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Postgame Quotes: Tennessee 72, Mississippi State 57

Jan. 19, 2013

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TENNESSEE HEAD COACH CUONZO MARTIN

(Opening Statement)
"Before we get started, I just wanted to really congratulate Jalen Steele, a kid who came back, a local kid who played well. I'm not sure if he got hurt in the second half. I would assume. I thought he played well and I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that he did a great job coming home and shooting the ball like they did."

"I thought we did a good job of scoring off turnovers, creating turnovers, being aggressive with our defense. We've been doing a good job of pressuring, not getting off balance, maintaining the dribble. Solid job shooting free throws. I thought Armani Moore played a really good game with 11 rebounds and eight at the half. He just does a good job pounding the ball, making good decisions - a physical guard and I thought he played really well. Derek came off the bench and shot the ball great. I thought Jarnell and Tre Golden played well, which is good to see. When those two guys play well, we've got a chance. When those guys are playing at the level they're capable of playing, I think everything kind of falls around them. When they don't play the way at the level we need them to play at, then all of a sudden it's a scramble and we're trying to plug our pieces to make a move. So it's good to see those guys play well. I think we had a season-high 19 assists, which was great distributing the ball and Trae made a lot of that happen."

(On Jarnell Stokes and Trae Golden playing well against MSU)
"I just think it was anybody because those guys are talented players. It doesn't matter who you're up against, but you've got be able to play well to get over that mental hump. They put the time in practice and they go through the procedures in practice to be successful. But you've got to get out on the floor and have one of those games to be at home with a really good crowd. I thought the crowd was great again, and that's what we expect. I just think for those guys, when you're talented players you've got a target on your back. You need games like that to get over that mental hump. The physical part is there. That mental part - that'll bog you down, like you've got a 15-pound vest on your back."

(On if Trae Golden, Jarnell Stokes and Josh Richardson looked like themselves)
"I hope so. I hope so. I thought they were in attack mode. But looking like themselves has to be consistent. It has to be over time and that's who you are. It can't be one game, then miss three or one game, then miss four. Looking like yourself on a consistent basis is what you expect. I thought Jordan McCrae did a good job. Even though he didn't get 20 points, I thought he did a good job. He got four fouls but I thought he was still aggressive facilitating, moving the ball. So I thought he played a good game."

(On the team playing well from the tone set in the first half)
"The one thing about when you play at home, there's a peace of mind somewhat to be among your fans. I thought our fans once again really represented to get our guys over that hump. So now I think we can get where we need to be. But you've got to get that win. Like I told our guys, `You have four losses in a row against good teams. Of course you don't want to lose at home, but we felt like we let some get away when we had an opportunity to win. But they weren't bad teams .So you get a win, now you move forward.'"

(On the freshmen starting to step up)
"It's great because they're talented players. I think in Derek Reese's case, he'd be a lot further along if it hadn't been for the injury. You're talking about a guy - it wasn't like he practiced for three months and then he was on the floor. He wasn't practicing because of the injury. When you put him out in situations - the guy probably lost 15 or 20 pounds of upper body muscle because he couldn't lift. So now he's not as physical as he needs to be. He's just getting better. He's one of those guys getting better on the fly. He's still learning in practice. He has breakdowns in the game because it's things he hasn't seen a lot and there's things he's going through and getting exposed to it in the game. He can make shots, so he's a threat and he can make decisions with the basketball. In Armani Moore's case, it's just a tremendous job of a young man being patient. As a coach, you just tell him, `You've got to keep working. Work on your ball handling. Work on your decision making.' He's one of the few guys I've ever been around that he didn't take that and put his head down. He was hungry after that and he fed off of that. Now you see the results of a physical guy who puts a lot of time in the AM and he's getting better. That's why he's playing the way he plays."

(On how much Trae Golden benefited on offense tonight)
"I think it was great for him. Now he can relax and facilitate. Now you've got two guards defending him and he can go off the bounce. He's 215 pounds so he can hit you and there's some compact to it. He can play with ease and he's going to have a great career when it's all said and done."

(On making adjustments in the game)
"It's tough when you have a four-guard line-up, but we have to adjust. We have to put ourselves in a position to win the game, so we went to small-ball. "

(On MSU Coach Rick Ray disagreement during the game)
"He's a friend of mine, long-time friend, even before we ended up on the same staff, but at the end of the day we're both working for the same thing. It's nothing personal- his wife hung out with my wife last night, so it's just a part of being vocal and being involved."

(On both teams' shooting performance tonight)
"Anytime you have a guy who can shoot the ball, he's a major threat. You identify the shooters, you stay on-top of them and you stick with them the whole game. Mississippi State did a good job as a team hitting their pull-up shots. They hit one or two threes, but we did an exceptional job doing the same thing, and that was the advantage. But we need our guys to still work on improving those skills, but we did do a better job tonight."

(On Jordan McRae's performance tonight)
"Jordan did a lot better facilitating the offense. He did a good job passing and attacking, the fouls kind of slowed him up a little bit, but I think he just took what the defense gave him and didn't try to force shots."

(On the line-up tonight)
"I think in order for us to be successful we need Trae Golden as our point-guard on a consistent basis."

(On not playing behind this game, on what it was like to close the game, unlike the past few games)
"We've been in situations like this before. Not getting behind with our defense, moving the ball across the floor, setting the screen, when all the things that we work on in practice translate to the floor, and you can breathe a little bit. I think we played good basketball tonight, good enough to win the game, but I still think we've not yet reached the level of play we're capable of. We've got great talent and that showed tonight, Trae (Golden) penetrating the lane and Jarnell Stokes did a good job inside."

(On moving ahead)
"I think we're 75% closer, we did well tonight, other games we had some mental breakdowns along with less than our best physical play..some breakdowns on defense and less-than-perfect performances on offense. You can't do that when you're trying to be the best team you can be. You gotta be great in all circles."

(On how competitive you want the team to be this season)
"You have to compete at a high level to be successful in this league."

(On the Alabama match-up and both teams needed a win)
"It would have been better going into that game if we'd won the previous SEC matchups, but we know we gotta work to get a win against them."

TENNESSEE GUARD Armani Moore

(On playing aggressive defense and blocking shots)
"It is basically just reading the defense off their weak side. I saw my man playing good defense and Coach Martin always teaches us not to jump. So I figured it was my job to cover the weak side and block the shot."

(On why attacking the glass worked so well)
"It was the position that I was playing in and Coach Martin always tells us to go across the glass, so that is what I did."

(On frustration of being down low and not getting the ball)
"I was open a lot but I know it is kind of hard up at the top with being pressured. It is hard to see at times. I was just playing the game. I wasn't worried about getting the ball or not getting the ball."

(On being patient in waiting for playing time)
"I just never stop working in practice. When I do get in the game, I go out there and work hard. I know if I am not doing good I will come out, but if I am doing good then I will stay in the game."

(On developing role on the team)
"Coach Martin has always told me to just go out there, rebound, defend and play hard; then I will stay on the floor."

(On how much this win means to the team)
"It feels good especially starting out 0-3. The team didn't get down in practice. Everybody still came in and worked hard in practice."

(On how the team is affected when Trae Golden plays well)
"I feel like we work hard as a team and when Trae comes in he gets everybody rolling. Especially being in a point guard position, that is where it starts."

TENNESSEE FORWARD Jarnell Stokes

(On the double team)
"Sometimes I get confused if I should wait on the double team or should I try to attack it. That's one of my struggles this season, but there are signs that I'm getting better. I think double teams are so new to me and it's such a different game plan at the college level. I'm getting better, though and I work on it every day at practice. I showed signs of getting better today, too."

(On the confidence of the team)
"The four-game losing streak we've been struggling with was overcoming, so we believe we can do all things through Christ and we did overcome. We feel like that it was one win and now we can bounce back. We have another opportunity Thursday to turn things around."

(On establishing himself today)
"I definitely want to be more aggressive on the offensive end and Coach told the team to give me the ball and then he told me to go and attack. I definitely want to see myself be more athletic in my showing and I think I did that today."

(On Golden, McRae and Stokes working well together)
"I feel like when Trae (Golden), Jordan (McRae) and I get going on the offensive end, it's hard for teams to try to stop us and it's hard for us to lose. One thing we haven't done is all three of us playing well in the same game."

(On Golden's game)
"Trae definitely did better today. He pushed the ball up the court and he had a lot of transition mastered, so we wanted to run and we decided to go with it. He almost got a double-double."

(On getting better spots of shooting)
"I feel like the guys are doing a better job of finding me. I figured out how [Mississippi State] was playing me. They were pretty much one-man guarding me. When I can manipulate the defense like that, it helps me out a lot."

TENNESSEE GUARD TRAE GOLDEN

(On the half-court trap and how he recovered)
"I just keep my confidence up and I don't let it waver throughout the game. Things are going to happen and you just have to keep playing. Confidence isn't [an issue on the court] for me. I couldn't find a good rhythm within the past couple weeks, I went through some struggles, but I am myself again, in a good rhythm on the court and I'm making plays for myself and for my team."

(On finding a rhythm)
Just buckling down and looking into different things to get myself going [helped me find the rhythm]. Just staying focused means everything. Even if something happens, you have to stay focused and keep moving and then I'll be fine."

(On playing with a target on his back)
"[Coach Martin] talked to me about that and you just have to go harder knowing that guys are coming for you and I think that these past couple weeks have been rough, but it was good to finally get a win and now just keep moving forward."

(On Armani Moore)
"I knew [he was capable of doing what he did tonight]. He does that all the time in practice. Sometimes, for freshmen, it's just what they need to have a game where they let it all happen and they get that opportunity. He's going to be a great player down the road, so I wasn't too surprised with it. Coach Martin doesn't really put pressure on anyone. Armani (Moore) got his opportunity and he took advantage of it. Armani (Moore) is one of those guys who is always in the right place at the right time. He can rebound the ball really well and he has a lot of intangibles, like that block that he got - as a guard, I probably wouldn't have been able to get that block. I don't process information like that. He's just a different kind of guard and I think that's good."

(On Derek Reese)
"He does a lot: he gives us lanes to drive, it's easy to identify him and he's obviously a great shooter. He's another guy that down the road he's going to be a great player."

(On getting an SEC win)
"It definitely feels good to get an SEC win. We just have to play well and have our team end on a positive note. I needed this [win] today. The past few weeks have been tough and I'm just glad we got the win. Our team has been getting good rhythms. Jarnell (Stokes) got going today and everybody was knocking down shots. It was just a really good team work today."

TENNESSEE GUARD JOSH RICHARDSON

(On having a lot of substitutes)
"It lets us know that we don't have to depend on one or two guys to make our offense go up. We have a lot of different guys who can do different things. It gives us confidence."

(On how much the win meant to the team)
"It was a must win. We did not want to start 0-4. Being 1-3 will give us a little confidence and get our head up going deeper into play."

(On feeling more like themselves during the game today)
"Before the tip-off we came out on the court and huddled up, I said that we needed to play like we did in AAU ball. Jordan (McRae) and I were talking at home about how hyped we got playing AAU ball just screaming and hooping, so I said why don't we play like that tonight. Then a lot more guys were in the lane and felt a lot more comfortable in the offense. It felt good."

(On the key plays of Armani Moore and Derek Reese)
"It is big for our freshmen and it gets our confidence up a lot because they are not very experienced. Armani was definitely on the board tonight. He is a horse out there. Derek hit some crucial threes and I saw him get hyped on the court. I felt good for him."

(On the different styles of players from experience on the court)
"Guys that have played for Coach Martin for a year know that he is a real systematic guy. We are just trying to get the play moving but the new guys are just trying to figure out what they are doing on the court. I commend for getting loose and trying to ball out there."

MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH RICK RAY

(On facing fellow former Purdue assistant Cuonzo Martin)
"It wasn't good, based on the result, but I always had a great deal of respect for Cuonzo. Any time you play his team, you know you're going to play a tough, physical, hard-nosed team. No matter what you do x's and o's-wise, you know the physicality is going to affect your team. I didn't relish playing against his team but he does a good job. We tried to come in here and get a win and we obviously came up short."

(On the struggles inside the paint)
"We did a terrible job inside as far as finishing some opportunities inside the paint. I think we had 10 misses in the paint in the first half alone, so we have to do a better job of somehow getting those finishes. I think it comes down to just not having those practice bodies. Our guys aren't going in and finishing against Jarnell Stokes and guys like that, so when they come into a game environment, they don't have that practice background to go in and finish those shots. We have to do a better job of finishing once we get the ball into the paint.

"The key things we keep talking about with our team are rebounding the basketball, because the other team keeps playing volleyball with it, tipping it, tipping it, tipping it. Sometimes we eventually get the rebound, sometimes they get the shot. The other thing is taking care of the basketball. We don't do a very good job taking care of the basketball. To me, a turnover is a bad shot, and I think we had multiple bad shots, we need to grind out the shot clock a little bit more.

(On Knoxville-native Jalen Steele missing time during the game)
"I think it's our job, we have to figure out what's going on with those cramps and get that taken care of. He's playing well for us , he's out best player coming back with experience and the ability to shoot the basketball. We're short as it is, and with Sword getting in foul trouble, if we don't have Jalen, then I have to play Sword with four fouls, when I could have Jalen in there."

(On if his team is feeling discouraged)
"I don't know if they're getting discouraged. Obviously, fatigue is going to be a factor with us anytime we play a basketball game because we have half the players we should have. It's always going to be a problem, but we can't make that an excuse. We know our lot, where we are right now, so we have to figure it out."

 

 

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