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Everything Rick Barnes Said Ahead Of Tennessee’s Trip To Rupp Arena

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball heads to Lexington Saturday afternoon looking for revenge from last month’s home loss against Kentucky.

The Vols ended a two-game losing skid by knocking off No. 1 Alabama Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena and are looking to carry that momentum into a building they’ve seldom one this century.

Barnes discussed what they learned from the first meeting, Tennessee’s defensive effort against the Crimson Tide and much more Friday.

Here’s everything the eighth-year Volunteer head coach said.

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On Josiah-Jordan James’ and Julian Phillips’ status

“I think it will be a game-time decision based on where we are right now.”

On where Tennessee has to be better the second time around against Kentucky

“One is rebounding. They just absolutely annihilated us on the glass. I think doubled us up. The fact is, we had a lot of blown coverages. They played really good basketball. But we’ve got to do a better job on the boards. Certainly we’ve got to do a better job with our scouting report.”

On who will be active in the post if Kentucky takes away the perimeter

“I think, again, we’ve talked about it all year. Consistency. And it’s not just on one side of the ball. It’s everything. We feel confident with Uros (Plavsic), Olivier (Nkamhoua), Jonas (Aidoo) and Tobe (Awaka). Like I’ve said before, we go into a game knowing we’re going to need every one of those guys. And we expect them all to be ready to play. And we need them all. As you know, night to night some guys might not have exactly what they’d like to have and what we would need them to have. And we’ll go to the next guy. If he’s got it, we’re going to go with that person. But we count on everyone of those guys going into every game. The last time we played them, (Plavsic) did score the ball well down there for us. But we don’t go into this game thinking it’s going to be played the same way because we know Kentucky is going to make some adjustments and do some different things. As we will have to, too. We’ll prepare with everybody knowing that we need them all, then we’ll see what personality the game takes on.”

On the importance of playing inside out against Kentucky

“Whether it’s Kentucky or anyone, we feel that’s what we need to do. Again, there are different ways to do that. But again, we always try to play inside out. That’s what we always try to do.”

On what they saw on the Kentucky tape from the first game that allowed Kentucky to dominate in rebounding

“A little bit of all of it. We came out, remember I think we got an 8-0 lead or something like that, the first time out. Then when we first started subbing, we just totally lost what momentum we had and they captured it. I thought their game plan, they were being efficient with everything they were doing. We got anxious and started really (being) undisciplined and leaving shooters. Doing things that you can’t do against any team you play against when you’ve scouted them. Everybody is expected to be on the same page, and when you’re not, again, I’m not taking anything away (from Kentucky). Because they came in here and it was, at the time, everyone thought they were struggling. They were, but they came in, they locked in and they beat us.”

On how important three-point shooting will be

“I think it is important in every game but we have talked about our team all year long. There have been nights — I think we are like any team. When we are shooting the basketball, I think any team in the country, when they are making shots, they are hard to beat. Any team at this level. If not, you’ve got to find a way to impact the game, affect the game and come away with a win. As coaches, I think if you asked any coach before a game, what is going through your mind? The answer would really be — if we were all honest — I hope we can make some shots. If we can make a bunch of them — we all know if we can make shots, we’ve got a chance.”

On Jahmai Mashack’s performance against Alabama

“He did a terrific job of a terrific player. He was locked in. We need him to do that. Our breakdowns, we did go zone I think two or three possessions. One of them, he wasn’t in the game because at the time I think Santi (Vescovi) had a couple fouls. Zakai (Zeigler) had picked up some. We thought let’s see if we can try to get a couple possessions here. Out of a timeout, we didn’t get the zone set and gave up a wide-open shot. Then when we got it set on the other side, we weren’t stretched out where we should have been. We gave up two threes they made against the zone. Looking at his individual performance, he is locked in. He has done that for us all year. Just a great example of a guy that can impact the game and really not score points. We need him. We are going to need him again tomorrow doing the same thing.”

On the SEC Tournament being wide open

“I would agree with you. I think more than any time, certainly Alabama, we have the No. 1 team in the country in Alabama. I said before that game that they probably should have been No. 1 prior, back a couple weeks ago they should have been. We’ve got that. Then the balance. It is probably more wide open than it has been in the eight years I have been in the SEC. I mean that sincerely. As you know, when you got into the tournament play, so much depends on matchups and how it plays out. Until we get to that tournament and see who is going to play who and what. I know this: I look around the league this year and coaches, there’s so many coaches who have done just great jobs with their teams. I don’t know if anybody has been more unlucky than Kermit (Davis) at Ole Miss. But otherwise, you look, there have been some great games within our league and I would expect the tournament to be maybe the best it has been since I have been here.”

On why the defensive performance against Alabama was one of the best he’s been apart of

“I thought other than those breakdowns, those were breakdowns that shouldn’t have happened just mixing in a zone— they shouldn’t have happened because we talked about it enough and talked to a couple players about what we needed them to do. But I thought the concentration of what we do. I thought effort, I do think for the most part we’ve been a team that’s given really good effort but I thought the concentration level with our perimeter players was terrific and a couple of the threes that they got on their dribble handoff— they’re really good at it— was not because of our perimeter guys. Again it goes back to our post guys and why we keep talking about our post players being able to get out there and help them on those dribble handoffs. Especially against teams that can raise up and shoot it, but I just thought the mental concentration from a standout was one of the best that I’ve seen.”

On if he’s worried about fast break scoring discrepancy 

“The only thing that concerns me is if we win or lose. The fact that we do what we need to do to go into the game. There’s 10,000 stats out there and analytics, this, that or whatever. I guess you could take them and bend them anyway you want to. What I’m concerned with is that one, I’d like to see us get healthy but the fact of the matter is whatever we’ve got like the other night we’re going to go play and we’re going to go out and give it our best effort. I can live with it and, again, I’m probably one of the least guys that spends a lot of time looking at stats after games anyway. I do everything I do off the film. Stats can’t tell you all that. I just know that if we execute on offense and defense I think we can be a really good basketball team and like when you break down on the things I just said— coming out of a timeout. Not getting where you need to be or being two feet further back than you need to be. I don’t know what stat tells you that besides watching the tape and letting you know that you need to fix it.”

On Jonas Aidoo and Uros Plavsic scoring against Alabama

“We need them. We need those guys, as I said earlier. We need everybody in the game to do what they do and do what we need them to do for our team. We keep talking about understanding your role, playing your role every night and doing it to the very best of your ability and not trying to do things we don’t need you to do and doing exactly what this team needs you to do. When those guys are doing that obviously that’s when we’re at our best.”

On the growth of mental concentration for young players

“I think it’s because the older guys, we’ve always tried to be good on that side of the ball (defense). I do think they’ve come in and seen guys in practice do it daily and we’ve also talked about how not anyone in our program came here with that mindset. It’s kind of been part of the culture that we’ve built. It goes to them. The players are the ones that buy into it. They’re the ones that can really help us do what we need to do.”

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