Tennessee basketball capped off its preseason slate on Tuesday night when the Vols knocked off Lenoir-Rhyne 90-48 at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center.
The Vols jumped out to a 15-0 lead and coasted the rest of the way as they got balanced scoring across the board with four players scoring in double-figures.
Rick Barnes discussed the Vols’ strong offensive start, rebounding struggles and much more after the victory. Here’s everything Barnes said.
On Tennessee’s offense starting the game fast after playing two days ago at Michigan State
“I do think we’ve got some firepower there. But the fact is, I thought when it happened like that, I didn’t think we got to free-throw line enough. And again, some of that, the way that they played defensively, they were back in there doing a lot of switching. But I didn’t think that we moved it early enough and got downhill to try to create some opportunities at the free-throw line. When we take good shots, and we’ve had scrimmages when we’ve shot the ball extremely well. We’ve had games when we’ve done it. In our scrimmages, some days we haven’t shot it well, and I’ve talked to our guys about what we’re gonna do when it’s not going in.
“We’re not rebounding the ball offensively on those long threes that we gotta go get it. But, I need to look, I don’t what more we from the three (8 of 24) Yeah, well some of them actually, some of those, 24 would’ve been, I would say, I can tell you right now, five of them that I have in my mind, we should have gone down the hill with it. We just settled. Which when the team’s back in there, obviously they want you to shoot it quick. And when we get our feet set, we move the defense like we want to, to give ourselves a chance to get some offensive rebounds, we’re gonna shoot it. But, our flow off is really, I’m being honest here, we haven’t ran it the way we want to in most exhibition games. We gotta get better.”
On what Tennessee got from freshman wing Cam Carr
“Well, he shot a lot, which again, he’s open, he’s a good shooter, we want him to do it. But he did rebound the ball. He doesn’t understand spacing yet. I mean, he tripped a guy being in the area of court where he shouldn’t be. He dribbled it off the back of his teammates when he should have been wider. It’s the details, which you expect right now, understanding those things. But, you know, Cam’s missed 10 days with concussion protocol and he’s working his way back. But he showed us early in the pre-season what he’s capable of. He’s gotta get back there. And with his length, we think he should be a terrific defender. I think those younger guys in general, what we talked about after the game at Michigan State, here tonight, was hoping those guys understand how hard it is to play two minutes with all the details that you want, whether it’s on defense, hands up, deflecting, getting to your gap position, whatever it is, and then turn around, running the court as hard as we want to run it, taking care of the ball. And they will tell you now they’re realizing it’s a lot harder than they thought. And we left them out there tonight in a four-minute run. And what we were looking for was to see if they could get three consecutive stops, and they didn’t. When we went back to let that last group play a couple more minutes because I didn’t want that young group just to totally collapse. And the first group that started the game went back, they got three straight stops. So that will be a major point that we show them on tape, that they’ve gotta understand the defensive end. And there is no question that all those young guys right now, perimeter guys, are thinking of offense more than the defense right now.”
On how he’d assess the rebounding through two exhibitions
“Not where we want it to be. We’ve talked about it and we gotta go get it. We’re going to block out, but we’ve gotta go get it and we have to. When we’re playing with basically four guards and Josiah, he does so many little things out there and again, our guards have gotta come down and help us defensively more because we want whoever gets to go with it and they gotta get involved in that. And that’s something that honestly we harp on big through the Michigan State game and here because that’s where the game’s really won. It’s like being in the trenches down there in football. It’s same thing in basketball. Rebound. And it’s just a want-to and attitude to go get it. Tobe is going to do that for us a lot, but we gotta get him to understand the offensive end more. And when he gets tired, how he played through it. But, Cade made an effort to get there tonight. I think JP did for the most part. He gotta get more from our perimeter guys.”
On his reaction to Lenoir-Rhyne coach Everick Sullivan saying Dalton Knecht ‘is a pro’
“I’m a fan of Dalton’s, but you know what, if he’s gonna be a pro, he’s gonna have to be as effective on the defensive end in a cerebral type way. I think how offensively, I don’t think he understands how effective he is, in his mind. He’s a guy that he misses his first three (shots), he wants to stand out there and get one going. Where I think the best part of his game is when he gets going downhill. And I think he’s gotta understand that. And because of the fact he can shoot it deep, he’s going to have plenty of space because people would be up into him, that he can get down. He’s strong, he can score, he can handle the ball, but he can’t be a guy that’s gonna settle. He’s gotta cut harder. On his cuts he should want the ball. I mean, we’ve isolated in two games and let him have it and back down and play, his back to basket within seven to 10 feet. And he’s smart, but he can do that on cutting, but he’s gotta cut with a purpose. Gotta get better there. But his biggest thing again is continuing to learn how to play defense effort wise, I think. And there’s no doubt he was tried harder than he’s ever tried in his life, but now he’s gotta understand, if he does his work early, understand who he is guarding and his length. He doesn’t use his length. I mean, when people see him, they tell me they didn’t know he he’s that tall that long, but he’s gotta use that on the defensive end.”
On how the transfer portal helped the offense
“Obviously we’ve added some guys that can shoot the ball, guys that can get a shot off. I mean, you saw that Sunday against really good competition (with) Dalton and Jordan and I thought when Jahmai Mashack does what he’s supposed to do, he’s effective. I’d say the same thing when our guys do what they’re good at and show what they’re good at and stay away from things that maybe aren’t their strengths, it’s a big difference. I tell ’em, ‘don’t go look for trouble because you’ll find it.’ But when they understand exactly what they’re good at, they play to it, every guy on this team can score the basketball. It’s when guys try to overdo it. They just get outside themselves and we don’t need them to do that.
“Next week, Santi (Vescovi) will be back on campus tomorrow. Gotta get him ready. He’ll get himself ready and then Zakai (Zeigler), will see how that goes between now and then. But what’s exciting to me about this group is the fact that the pressure, if we can maintain it both offensively and defensively, like the way we started out against Michigan State, I mean it was a fast paced, early-paced game, both teams wanting to get out and run. And then both of us ended up playing the guys that started probably more than we thought going in and the pace just slowed down. I like to think that with our depth, that we can really keep the base point on both ends. We haven’t been able to jump up there yet, and full-court pressure, like we’d like to do after a made basket. Because really the young guys aren’t ready for it. They’re not. We to get ’em ready to do it, and hopefully they’ll continue to get there.
“Offensively, that’s the one thing we address in the portal and somebody asked me yesterday at the tipoff luncheon, did I like the portal, and I said, ‘I like the 48 points, so, uh, I’d say, yeah, in some ways we’re ahead and I do think we can shoot the ball. I really do. But I also know that instead of good shots, I’d like to get great shots. But we’ve got some guys that can get to the rim too, and I don’t want ’em just to get three-point happy. We need to get to the foul line more than 10 times.”
On his impressions on what he got from JP Estrella, Cade Phillips and Freddie Dilione in the two exhibitions
“What we’re looking for from those guys is execution. Like I really got upset at the end of the first half with ’em. I let it be known at halftime ’cause we called two of the simplest sets you could call. I mean, it can’t get any more simpler and they didn’t do it. That’s all we talked about. We went through our bad execution plays after the Michigan State game and said, ‘Hey, we’re looking for this. This is what we wanna do and we come out and — now communication, getting play calls at Michigan State was a lot more difficult than tonight. There was no reason that anyone didn’t hear it. And when guys tell me they didn’t hear it, ’cause we talk all the time about, ‘Hey, on any dead ball, something’s on.’
We got something on. We’ve called something and it better be echoed. It better be relayed. But in a situation like tonight, I don’t know how you couldn’t hear it. But that’s when the young guys have to understand, like coming out a timeout tonight, I said, ‘I’m gonna draw up something here that we haven’t done. I’m just gonna see for one time, if you guys can have the discipline and do you listen well enough to come outta here and do this,’ and they actually did it.
It just goes to show you if they will concentrate on what we’re doing and not think about whether they’ve made a shot or whether they’ve done this, they’ve done that — like I thought DJ (Jefferson) went in the game and did some good things. He gets tired. What does he do? He tries to make a typical high school play, try to steal the ball, wanting to go down hoping to get some dunks and then he comes back and gives up two rebounds he shouldn’t have. And I can say that not just about him, but those young guys understand that that’s what you can’t do. You gotta be solid in every possession. And even though, again, you term exhibition game, we didn’t, we treat it like, what do we do to get better? It’s about us. And this part of the year, too, it’s team building. Some of these guys now are realizing that there’s only 200 minutes in the game and if they’re gonna get on the floor, they’re going have to bring something to get them because once we get everybody back, those minutes will be hard to come by. But I will say this, even the older guys, they’re going to play to a level that we need them to play to or they won’t play. We do have some depth.”
On Zakai Zeigler’s role during games while sitting on the bench
“We got ready to start and came up to me and I said, ‘Here sit down, sit with me tonight. Let’s talk, we’ll talk through the game and I said, ‘I’ll let you see what’s going on, what I’m thinking, what you’re thinking.’ And things would happen. Like, I would say, what didn’t — like start the game. One thing we wanted to do is really advance the ball. We didn’t, and we had chances to do it. And I said to him, ‘right now, do you think Jahmai knows he can advance the ball? He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘I’m saying he thinks those guys aren’t open. Are they open?’ He says they’re open. So we called timeout and I said to Jahmai, ‘why didn’t you advance the ball? He said, ‘those guys weren’t open.’ I said, ‘Z were they open?’ He said, ‘they’re open.’
“Then as time was going on, I would take a guy out of the game and I would say, ‘go tell him why you just got taken out of the game.’ He caress a lot and he desperately wants to play. It’s killing him because he’s a guy if we would let him play, he would tell you he’s a hundred percent, even if he were 75% and he would play his heart out. It’s killing him not to play. But we’ve said it before, we’re gonna air on the caution side with him. But he knows what he needs to do. But I enjoyed him up there tonight because I think he sees it from a different perspective and sees what we’re looking for and I think he would tell you, we’re looking for the details.”