Tennessee coach Rick Barnes met with the media Friday afternoon after Missouri knocked the Vols out of the SEC Tournament.
The Vols and Tigers had a back-and-forth game before Missouri pulled away and won in the final three minutes of the game.
Here’s everything Barnes said following the loss.
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“Hard-fought game both ways. I thought both teams really put a lot of effort and energy into it. They played a terrific second half, shot the ball well. They really hit some big shots at the right time.
I think our guys, again, we’re still learning how to play without Zakai. I thought that showed up in the fact when they had a couple runouts where we didn’t have the floor balance.
Give them credit. I’m really proud of the effort our guys put into this game. I thought they all fought hard to get ready to play. Again, Missouri made some really key buckets at the right time. We needed to get a couple stops there at the end, and we didn’t finish the play.
We gave up a dribble penetration layup. With nine seconds, that was a tough play. We were in a situation where we were scrambling. Ball came off, they were able to get that one back.
Really proud of the effort of our guys, again. I’m proud of the fact that they’re learning. I think these last three games are going to help us going forward. I know what we set out to accomplish is still out there in front of us. We just got to get back and get ready to go again.”
On Missouri’s offensive success against them
“Well, again, I mean, they obviously went to an isolation game trying to get him in there. We actually went small one time and came out of the timeout, coaches had a play we thought they would run, we switched when we shouldn’t have on one particular play where he scored in there. We knew, again, they were going to go to that at some point. That’s what they do. They made some key shots at the right time. Got to give them credit for that. It’s like Jahmai said, we talked about it. It’s the layups where we didn’t have the basket, the floor balance. We’re going to learn from that. Again, someone asked a question about the last four minutes. We played the entire year with Zakai Zeigler. We got to get better at the floor balance at the end. Again, their three key guys did a great job. You’ve got to give them credit for it.”
On what Tennessee’s identity is right now
“I don’t know what happened at the start of the game. I wasn’t really happy the way we started the game. I don’t know what that was about. After that we settled down. Again, I know we can guard. They made some shots today. You got to give them credit for that. But the fact is, we, again, three games without Zakai, obviously the one we played at home was a really good win for us, or is it four games, but anyway, we’re going to be fine. The biggest prize that we want to go after is still out there. Jahmai mentioned it. This team has been very resilient. I told you guys I don’t know if I’ve been through in all my years in coaching what we’ve gone through with the injuries this year. Right when you think you’re getting it all back, it doesn’t happen. But these guys, great attitude, great work ethic. Again, as a coach, I couldn’t ask for any more from these guys because they really do want to win. Again, we got a chance. I’m telling you, I think we’ve got as much a chance as anybody. If you ask me what I’m thinking of right now, one word it would be this team has been very resilient. There’s a lot of teams that would like to be where we are right now. There’s a lot of teams that won’t look forward to a matchup with us. We’re going to learn from this game, as we did the last couple, and we’ll be ready next week.”
On why Josiah-Jordan James wasn’t in down the stretch
“We felt like coming down the stretch, the fact that Tyreke was shooting the ball well, too, we had to make sure we kept offense on the court. Again, to be quite honest, we think with our length now we can guard some of it. But we gave up a drive out of a side ball screen that was a tough play right there. Again, we just felt like because Tyreke had been shooting the ball well, we had to get him back out there.”
On if he’s concerned with his team’s confidence in closing minutes
“No. I think they’ll learn from it. Again, they stepped back and made a couple threes. Olivier, he had a great look at a three. Again, Olivier can shoot the ball. That shot goes in. Again, it’s the little small plays that add up, again, that we’ve got to eliminate. Teams can make some threes, but you can’t give up the little ones at the rim. You can’t give up dribble penetration. The last one on the offensive rebound was a broken scramble situation. I’m not sure exactly what happened. Two guys went at it right there to get to the ball. I’m not sure. I mean, it’s a really fine line. But, again, I think our guys are confident. I really do. I can only tell you, I’ve been around them, I know their body languages, and it was not a lack of confidence.”
On what he’s learned about his team in four games without Zakai
“Again, we’re still searching for that. We played however many games we played, the last four, five minutes of the game, we played through him most of the time. We did a lot of ball screen situations late in the game with him, different things. We’re not doing that as much right now. That’s where we probably miss him the most. But we’re not going to use that as an excuse in any of these games. If you ask me, the last four minutes of the game is where I thought as a coach and our staff that that’s where we would probably find out we’re going to have to figure out what we’re going to do. Again, we’ve gotten better with it. I still go back, we had three bad offensive plays at Auburn, then today we had a couple defensive plays that we’ve got to clean up. We certainly played well enough today offensively to win the game. There’s no question about that. They shot the ball. Again, you got to give them credit for that. We gave them too much in certain situations that we can’t give up.”
On the lack of front court scoring
“Again, we talk about it all year. That’s where we’ve been inconsistent. We got to be consistent there. We need it. But also defensively. It’s just consistency. Often when that’s happening, it puts a lot of pressure on our perimeter guys. They did a great job today. I mean, it’s amazing how people go after sanity, and he just continues to do what he does night in, night out. We knew this year that would be the biggest area with our team, can our post guys consistently know what we’re going to get night in, night out. Again, if we can ever get them all playing at the level we know they’re capable of, that’s when we can become a dangerous team.”
On the strength of the SEC
“I think it’s really good. Obviously, you might could go back and say there’s years when there’s been more talented players, something like that. In terms of top to bottom with talent, depth, there’s been no easy games. Again, there hasn’t. There hasn’t been any easy ones. Certainly Alabama has had a great year. They’ve had some great wins on the road. I look around college basketball, I think it’s a lot like our league this year. I don’t know there’s a clear-cut somebody’s going to catch it at the right time. I think the same thing about our league. On any given night, you knew whenever you went to play, it was going to be hard. It’s only going to get better with Texas and Oklahoma coming in the league. We already have the best athletic conference in America. It’s only going to continue to grow and get better in everything. But this was a year, the eight years I’ve been in the league, again, every game it seems like has been a grind.”