Tennessee couldn’t follow up its success from its win over No. 1 Alabama falling behind early and falling at Kentucky 66-54 Saturday afternoon.
The Vols spotted Kentucky a 20-point first half lead and despite a strong start to the second half was never able to recover.
Barnes discussed Tennessee’s inconsistencies, free throw struggles and much more. Here’s everything the eighth-year head coach had to say.
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On the difference from the first half to the second half
“It goes back to consistency, knowing what we’re going to get night in and night out. Certainly Zakai (Zeigler) didn’t have a terrific game and he means a lot to our team, everyone knows that. His fouls hurt us. Then I thought early in the game the shot selection wasn’t very good. I thought our guys let that seep into the defensive side of the court. And again, not everyone is locked in the way we need to be. You can’t miss free throws, that many free throws, like we do in those situations. The rim shots are the tough ones, too. I think with one-and-ones, I think we ended up 4-for-18, if you count the one-and-ones, from the free-throw line.
“The second half we obviously opened up the court, drove the ball. They (Kentucky) a hard time with that. We had chances. Our turnovers in the second half really hurt us. Out of a timeout, turn it over. They miss some free throws, gave us a chance, didn’t rebound the ball. Threw it away coming down in transition. I just felt if we could’ve got it within five, four points, it would’ve made a little bit more difficult, because we were going to make them make a shot. That bothered me, that we allowed them to back cut when we’re really in a contain-type defense; gave up some back cuts. Fouled in areas that we shouldn’t have fouled. Put them on the free-throw line opposed to making them make shots.”
On how to fix the lack of consistency
“I wish I knew, you know? I wish I knew. If I did, we would fix it. It’s just, I think, it goes back — I don’t understand it, to be quite honest with you — as much time we spend with our guys talking about doing your job, playing your role night in and night out. Not letting emotion get the best of us at times. Like I thought we played hard in the second half, when you’re coming back, emotion starts to kick in. You still have to make smart plays. We just had too many plays in the second half. They gave us chances, they did. They opened the door for us. We pretty much had a chance. Every time we had a chance to come down, missed some rim shots. I wish I knew the answer to that, I really do. As much as time we spend talking about it, I wish we could figure it out.”
On being down two starters
“I told the guys in the room, we’re going to get everybody back but we had enough. We brought enough guys here to win this game. I believe that with our team and players, but that’s with everybody doing their job and we have a group of guys that they work hard and do it but it goes back to consistency and we know how people are going to play us. They didn’t show us anything, one thing, that we were caught off guard by. We didn’t but at some point in time— you go back, the second half was more like our defense. 27 points. I think we gave up 39 points in the first half and we weren’t very good. We weren’t. That stemmed from our offense allowing them to get out a couple times and make some shots. The only shot, what eight threes. We knew what we had to do, we just didn’t do it in the first half. Second half, again, we came back and we scored 35. We should have scored 45 and we didn’t.”
On the challenges of coaching a team with such little consistency
“When you go into games, I think all coaches — and I’ve said it to you guys before — you really get down to the bottom and ask coaches before a game what he’s concerned about he would probably say making shots. We also know we can win without making shots but what we did in the first half we couldn’t. Our mindset should be, if we’re not shooting well they’re not going to shoot well. I thought tonight we allowed in the first half the offensive mind, we missed some shots and you could see it. We’re around our guys enough to know their body language and they let what was happening on the offensive end to filter over to the defensive side and that’s not who we normally are. We talk about it, if guys would just take the shots we work on with— we don’t expect them to make them all. We don’t but we do, there at the end of the game it looked like we were playing volleyball back-and-forth across the rim. Those plays you have to finish it but, again, we have a good basketball team and we’re going to— I’ve seen a lot of teams up-and-down with it. As long as we, we’ll get consistent with our effort. You saw defensively what we did. We’ve done it pretty much all year. Everyone knows we do that, but in the first half tonight we didn’t. We allowed them to get out there and we fought back quick but we shouldn’t have spotted them 20 points like we did.”
On if he can explain shooting 4-for-14 at the free throw line
“I can’t. You know, it’s funny, during the game I turned around and saw Kyle Massey (former Kentucky basketball player), said, ‘you want to go shoot these?’ He made a bunch of them. They missed some, too. Key guys, right? I think it goes back — free throw shooting can be a lot like putting in golf. You’ve gotta have your routine and you have to go up there confident that if you put your stroke on it’s going to go in. I think that’s the key to it. Guys can get it in their head and it can be torturous for them mentally. It goes back to mental toughness, knowing that all you can do is rely on your practice habits. Trust your routine and truly believe it that you’re going to make the majority of it.”
On Kentucky’s Chris Livingston
“He made some good plays tonight. I thought he was back-cutting and he was moving and he got a double-double. I’m not sure what Cal was thinking early in the year. 12 and 10 is a pretty good night. But you could say the same thing about me with Jahmai Mashack. Guys get out there, for whatever reason, they get settled in and they find a role, they find a niche. So, you see guys continue to grow with it. The season is a long year and you go back to where we started, roles have changed on our team and I’m sure they’ve changed here. Cal’s had to deal with injury, the bug and all that. What it does is it gives someone a chance to go in and see what they can do. Slowly but surely they can really find a niche and I think he has. He impacts the game. That’s one thing for certain.”
On Jahmai Mashack’s performance
“He guarded tonight. He did. He guarded. He played. He brings a competitive edge and it’s a talent because you would think everybody does that. I think Cason Wallace does that for them. He brings a real competitive edge for them with what he does. And it’s a talent. Jahmai has it. He’s going to go out, he can guard anybody on the court. He’s going to compete. The more he gets out there, the better he’s going to get offensively.”
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