Barnes Pulls No Punches After LSU Loss

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    Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes frustration was clear following the Vols’ 79-67 loss at LSU Saturday night.

    The seventh year coach’s vexation was understandable as simple mistakes kept Tennessee from giving the nation’s No. 21 team a better game.

    Barnes was frustrated with his team’s turnovers and free throw shooting saying if he knew his team took 37 free throws he’d have predicted a 10-point victory.

    Still, it was super senior John Fulkerson who earned the crux of Barnes’ criticism after scoring just three points and grabbing five rebounds before spending much of the second half on the bench.

    “We need John to help us or he needs to step aside,” Barnes said. “I’m telling you, we need him. We’ve talked to him enough about it and he needs to come out and know how people are playing him. He can’t stand there with a team we talked about all week is going to reach, grab, poke at the ball and let the ball stay away from his body. We keep talking to him about it. He plays too vertical. You’ve got to get down — again, I think it gets down to him needing to play tougher and harder. I’m not going to say more physical because we’re not asking him to do that, but we are asking him to do what he needs to do to get into space and play, but defensively and rebounding wise he has to do that. If he does nothing but do that it’ll help us.”

    When asked about whether Fulkerson was dealing with COVID-19 fatigue after getting the virus after Christmas, Barnes said that he didn’t know. However, if he was and continues to play at the level he did last year, the Vols would have to turn in another direction.

    The former Texas, Clemson and Providence coach was upset with the core parts of his team, saying they need to be “tougher” and that Tennessee needs more energy from its upperclassmen.

    If Tennessee could have moderately improved in any of those areas, they would have had every chance to earn a marquee road win. Instead, the Vols have some soul searching to do if they don’t want to repeat last season’s falters.

    “If guys would just bring energy. The older guys just bring big time energy, like that, we’ll be fine. I promise you,” Barnes said.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.