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Everything Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Advanced To Sweet 16

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball knocked off Duke 65-52 to advance to the program’s seventh Sweet 16 in the 21st century Saturday afternoon.

The Vols ended the first half on a run to take a lead into halftime before shooting red-hot in the second half to outpace the Blue Devils.

Here’s everything Rick Barnes said after his sixth NCAA Tournament win at Tennessee.

More From RTI: Three Quick Takeaways As Tennessee’s Dance Continues

Opening statement

“We’re really proud of our team, obviously. I thought their preparation and coming here this week — regardless of what people on the outside might have thought, I know these guys have an extreme amount of pride and belief in each other, and they’ve worked hard to get themselves here, and they wanted to really come here and win this two-game tournament. Really proud of them, and we obviously beat an outstanding team in Duke, and could sit here all day and rave about Jon Scheyer and what he’s done with that program this year.

Olivier played great basketball today; certainly Santi does, what he does every night. Just a total team effort, and just really proud of our guys for what we’ve gone through the last month. I’ll tell you what, no team deserves more than what’s happened — what these guys have gone out and earned this week, and I’m just so proud. As a coaching staff we’re proud of them, and looking forward to getting going next week.”

On Jonas Aidoo’s performance, being from Durham

“He is, that’s true. Normally I don’t like to call players by name because I said that I thought it was a great team effort. But Jonas did, he came in, his length was there. Defensively they do a lot of — offensively they do a lot of really good things, and they can get you spread out. I really thought our ball screen defense had to be good. It was, but Jonas certainly had a presence around the rim. But there wasn’t one guy that went into that game for us today that didn’t help us.”

On winning the rebounding battle

“It was. Just simply because what we have talked about all week is what we started the season talking about. We haven’t changed really much in terms of our philosophy. We’ve had to mix and match some things, but we’ve said we’re going to play great defense, we’re going to rebound the ball. Not just defensively. We had a couple key offensive rebounds that were huge.

We can’t be the team that we want to be defensively if we don’t finish it with a rebound. And we knew with their length, they’re the longest team in the country, that we were going to have to get great production from everybody, and we did.”

On the emphasis to play physically

“Well, we feel like we’re at our best when we can do that. Really do. We know we play in a league where there’s a premium placed on physicality certainly, but we wanted to be physical. Obviously didn’t like the way it started with Uros, I didn’t like any part of that, he gets too owe motional about it. We want to play within the rules in terms of — as physical as we want to be, we don’t want to foul.

But Duke is a really good defensive team. They do it a little bit different, but they’re extremely effective with it. We felt ball pressure, our ball screen defense, we’ve talked about it, because they do a lot with it. But we also felt like it was important that we attack on the offensive end and try to get a little bit more of an up tempo game because they’re very good at executing in the half court. And part of the physicality was to try to bring fatigue in by playing a quicker game.”

On if he looked back to the close against Michigan last season today

“Actually not. I’m glad I didn’t. I didn’t at all because this is a different team. Right from the beginning, I felt our guys were really locked in, and when you’ve got a day in between and you play the late game like we did — obviously we got back yesterday and came in. But from the time we walked in this building yesterday, I could just sense our guys were going to be really locked in. They knew what was at stake and what they were playing for, and certainly have a great deal of respect for Duke and how they do things.

But it’s a different team, and we handled it at the end. They went zone. I bet we haven’t practiced — well, we have a little bit because we’ve got a zone that we play, but very little. But we knew at some point in time they would go zone, whether it was to slow us down or whether it would be to maybe give them a little bit of break at that end. Certainly when Roach going into foul trouble, that was a factor in the game and trying to protect him.

But these guys, we kept it real simple. We want to play through him in the middle. Santi knows what he’s doing on the perimeter. But the zone too gave us a chance to get our legs back under us. Where I thought that the key was that if we could finish the game — every time-out, I asked Santi many times during the game, what are thinking, what do you want to do. But the thought always goes back that we’ve got to finish the game defensively. I thought with them going zone a little bit, it allowed us to be a little bit more effective on the defensive end those last four minutes, because they’re explosive and they can score on you quickly. But again, this is a different group of guys, and I thought they handled it great today. We struggled some games coming down the stretch here obviously without Zakai, but each game I feel like we’ve gotten better with what we have right now.”

On Tennessee’s dog mentality

“We talked about it. We train hard. We work hard. I really — many, many teams work really, really hard. But if you could be with us and be with these guys over the last four years with what we’ve gone through. But the work ethic they put into it, and we say it all the time, let’s trust our training, let’s trust each other, and I think we’re built for the way we play. I think these guys, they certainly believe in each other. And we’ve got — I’m sitting here looking at this stat sheet, and O had a day today which he’s capable of having and can consistently. I’m looking at Josiah, he has the ability to do what he did today. Santi.

We’ve got different guys and they’ve all done it at different points in time. I do believe these guys have a terrific belief in each other, and they respect each other at the highest level.”

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