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What Tennessee Players Said After Season Ending Loss Against Purdue

Photo via NCAA

Tennessee basketball’s fantastic 2023-24 season came to an end on Sunday afternoon in a 72-66 loss against Purdue in the Midwest Regional Final.

The loss ended the Tennessee careers of seniors Josiah-Jordan James, Dalton Knecht and Santiago Vescovi. Following the game, James, Knecht and junior point guard Zakai Zeigler answered questions from the media.

Here’s what they had to say.

More From RTI: Everything Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Basketball’s Season Ended In Elite Eight

Josiah-Jordan James

On if he can sum up this season

“It’s hard to put into words, like the pain that I feel right now, but it’s even harder to put into words like the joy and the happiness I’ve gotten from being around this team, this university for the past five years. These guys mean so much to me.

I can’t really describe it, but I love them. I love them so much.”

On if this season has felt different to him

“Yeah, I’m obviously proud of everything we were able to accomplish. This group in my five years of being here was the most fun to be around. We genuinely loved each other so much, and that’s the hardest part sitting here right now. Just not being able to go to practice tomorrow and knowing that the season is really over.

But the relationships that we have are lifelong relationships. I just hated that our season had to end so early.”

Dalton Knecht

On the adjustments to how teams guarded him this season

“Just watch the film with Coach and see where I can improve my game for the future and stuff like that. They made their adjustments. I got to make my adjustments and just learn off of it.”

On going down swinging and putting the team on his back

“I don’t think I put the team on my back. I think all of us carried each other. I think every single one of us did what we needed to do.

At the end of the day, they were just the better team, and we didn’t — we always were coming out swinging.

Yeah, I just love these guys, and I wish we could have one more game. I’m thankful for all these guys for accepting me for my one year here, as well as the coaching staff.”

On the back-and-forth he and Zach Edey had

“Yeah, we were going back and forth, but I think it’s — for me, it’s my teammates for having the belief in me to go out there and keep shooting it and keep running plays for me and stuff like that and just having the trust to have the ball in my hands.

I think it’s just credit to my teammates for making it super easy just for me to go out there and be myself.”

On his relationship with Rick Barnes

“I would say it’s by far the closest I’ve ever had to be with a coach. He’s coached me super hard ever since I told him on my visit that I wanted to be coached super hard, and he’s held up to his hand.

He’s been beyond just that. He’s been helping me off the court, on the court. He cracks jokes and stuff like that. Coach Barnes, I love him to death, and I can’t thank him enough for bringing me in for my one year here.”

Zakai Zeigler

On the game Dalton Knecht played

“DK, he’s a fighter. Every night he’s going to do what he did tonight. We think he’s the best player in the country. That will always be how I see him in my eyes, best player in the country.

Purdue, they did their thing. They won the game. Hopefully they’ll go out and win the next game also. We just didn’t execute some stuff, and Coach always told us it comes down to little things.

We fought. Every guy in that locker room, we wanted to win. I don’t feel like anybody in there had any doubt in their mind that we could still win the game or had any doubt in their mind that going into the game that we wouldn’t win.

I know everybody in there fought and did whatever they had to do and left it all out there on the floor. Just got to give it to Purdue. They did what they had to do, and they won the game.”

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