Tennessee assistant coach Gregg Polinsky met with the media Wednesday morning in Nashville before the Vols’ begin postseason play at the SEC Tournament Thursday.
Polinsky discussed Zakai Zeigler’s injury, an end of regular season film session and much more before the Vols tip the ball off in Nashville.
Here’s everything Polinsky said.
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On going back and watching the film of the entire season before the SEC Tournament
“Think it’s a taking a look at the things that made us successful. We talked a lot about it with the film. What do we know our identity is? What is our formula for success? And we gotta play to that.”
On what he believes the formula to success is
“Well, we hang our hat on defense. We hang our hat on rebounding. We know that if we do those two things that generally what follows is good offense. Are you going to make every shot? Of course the answer is no. But when we are doing those things, we’re playing with an edge and we’re much more electric as a team. That it is what we gotta do well. That’s what I would say in regard to that.”
On how frustrating it was for the defense to let them down in the second half at Auburn
“Yeah, I think our guys realize it. We have a mature group. We have older guys. We know it wasn’t our finest hour. We were very honest and you know Coach Barnes is a truth-teller. We have guys on our who who are truth-tellers. I think that what the reason being was that we didn’t come up with a lot of things, but it was a little bit of not having Zakai (Zeigler). Okay, we’re actually out here without him. Arkansas it happened and the guys responded great. We were at home, TBA, fans were awesome. Now reality sets in. Where are we going to go from here? Maybe a little bit of that. Maybe a little bit of an emotional hangover. But in reality we also know we have enough guys standing in that room that we can be successful.”
On what makes March basketball special
“I think it’s a culmination. It’s everything you put in. You go back to the summer and summers. You go back to all the hard work. You go back to all of the team-bonding and the times you had to come together as a group, and now you have an opportunity to really do something special down the stretch.”
On how he has seen Zakai Zeigler respond to his injury emotionally
“You know, to this point, he’s been awesome. He’s been great. Having him around I think is really a positive for our group. He just has an infectious — not only his play on the court — but his personality. And I think he’s handling it about as well as he could.”
On why he feels the offense has clicked the last two games
“We’ve gotten quality shots. There aren’t many games this year I think we’ve come out — look, I understand this age-old adage. I don’t care what level it is. You can talk about NCA, college, high school, whatever. You can not play very well, but shoot really well and what does the common fan think? ‘Man, you guys were great.’ Well, we didn’t really play that well. We shot the heck out of it. Or, we played really well, we just missed open shots. You guys remember the Texas A&M game. They were very good, A&M. Credit. But, man, Santi coming off two or three days not practicing. He had two or three open looks I’d bet my life on in that game. So, just as a small, small takeaway, sample size. As coaches, if we’re getting a quality look — practice shots — and we’re not making them, then our job is to go get it on the glass. That is when you can relax as a shooter when you know you can get a second, third look that we call the fire drill. We get it, we kick it out. But I think we shot the ball well. I think we had great movement. I think our execution has been good and we shared the ball.”
On how to avoid isolation possessions late in games
“Awareness. Awareness. Address it. Again, I think we have a mature team. A group that understands that when we’re poppin’ the ball around, when we’re getting good movement, when we’re executing — we grade out screening and when we’re screening, we’ve got guys that are smart enough without the ball in their hands. Coach puts in plenty of good offense for us to run and if we execute it and the ball doesn’t stick with one or two guys, then generally we have success.”
On if it’s more difficult to prepare for two teams at once
“The obvious answer is yes, but I would also say no. I think at this point, we have older guys and our coaching staff, all the assistants, they do a great job our guys on the staff and then Coach taking what he sees and putting a plan together. But no, I don’t think so. I think we’re at a point where we understand that we don’t know who we’re going to play, but we have to be mentally prepared to do it.”
On if they miss Zakai Zeigler more on the defensive end
“I think it is safe to say, but this is our group now and we have a reality of what our group is so we have to figure out and adjust to what we have.”