Tennessee basketball suffered its second consecutive heartbreaking loss as DeAndre Gholston made a 35-foot buzzer beater to spoil the Vols’ comeback.
The Vols overcame a 17-point second half lead to take a late lead before missed free throws and the buzzer beater drained Tennessee.
Despite the late mistakes and heartbreaking defeat, Rick Barnes was mostly positive while discussing the defeat.
Here’s everything Barnes said after the Vols third loss in four games.
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On if he’s ever lost consecutive games on buzzer beaters
“You know what, honestly I’m really proud of the fight those guys put up in the second half. Missouri played terrific in the first half. Julian (Phillips), I’m proud of him too. He hurt himself in practice yesterday and he did everything since practice and today trying to get himself ready. Came out and just gave us what he could. (Missouri) shot the ball well. The way we fought back, that group in the second half, again, I love it. It’s a different feeling than the one the other night. Again, we had a major defensive breakdown (at Vanderbilt) that we know we can’t have. We all hurt for Santi (Vescovi). He’s hurting. I hurt for him because he knows he had a chance, two games in a row, to put a game on ice. But he’s won a lot of games for us. I hate it for him. I do, because where we are today and where we’ve been, he’s had a lot to do with it. That was one of those heaves that you see happen. That was more of a desperation one and they made it. Again, I’m just really proud of the fight they put up.”
On Missouri’s success from the three-point line
“Think about it, they banked one in early. It’s not like we were lost too many times. That’s what they do. So again, they shot the ball extremely well. We’re going to run into teams like that. I thought they picked up too many points off our turnovers. Really proud of the job BJ Edwards did when he went in there for Zakai (Zeigler). We need Zakai in the game. He’s got to stop fouling the way he does. We’ve talked about that with him. Especially the last one (the fifth foul against Missouri), he can’t put himself in that situation. We chose to foul the possession before that last one because of the minutes those guys had played in the second half. We just felt like we needed to try to win it in regulation. We had our chances with free throws with a one-point lead like the other night. But it’s part of the game. It is. I just hate it, hate it for Santi. Because I know how he feels. It’s just tough. Hopefully, I think, we can grow from both of these situations, as hard as it is right now. The fact that we had a lineup that hasn’t practiced, played together, I’m proud of them. The fact they fought the way they did. We’re all disappointed that we lost. A lot of basketball left to play. I think we’re going to get it going. We need it now, to get it going at the right time. A lot of teams have gone through it this year. It’s hit us here, at a time when you don’t want it to. But we’ll grow from it.”
On how to keep the team positive after that kind of comeback and losing a second straight game on a buzzer-beater
“I think they will (stay positive). You know what, effort. I thought we had a good effort in the first half. We knew we needed to change the game when you’re down like that. We felt like, we always want to do it, but I just felt like something started clicking with Tyreke (Key) in the Vandy game, that we had seen. Shack (Jahmai Mashack) going in, play defense. Kobe Brown is a player of the year candidate. I thought Shack went in and we played with four guards. All that versatility we have. But we have to get more consistency from guys that have played a lot of minutes. We’ve got to get that. Again, I’m just proud of Jahmai. I thought Jonas (Aidoo) went in. Tobe (Awaka), what can I say, I mean, he went in and got some things done. I think he’s a better free-throw shooter than he is. But the fact that we’re getting there, maybe this will show the guys the importance of doing that. Again, It’s a tough one. It is a tough one.”
On if it’s concerning talking about consistency with some players at this point in the season
“With certain guys it is. You guys have watched us practice all year long. You’re hoping guys will turn the corner with it. There are certain guys that we know that we need to be consistent.”
On why he feels so positive
“We love our team. We know these guys care. They came out and they wanted to play. They played against a team tonight — and we are going to play against one Wednesday night that can make 13 threes. The way we fought back, we were down two guys that played minutes for us. Actually, two starters. I am not sure if I consider — well, I consider Tyreke a starter, I do. I am not concerned about that. I just believe in these guys. I do. I have been doing it long enough to know you hit some spells like this and as quickly as we got in it, we can get out of it. I think that once we do get out of it, which I know we will, we will get going trending in the right direction to be where we want to be where it is all said and done.”
On going to four-guard lineup in second half
“Defense. There is no doubt. The big guys that we have can play and do that. The fact is we had to push out and had to guard better. That’s the thing we want all of our post lineup guys to do, the big lineup. There is no reason (they can’t). They’ve been very inconsistent with the defense in terms of understanding when we play against a team where you have to press out and push out. I know we need to stay like that offensively, but I’m not sure it had to do with being a smaller lineup. It is defense that is why we did it. That is why we made that adjustment. Strictly defense. We felt like we had to get someone that could really compete against Kobe Brown. Jahmai was a guy that we believe that can do that.”
On B.J. Edwards playing and Jonas Aidoo starting
“Just practice and what they have been doing for productivity. Trying to do what we need them to do. I thought B.J., again, he has gotten better ever since we started using him on scout team. We have watched him grow tremendously. We told him yesterday he better be ready. We had him today with the scout team but we walked him through and talked him through and had him do some stuff that we normally do with the guys on gameday. Other than getting picked right there, he looked calm, cool, and collected. We have always thought he is going to be a good guard and a good player for us. We still think that. For him not to play for games on end and go in and do that, I think speaks volumes about him.”
On Tyreke Key’s confidence
“Just again being the guy that we know he can be. Defensively, he has gotten so much better. It goes back. We need him and Santi and Z. Z, we told him, we have talked to him for days on end, we would rather him shoot the ball than go in there and throw up shots that are very low-percentage shots. He has two games in a row where he shot — what did he shoot tonight? 1-for-6. We want him to do what he does well. That is all we want these guys to do. Tyreke Key is starting to see it and feel it at different levels. I like where he is. It is a tough way to lose. I can’t tell you how bad I feel for Santi. He knows it. He will be back there again. I think he will grow from it.”
On if fatigue was a problem late
“I thought emotion, I thought Zakai got too emotional. That foul, he can’t do that. You think about it. We were getting fouled and putting pressure on them to go score. They were still shooting some perimeter shots. They decided to start fouling. The same fouls the officials were going to call on our end, they are going to call on our end. There were two straight possessions where we put them on the foul line — I thought they were reeling a little bit as opposed to making them score, we put them on the free-throw line. They made a tough bank shot. The ball roll through Santi’s legs. That turned into a five-point play. But with that, free throws could have maybe been a little bit easier. That is part of the game. You go back like I said the other night, we turned it over in some ways — and we did tonight — where from a scouting report, we know they are a team that back-tips and we lost a couple of those tonight. We emphasized that a lot. Those are the turnovers, we have to cut out. The other night, our turnovers, every one but one, we forced it. We did it. Tonight, they turned us over some. But we still turned ourselves over a little bit in ways we can’t do.”