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Everything Rick Barnes Said Before Tennessee Heads To Arkansas

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the local media on Tuesday afternoon before the Vols travel to Fayetteville to face Arkansas on Wednesday night.

The Vols are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss at Texas A&M at a place where they’ve struggled in recent seasons. While this Arkansas team isn’t as good as recent ones, Barnes sees a challenge as tough as any his team has faced this season.

Barnes put a bow on Tennessee’s loss at Texas A&M, previewed Wednesday’s game at Arkansas and discussed much more on Tuesday. Here’s everything he said.

More From RTI: Rick Barnes Tees Off On Officials For Not Assessing Buzz Williams A Technical For Running On Court

On what he wants his Tennessee players to learn from the last couple weeks

“Well, we talked (it) about yesterday, poise. I thought we lost our poise in the fact that when we got down, we felt like we had to get it all back at once. And because they made some threes early and we got away from our defensive game plan and got anxious. But again, I think we had an effort, but it wasn’t a smart effort. And I do know we got guys that you watch it, they want to win, but we just got to be better in those situations, when things aren’t going our way, that we don’t think we got to get it all back at once. Because it’s basketball. a game of runs. 

“And (at Texas A&M) we got where it was too many one-on-ones, too many one-pass, quick threes. And the tough part is when you watch it with the guys, they are shots that we’ve made. And it’s tough to tell them not to take those shots, but there’s a flow to the game when we talk about those threes when they’re going in, it’s great. When they’re not, we’ve got to know the situation, what we need to do to put more pressure on the defense.”

On if that lack of poise has been a reoccurring issue in Tennessee losses this season

“I think every game — I say it all the time — takes on a different personality. And I think players in each game, we all wish that we could bottle the good moments all the time. But I don’t know if it’s a reoccurring theme. I think it’s part of basketball. It’s part of sports. You just watched the Super Bowl. Those guys are the best at what they do and some of the mistakes they make, they still make. And it’s just part of when you’re competing and trying to be the best.

“And when you talk about reoccurring, I think it comes back from guys that just want to win and they have a passion about it. And sometimes they can get too emotional about it and get in a hurry, speed up. But as long as you’re working, trying to get better, you’d like to think in the end it’s all going to work out for you.”

On what Tennessee needs to do better defensively to eliminate opponents driving to the rim

“Well, angles for one. You can’t open your hips up the way we did (at Texas A&M). And we have to, again, it’s hard to play one-on-one defense. I don’t care where you are. It’s tough. And that’s why it’s a team game. And it’s not one guy out there. There’s five and it’s up to all five guys to help do their job. But when you play against teams that are driving it, again, in-game adjustments. And we talked about it, how we wanted to play and we got away from it. But it wasn’t just a guy guarding the ball. It’s a team game and it’s got to be a team effort.”

On if he’s concerned about Tennessee’s rebounding struggle after the last two games

“I don’t like the fact that, again, we don’t rebound the ball the way we need to. Because we have to. And the fact is, we haven’t done a good job. But we made a point of that talking about it, working on it yesterday, and we’ll continue to do that because we can’t be who we want to be if we don’t rebound the ball better than we have the last two games.”

On what his reaction was to Buzz Williams calling a timeout at mid court

“It can’t happen. I mean the most important thing is player safety. And when people are on the floor that’s not supposed to be (there), a coach, anyone, you can’t do that. And obviously it wasn’t handled the right way by the officials. But I can assure you it’s been addressed long before I even talked about it. I have so much respect for our conference and Mike Eades who’s in charge of officiating. I can assure you he took care of it probably before we walked off the court.”

On if he reached out to the SEC league office about it

“Well, to be honest with you, they reached out first. Not just to me, to every, I mean, coaches can’t do that. I mean, we know it. I mean, the box is there and I don’t have a problem with coaches, game going on, walking down closer to mid court, trying to get his team to his attention. I don’t think any coach has a problem with that. But you can’t go out on the court. I mean everybody knows that. And you just can’t do it. And like I said, I appreciate, again, before I even got to the plane I’d gotten a text saying that it was not handled the right way.”

On what Pat Adams explanation to him about the situation was, if he got one

“No, he said he was going to handle it, but he didn’t handle it the right way. I mean, officials are just like players and coaches. We all make mistakes and afterwards, you like to think that officials not just in that game, but officials around the country learn from it. Like, it can’t happen. You can’t ever let somebody run out on the floor while the game’s going on in the flow because, I mean, Tobe I think dodged it. And you can’t do that. I guess what I’ll start telling my players, if somebody’s on the floor, just run over them because that way it’ss an obvious technical foul, but you don’t want to do that. I don’t to see anybody get hurt, but it just can’t happen. It simply can’t happen.”

On what they’ve done to work on rebounding in practice

“Blocking out, going to get the ball. Just that simple. We got to finish possessions and it’s got to be, again, it’s five guys out there doing it and they all have to do it.”

On what impresses him about Arkansas and coach Eric Musselman

“Well they beat Purdue (in an exhibition game), who I think arguably right now, best team in the country. They beat Duke, beat Texas A&M. And if you go back and look at Eric, what he does, his teams get better. They’re going to fight. That’s what they do. And again, his teams have always gotten better as the year goes on. We know that they have a great arena, great home crowd. We expect it to be as hard a game as any we played all year.”

On what makes Bud Walton Arena a strong environment

“Well, they’ve got a great basketball tradition. You go back to Nolan (Richardson) but even before that Eddie Sutton’s run there and he was there. I mean, they’ve got a history of— like all the schools that have most great home courts, they’ve had a long history of being successful. And Arkansas has. They’ve got a history of being known as a school that has always had great basketball.”

On him saying that Zakai Zeigler’s mindset is built into his mindset, if any other players have shown the same thing

“Well, I think we got some guys that they — I talk about transparency a lot, and when we go in the film room, it’s pretty raw because that film doesn’t lie. You go in there, you either are gonna look at it the way it is, or if you’re gonna put a defense mechanism up and make excuses, you won’t get better. And I don’t think we have a team like that because we’re not, one, I think they understand as a coaching staff, we’re not gonna allow it. But I think two, we talk to ’em enough about it that we know what they want out of the game and how they want to improve their value as a basketball player. And the only way you can do that is to be totally honest with yourself and that film doesn’t lie. So we talk about it and when it gets really good is when they can say it to each other. Not just when I say it. It’s when the players will say, ‘Hey, you need to shoot the ball. If you don’t shoot the ball, you’re not really trying to help us win. If you don’t block out, you don’t really, you don’t want us to win.’ And so when that starts happening, that’s when you have a chance to really grow.”

On how important it is to Jonas Aidoo back to playing the way he played early in SEC play

“I mean, Jonas has always been really important to us, but as he’s finding out now too, just like Dalton, I mean people game plan and he’s gonna have to take on those gameplans and he’s gonna have to want to establish what he wants to do, where he wants to do it. And that comes with success. Once you start having success — I mean, there are really good coaches in college basketball and there’s so much out there that you can use to help you get ready to gameplan. Everybody’s got different players how they want to use ’em. But when you have success, it’s gonna get harder because of the fact that like I said, people, you get a bulls-eye on your back. You’re gameplanned for and it’s probably the first time in some ways from an offensive standpoint that people have really done that to Jonas. And so, like so many players that get to that position, it is a learning situation for him that he realizes it’s a whole lot harder than he probably thought it before it started.”

On what Texas A&M was doing to target Dalton Knecht when he was on defense

“They didn’t do anything differently. Other people tried to put him in isolation situations and we know that going into games because that’s been the trend. I’ve watched it with — they do it to Zakai (Zeigler) some. I mean, the coaches are gonna try to go after your best players, but they were just working up there trying to get a situation. And it wasn’t just Dalton. He wasn’t the only guy that got blown by on straight line drives. It wasn’t him. I mean, other guys did it too. But it wasn’t anything other than they ran a little stack action up there and said, Hey, and then if we defended the first part of it, it became an isolation plan and whoever was there had to do it. And that’s where we were getting out of our gaps. ‘Cause we don’t want to ever leave anybody, I don’t care who it is, isolated by themselves. Ever. We did that too much.”

On Dalton Knecht learning the grind of SEC play

“Oh, there’s no doubt he’s learning the grind. The attention that you guys have given him, he’s never had to deal with that. I mean, this is all new to him. I mean, I think he’s done a great job, really. I mean, dealing with you guys is easy compared to what he’s dealt with me with, you know? But he’s embraced it because he really wants to be a good player and he wants to be a good teammate. He wants to help his guys win. But all this is new to him. The fact that he’s doing it with a lot of eyes on him is really pretty impressive.”

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