Barnes discussed what went wrong defensively, the offensive struggles his team experienced, John Fulkerson’s struggles, as well as the struggles of Victor Bailey Jr. and Yves Pons. He also discussed what Tennessee needs to do to be more consistent moving forward. Here’s everything Barnes had to say:
On what went wrong defensively:
“One-on-one defense. I think normally we do a good job guarding sets. We just did not do a very good job with our one-on-one defense. Which, we don’t ever want to leave someone on an island by themselves to do that. I didn’t think we did a great job of getting in the gaps to help. I also felt like, because our offense wasn’t what we wanted it to be, that hurt our defense today as well. To keep some pressure there, to feel there’s a need to score when they come down. But again, the one-on-one defense wasn’t very good. Then we fouled shooters a couple time where we didn’t need to do that. I just didn’t feel like, I don’t quite get it. In fact, I don’t think we listened today. I don’t think our team, the young guys are learning, obviously, and you guys know that. The one game that you play is not going to be the same the next game, or maybe the game after that. We told them that you’re not going to be able to drive and spin, because we know people are going to come do that. Took us too long to adjust with that.
“We still need more from other players. We can’t rely, or ask, Keon and Jaden basically to guard the other team’s best players for the most part, then come down and end up with the ball in their hands because other guys aren’t trying to get involved. And we’re not executing the way we want to execute.”
On what he can do to find consistency from this basketball team:
“That’s the tough question. That’s a good question. The young guys, you look at it, if you really look at it, I would say the inconsistencies are coming from our older players. And that’s the disappointing thing. We shouldn’t be putting the pressure on the younger guys to do what they’ve been trying to do for us. Yeah, they’re good play, they’re talented players. But we still need a balance. We need some of those guys to want to make big hustle plays. Get the stick-backs. More importantly, when we call a play to try to work through them, them playing with the kind of force and kind of aggression that you want them to play with, opposed to just going through the motions.
“You look at Jaden Springer’s line tonight, I thought Jaden did a great job. In fact, he’s trying to play a lot of minutes. I thought we had some great looks at the (3-point line) and we’re going to take them. Some nights, when those aren’t going in, we still have to take them. But when we go to a set, wanting to play inside-out, now it’s important, and it can’t be through those guys (Springer and Johnson) all the time. They get it and we’ve done that some the last couple games. They were trying to do it tonight on their own, kept getting themselves in a little bit of too much trouble holding the ball. We knew all night long, when they were coming to double, all you had to do was make the skip pass to the other side. We got all we wanted, but we weren’t doing that quick enough. To get the consistency you’re talking about, it’s not going from just one player. It’s going to come from a group of guys, as a whole on both ends.”
On the struggles of John Fulkerson, Victor Bailey Jr. and EJ Anosike:
“We didn’t start Fulky tonight. (Victor Bailey Jr) comes in, and it’s not so much defensively. We need those guys. We do. But when they go in, they’re going to have to be productive. If not — I thought (Olivier Nkamhoua) showed us some things tonight. EJ (Anosike) does it, but we can’t give away those point blank layups. We can’t. It’s hard enough to score in this league. When you execute and get exactly what you want, you have to finish those plays. I thought Olivier, I thought his demeanor was good. The fact of the matter is we’re trying. We’re trying everything to get guys to understand that we need them and we show them. I think it starts in practice with a mentality that I’m going to get better. I always say this and believe it. I think this game normally gives you what you put into it. I believe that to be true.”
On if the veterans are dealing with physical issues or mental issues:
“I can’t imagine there is something physically wrong with them, with as much time they spend with (strength coach) Garrett (Medenwald) and (trainer) Chad (Newman), our staff spends with them trying to do physically to help them with their bodies. I mean everyday, all day long, how hard those guys work to do everything you can possibly do to help guys recover. I would have to think it’s probably mental. I do think this game is four times more mental than it is physical. I think it also gets back to DNA. I think you have to understand you’re going to compete every single night at a very, very high level. If you’re not going to do that, I think you’re going to struggle. You’re going to be up and down. It’s an every-night thing. You come out of a timeout and you start anticipating a guy is going to do this, without being on edge knowing he’s also setting you up for a back cut. If you’re not one edge, and if you don’t understand that every possession matters, you’re not going to get consistency. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing offense or defense.”
On LSU freshman guard Cameron Thomas:
“You have to give him credit, he got his numbers. He’s a tough guy to guard. He’s a very aggressive shot seeker. He’s going to seek his shots out. I go back, I wish we had guys on our team that would do that. Some players, you have to almost beg them to do that. Other guys you beg them maybe to not do it quite as much. You have to give him credit. That’s in his DNA. He’s an offensive, aggressive player that has a variety of things he does. He has his little step-back. He’s a terrific free-throw shooter if he gets fouled. So I think you have to give him credit. They put him in position to where they think he can be most affective. He’s looking to be aggressive offensively, which I think you look at our freshmen, I don’t think our freshmen are much different. Maybe not to that high of a level, in terms of just wanting to score, but he wants to go get buckets. I think that’s paramount in his mind and that’s what he’s going to do.”
On the similarities in today’s loss and the loss to Ole Miss:
“Inconsistency. Just knowing who you can count on, just from game to game. Again, when I say aggressive, I don’t think there’s any question our guards are trying to be aggressive. We’re not getting any aggression from our post players, in terms of the thrust we need from those guys. That can be rebounding the ball at a high level. If you’re not going to score, that’s OK, go do something else to impact the game. You can impact this game in a lot of different ways. Some guys can score to impact it. Other guys impact it other ways. I just don’t think we’re as consistent as we need to be. I would say that comes from our older players, guys that have been around, played enough minutes. Because the young guys are still learning and they’re still going through it. They do bring the thrust that we’re talking about. We just need it from other guys as well.”
On the increased amount of points Tennessee has now given up in the last two games:
“Some of the scoring goes back to a high-possession game. We are trying to play in a much higher-possession game. There is more opportunities for the other team to score. If you go back to the numbers, I haven’t really look at them, they shot around 50 percent. They shot 51 percent, 33 (from three). If you look at their scoring line, almost 52 percent. I look at that more than I look at the number of points. If you shoot 52 percent, you are going to win a lot of basketball games at this level. When the other team is shooting 35 and 29. There are a lot of possessions. That is one thing with the high-scoring. It is one of the things we will look at. Not just the number of points. We would like to keep teams under 70. But 50 percent is not going to win games for you. What we need to do, we normally do a pretty good job of guarding sets. When it gets down to one-on-one defense where we have to get better.”
On how difficult it is to gameplan with a team that is inconsistent:
“That is one of the hardest things in coaching is just that. You try to play the game as many different ways as you can. Knowing that you are going to have to be ready to make some kind of adjustments here or there. That is probably might be as bad a feeling as a coach that you can have, just what are we going to get today? When you don’t know. That is the hard part. It really is. What we want as much as anything, you look at the way you can impact games. You go back to Yves had four rebounds, Josiah had six, Jaden Springer had six. Santiago had three. Keon had three and Fulky had five.
“I want to see Yves Pons and John Fulkerson have eight or nine rebounds. The guards come down to get them, which is great, too. I’d like to see that. Yves is 1-for-5 and Fulky is 2-for-5. I can tell you this, within our offense, if they want they ball in certain areas, there’s ways they can do it. But they have to want to do it. Also, there were times I thought we should have put the ball in there and we didn’t. It is a combination of everybody totally understanding. Early in the game, we were just standing around. I don’t know what we were doing. It is almost like we got lulled into playing the way they play their offense. We want movement and we want to open up those gaps. They were perfectly fine letting us shoot all the threes we wanted to shoot, which is fine with me if we get wide-open looks, especially if it goes inside-out. If it ends up being 40, as long as they are good shots, I don’t have a problem with it. That is one of the worst feelings as a coach, especially this time of year. You know guys can have some tough games. It is not guys having tough games now. We are still searching for that consistency from key games.”
On how concerned he is with the play of John Fulkerson at this point:
“I think it is at that point. I don’t think there is any question. When you are a fifth-year player, I don’t think there’s any question you have to look at it and say right now — we are never going to quit on him because we have seen him do it. I have seen guys go through it for whatever reason. I have also seen guys just like that flip it around and turn the switch on and get things going back. It won’t happen unless it comes from within. I don’t think there is any question that he has seen if he is not doing it, he is not just going to get to stay out there. We owe it to his teammates and we owe it to each other. We are going to get guys that are going to be productive. Also, if it is mistakes on the defensive end that he is making mistakes, that has to do with where he is mentally overall. Where he is wondering. Any time you start doubting yourself, you get back on your heels, you are not going to be a factor. You are not going to be able to be aggressive. When doubt creeps in, it kind of freezes you. I think that some of that has happened with him. I say this to him a lot, if you will just do what we ask you to do — because we know it has worked in the past — we have made adjustments with it because the other team is going to make adjustments. If you just try to do what we will ask you to do, we believe that it can flip for him.”
On how much a team needs ‘dogs:’
“It is huge. You have to have them. If you want to use the word dog, you need some dogs that are just going to bite you. You need some junkyard dogs that regardless of how the game is going, they are going to bite. They aren’t going to bark. They are going to bite. There’s a lot of people that bark, but with no bite. You need those dogs and if you have got them — it is just like you said, it can’t always be coaches. It is a players’ game. It always has been and always will be. We need more of that. We talked about it. We need more of it. We don’t care who does it. We just need more of it.”