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Everything Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Won At Alabama

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball went on the road and overcame an up-and-down offensive performance to knock off Alabama 81-74 on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.

The Vols had an incredibly balanced offensive showing with six players scoring between eight and 13 points while they once again turned in a dominant defensive showing against the Crimson Tide.

Following the win, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes discussed the balanced showing, Jahmai Mashack’s big night and much more. Here’s everything Barnes said.

More From RTI: Three Quick Takeaways As Tennessee Basketball Defeats Alabama In Tuscaloosa

On Tennessee showing in the win at Alabama that the Vols are more than just Dalton Knecht 

“Well, we’ve got a lot of these guys that have been with us for a long time and they’ve been in games like this. And obviously we’ve got the utmost respect for Nate (Oats) and his staff and what he’s done in his program, in his time here. It was going to be a difficult game if we could stay in it for as long as we could, knowing how explosive they can be. But Jahmai Mashack, Santi (Vescovi), Josiah James, guys that have been around for a long time, they made a lot of plays, especially Josiah getting on the glass. ‘Z’ (Zakai Zeigler) what he does. 

“But both teams had to deal with foul trouble early in the game. We wanted to try to go inside as much as we could, but they did a terrific job warding that off. But our older guys were the ones, guys that have been in those type of situations, they were ones that really stayed in there with us and helped us at the end.”

On if this kind of win displays what the Tennessee program is built on

“Well, you know what, we struggled to score. First half, that might be the most air balls I’ve ever seen us shoot in a half. But both teams were playing hard. Both teams were battling. There were a lot of individual battles going on. And as I said, Nate’s teams are terrific and really hard guard. But our older guys have been through a lot and they talk about it, being in these type games. And from my standpoint, being on the bench, at no point in time do you see them flinch. They just kept saying, hey, we have to stay in it, keep grinding, keep grinding. And they did that. And again, I got to give credit, all the credit, to the players. Really the older guys, because I thought they were really terrific.”

On how pleased he was with Tennessee’s defense showing up in the final 14 minutes, limiting Alabama to 3-for-21

“Well, so many times, and you guys have watched us a lot, they feed off of Jahmai Mashack when he goes out here. We didn’t want ‘Z’ to have to guard Mark Sears all night long. Those guys are hard guards. You really have to stay in front of them and work them. We needed everybody. We knew they were capable of getting those bolts of lightning where they hit two, three, four threes in a row. We wanted try to stay away from that as much as we could. But defensively we wanted to stay as aggressive as we could. The biggest thing in the second half, we just talked about we’ve got to get a shot. The first half we were, I thought we were over excited and amped up a little bit. Because I don’t see our guys miss (liked that). They missed a couple shots really poorly and we don’t normally do that. But the fact that we only had two turnovers in the second half was huge too.”

On how crucial it was for Tennessee to survive the first half with Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka on the bench with two fouls 

“Coming in with this group, we knew that there was a real possibility that we would go with Jo at the five and Jahmai, because those guys, since they’ve been here, they guard every spot on the floor. We talked about coming in, we might get (in that lineup) at some point in time, didn’t know it would be that early. We had worked hard, again, trying to go inside. But Nate knew that too and had his team extremely well prepared for that. And even when we got in there, they were knocking it loose and making some plays, blocking some shots. They were quick to the ball down there and we need to be quicker to get rid of it. But the fact is, we thought about at some point we might go with that lineup.”

On what allows Tennessee to overcome runs in the second half in big games

“Well, we tell our guys all the time it’s a game of runs. We felt like we had a run left in us and we felt like that. And we talk about it all the time. Basketball it’s going to be a game of runs playing quality teams like we’ve played. In this league, every night you know there’s teams that—  I think they finished the last four minutes (of the first half) on a 13-2 run. During that stretch we shot five threes and we shouldn’t have. We were in a position to maybe get to the free throw line, but we settled some and some of them I could say were open, but the fact is give them credit because they crawled their way back in it. We just feel like it’s a game of runs and we felt like we had more left than us if we could stop them.”

On if Alabama had the most concerted effort this season to get the ball out of Dalton Knecht’s hands

“Well, I think everybody’s going to do that. You see what he did the other night, but, again, I don’t want our guy standing around watching Dalton play. When we call his number, we want him to do what he needs to do. He was the one that said, ‘Hey, put me in a ball, let them double team me and let me get the ball to Jonas and Jonas will make a play. “He said, I’m going get it out of the double team and the other night that worked for us and it worked again tonight because Jonas made a couple good reads out of there and the big threes— I think Jahmai hit one and Josiah (hit one). I think it was like a hockey assist from Dalton. We did try to post him down on the baseline and he made one really big play in the lane and then he settled on a show out there he shouldn’t have taken. He obviously is a weapon and he didn’t have a particularly great night tonight but we found a way to win. This year, we’ve won a lot of games where he didn’t do what he did the other night. Like any player if he gets going like that— we’ve had Z(akai) like that sometime where we’ll play through him, Santi or somebody. But we don’t have to solely rely on him to get everybody hitting on all cylinders or executing.”

On what Jahmai Mashack has been like to coach, dealing with ever changing minutes

“Well, like you would expect, he’s a team first player. He’s a team first guy. He’s like, I think, most players, I love him to death. His toughness, his defense— what he’s elite at— when he does what he’s really good at, and tonight I thought offensive— I could almost say I thought he played the best game he’s played since he’s been at Tennessee. Because he did the things we wanted him to do. We told him, ‘you’re open. We want you to shoot the ball from three.” He made some great plays driving to the lane and creating in traffic, getting them to suck in and kick it out. Defensive plays, he had a rebound and ran one down at halfcourt and kept it alive. He and Santi, Jo(siah) their hands are elite. All three of those guys, and Zakai actually, they have elite hands. I mean, I was watching him tonight and I thought he was as locked in and played as close to what we needed him to do  since he’s been here and he is, defensively, it’s hard to keep him off the court when he’s that smooth and knows what he needs to do on the offensive end, he’s a real weapon for us.”

On Mashack knocking down a corner three and then saving the basketball from going out of bounds to pick up a steal in transition, if that shows who he is as a player

“A lot. I used the term a bolt of lightning, he can do that to you because what he can do with his defense, he can come up with some plays and rebounds. He runs down, he just, he does, honestly, he does all the dirty work. It’s a talent because not a lot of guys want to buy into that part of it. He has an extreme talent there and he plays hard and has great cardio toughness. High-level competitor. 

“He actually came up to prior to the Texas A&M game because when we went there and lost, he didn’t play because at the time, we were substituting him and Josiah at the four, and he hadn’t gone with the big lineup. He said, ‘Coach, you got to give me a chance to guard guards. You gotta give me a chance.’ Since that time I have. I told the coaches, what was I thinking getting away from him doing that because he’s elite at it. He embraces it

“But just proud of them as a group. Being in the huddle with them tonight, hearing those guys coach each other and talk about what they need to do. They were really locked in and focused on an excellent team and an extremely hard team to beat.”

On being alone in first place in the SEC entering the final weekend of the regular season

“Well I’ve said many times that I think this league is the best it’s ever been in the nine years that I’ve been in it. And I don’t know if anybody has had a tougher closing schedule than we’ve had, where — it is what it is. That’s the way it worked out, but we have another week to go against two ranked teams. I think every team we’ve closed with have been ranked. Every team we play from here on out is going to be an NCAA team and a team that can play deep into March. But we’ve just tried to keep our focus on what’s ahead. Not feel too good about anything. I appreciate what they’ve done, but they know we’re going to get right back at it and go to South Carolina, where if I had a vote for National Coach of the Year, I’d give it to Lamont (Paris). It’s amazing what he’s done with his program and one of the great turnarounds. But we’re not done.”

On guard Jordan Gainey’s performance in the first half

“He was good. He kept us in it. I thought he got a little amped up. Because he doesn’t miss shots (the way he did).  Again, we’ve got the team. We can play a lot of different ways. We know we can put a team out there with Dalton and Josiah on the perimeter with two bigs, there’s a lot of different things we can do. Whatever it takes. If that’s what we need to do, we’ll do it. That’s kind of been our thought process. Whatever we’ve got, we’ve got confidence in our team, in our bench and we’re going to use them.”

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One Response

  1. Well I personally think Vols play Jordan Gainey to much and he is not a three point shooter. He doesn’t hold a candle to Mashack.

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