going downhill with hard drives, and depending on where they put players. It gets down to our scouting report. We were really concerned with their ball-screen action because Mccormack is a terrific player and they do a lot of neat things to get him the ball, whether it be ball screen or rolling him in there or posting him up.”

On junior guard Victor Bailey’s defense:

“He had his best practice of his career here two days ago where he stayed with the second team. I’ve said to him all along that his goal should be to make the second team the most competitive team here He needs to play with the mentality of a combination guard instead of a guy that wants to be a volume shooter, and he was terrific. Defensively, I do think he’s getting better and better with that. We need great defensive effort from all our guards. We need our guards to score. More than anything, we need our team to understand roles and understand that to a high degree. If we can continue to build on everybody’s role, we have a chance to get better.”

On the SEC winning the SEC/Big 12 Challenge 5-4:

“Today, I’ve had more people I’ve seen tell me that today felt like a NCAA week because this is where ESPN wanted to put this challenge to try and create. The fact that we were able to win it for the second time, because everybody thinks our league is down. I don’t know what league is up and what league is down, I just know the Big 12 has some terrific teams and I know that we have some terrific teams. There is so much balance right now in college basketball, and I think there is still so much uncertainty because you have teams that might have time off — and some teams can get better during that time off, to be quite honest, if they can practice. I’m glad we won the challenge, I really am, because there was enough talk about our league not being really good and people talking about arguably the Big 12 and Big Ten being the best league, but the fact is we were able to win 5-4, and I think that’s great for our league.”

On Tennessee’s offensive efficiency:

“I think guys taking shots. I think that’s a big key when guys take open shots. I think it’s really important, and I think we have too many guys that work hard at shooting that have been turning down shots that led to turnovers. Tonight, we weren’t playing great basketball. We were stagnant with the ball and not doing what we needed to do, and we’ll learn from that. We’re a very unselfish team, sometimes to a fault, to be quite honest. When we get good looks at it, we feel good about it, and when we’re clicking and playing together. We feel like we’re an inside-out team, and that’s not just throwing the ball in to a post guy, it’s driving the ball and trying to work hard at getting it into the high-percentage area and kick out, but the key is, honestly, you have to take open shots when they’re there. If we do that, it takes care a lot of things. Even if we’re missing them, it gives us a chance to keep the floor balanced, it keeps us from turning the ball over and it gives us a chance for an offensive rebound.”

On the play of sophomore forward Olivier Nkamhoua:

“Well, I think Olivier is getting better, and more so, I think it is because of the way he seems to be a little more relaxed. I took him out, and I talked to him last night about his job being to play defense first, and we want him to take open shots, but the first one was not a very good shot, and then it came right back to him and he shot it quick when they were backing off, which we knew they would. The reason I took him out, and I said, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be a defensive guy and you’ve taken two shots, but you’ve given up two baskets,’ because Mccormack scored on him twice. I said, ‘You’ve got to get locked in there,’ and he came back in. He can score, believe me. We think he can, but we just think he has to not put his weight on thinking that is what he has to do for us. We need him to be a defender, a rebounder and then instinctively, like he did tonight, score buckets.”

On senior forward John Fulkerson playing with physicality:

“We have been on him all along. We don’t mind if he gets physical. He is not the kind of guy that is going to get physical from start to finish. We don’t expect that from it. We do expect that when he drives it hard, he drives it with force and know that you are allowed to — in the game, there is going to be bumping going on. You can’t be flopping and flailing around. You have to apply the force. They are entitled to their position as much as you are. Tonight, I thought he played with more speed. He got back to do what he had spent four or five years doing, working on a high release and quick up. Those are the things that made him good. We told him, when is the last time you did a high release, turnaround jump shot? The only play I will tell you, his second play when he did a step-back jump shot, he doesn’t ever need to do that. We don’t need him doing that. Everything else is what he has normally worked on since he has been here.”

On Bailey becoming a complete guard:

“We know, we all know, that he needs to score. We don’t want to take away what he does well. We don’t want to do. What we want him to do is understand and really where he has probably lost minutes more than anything was defensively. We expect him to continue to understand open shots and what that is about. Tonight, I thought he was as locked in, and I am saying that without seeing the whole thing again. I thought he was locked in there. We knew they had a couple backdoor plays and a couple lob plays. We actually said to the team, who are they going to get it on? We didn’t give it up all night. It had to be one of the guards. That is who they do it for. He, Keon, Josiah, Santi and Jaden, those guys, they need to score and they need to take open shots when they are open. We expect them to rebound. If they do that, we talked it before the game, we can’t run if we don’t rebound. We were able to do that. We wanted to get out in the open court and see if we could make those plays.”

On if a team not having a single player receive a bad defensive grade in a game happens often:

“It does happen. In the games we have lost, most of the time, it has been guard play. It has been where the guards have not done their jobs. We have a line that we want everybody under. We have a red line and a green line. Right now, I think on the season, there’s only a couple of guys that are above the red line. Maybe tonight, it puts everybody under it. The biggest stat of all, when we have gone backward in the past three weeks is rebounding. We realize the completion has gotten stiffer and will continue to get stiffer. We proved tonight that if we want to rebound, we can rebound the ball. It takes everybody doing that. Every point that is scored against us, it might not necessarily go against the guy that is guarding the ball totally. He might get one of them. He did his job. Somebody was supposed to be there to tag or help. We really break it down to the point where every point is accounted for. Fulky has been up there some because of ball-screen coverage because even though it looks like the guard is getting downhill scoring — it happened tonight. Those points will go to him because he wasn’t up there on the coverage. That is how we break it down. When the guard does his job and the big is not there where he needs to be on the ball screen and they get down hill — we really are very stringent on it. We want those guys to take great pride in wanting to be below that green line.”

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