March 1, 2014
Head Coach Cuonzo Martin
"Great team effort- start to finish the guys played well, defended well. It's one of those games shots were falling, guys played at a high level, every position I thought guys did their jobs. This is one of the teams in the league when you scout them- they have so many wrinkles into their different actions, it's not an easy team to scout. You have to have a level of discipline to you and I thought our guys did a great job of taking the scouting report from start to finish on both ends of the floor into their game. You saw the results and when you're making shots like that, the way Antonio [Barton] made shots, big guys got the ball around the rim and made plays, got big rebounds. We spend a lot of time working on bigs getting the rebounds. If you don't have an easy shot, pitch it out to those guy for three and attack off the dribble. Thought we were clicking on all cylinders today, so great team effort and tremendous crowd."
(On if today's game was the best all season)
"I think one of them. Virginia was a good game. I thought we played against Ole Miss. I thought we played well at Alabama- just consistency. Sometimes it's unfortunate for young guys. They base their results and productivity on how many points they scored and their production offensively. They don't understand the value of good defense. It can take you a long way. You look at the best teams in the country, they defend at a high level consistently whether shots are falling or not."
(On Antonio Barton)
"What happens is, when you have a guy, now earlier in the season, he struggled. He wouldn't put the time into like he needed to with classes, class obligations and not just committed to the time to be a really good basketball player and a good shooter. It's probably mean about a month now- 10 o'clock every morning, like clock work, he's getting shots in with Coach Webster every day. At some point, the shots eventually have to fall for you. I think it's a combination of putting the work in, but also the confidence of a basketball player. When you see them start to fall for you, your confidence goes."
"Yes, it is. You're right about that. Was that in Hawaii? He shot it well, so it was good, so if he can consistently do that- the last two games I thought he had floor game- not just shooting the ball. I thought he did a good job probing the defense, getting assists, finding guys- his growth as a basketball player and it's never too late to get better."
(On defensive play in the second half)
"That's something we talk about every day. It's not just in each particular game. Again, that's basketball players taking it from one end to the other- taking the scouting report to the floor consistently. We just talk about having relentless focus and dedication to your craft. When we're consistent, these are some of the results. Hopefully when shots don't fall, we can still defend and play hard at this level."
(On Antonio Barton)
"Very effective. Now you have three guys on the perimeter that can make shots out there when your big guys are scoring around the rim. Those guys also, they're not making shots, they're attacking off the dribble, so I think that's one of the areas were our guards have gotten better- attacking the paint and making plays, so it helps a great deal."
(On Jordan McRae)
"I think it helps when your leading scorer, and he's a little banged up to his defense. He's not one of those guys that's going to complain about or make excuses, so that's probably one of the only reasons he didn't have the production that he normally has. But it does help when other guys can step up and you can win a game like that, it helps."
(On the difference between this game and the one in Nashville)
"We just stayed focused until the end. We had come off a big win against Alabama on the road, but we aloud those guys to get their heads up. Today, we penetrated and made plays. We did a better job of defending the guard. We slowed Odom down and made his catches tough. We forced him to make plays off the dribble."
"My job as a coach is to do my job. I have to prepare my team to be ready. We practice a certain way. In practice, we shoot shots and go over the scouting report. That is probably seventy percent of stuff we do in practice all of the time. The other thirty percent depends on the team we are playing against. You hope the guys realize that this is what it takes to be successful."
(On getting a read on his players)
"People make shots, and people make plays. You have to play the game for forty minutes. We have come off of some tough losses, but the guys have come back the next game with some great energy."
(On Moore and Reese's play)
"I think what Armani just improved was his three point shooting. It helps him to really open up. He has always been a strong driver, but he wasn't getting better at his finishing. Earlier in the season, he wasn't finishing very well, but now he is finishing well. He is physical when he defends you. For most guards, that can take a toll on you. He has gotten better with his perimeter skills and game, which I think really helps."
(On Dale Ellis' talk with the team)
"He talked about playing as a team. He said you have to have a love for your team. For him to have received his award, he had to give a lot of credit to his teammates because a lot of guys made sacrifices for him to be the guy, but that was never his intention. He was just on a basketball team trying to be the best that he could be. His coach told him to play around the rim, and he did what his coach told him to do, and when he got to the NBA he improved his three point shot. He tried to get better everyday, so a lot of things that our guys can relate to. He also talked about preparations like eating habits, sleeping habits and the time you put into being a good teammate."
SENIOR GUARD Antonio Barton
(On being more comfortable in the starting line-up or not)
"It doesn't make any difference."
(On having a fun time playing today)
"I was a lot of fun. The crowd was amazing. We kind of fed off their energy. When you come out playing defense like that everything just falls into place."
(On the scoring)
"Everybody was just locked in. Practice has been competitive. We watched a lot of film. We took that last game personal. They came in and hit us in the mouth hard. We wanted to come back this game and stop that."
(On taking this momentum forward)
"The main focus is to let this game go. We played good but we can't carry this game on. It is over with. We just have to come in and lock in for the next game with the same intensity and same focus."
(On difference between now and the last game against Vanderbilt)
"Defense. We took pride in our defense. We helped each other out. We did an awesome job rotating when guys got beat. We just had each other's back."
(On coming out strong the second half as well)
"Jeronne (Maymon) the first thing he said when we walked into the locker room was we can't let up. We can't get too up. We just have to come out in the second half. We have been known to come out in the second half and let teams back into the game. We emphasized that we would come out here with the same intensity of the first half."
(On realizing your shot was really on today)
"After I hit the second one I thought okay it is starting to fall. I missed one and I came back and kept shooting. For me I just have to keep shooting the ball whether I miss two or three in a row. I just have to keep shooting."
(On importance of today's game)
"All of our games are important from here on out. The last four games we have to take it personal to the SEC tournament. We have to win out."
(On the feeling of hitting the first three of the game)
"I shot that with confidence. It kind of settled me when I saw that it went in."
(On how the team did better on the floor this game)
"Having our big men up on the ball screens and kind of sending them to one side and being there for each other. When we played them at home they got in the lane pretty easy. So we watched film and made a lot of adjustments."
Sophomore Guard Armani Moore
(On noon games)
"It was very good. They showed a lot of confidence in us. They got up every time we did something. They hit the spot. I felt like that was a big boost for us."
(On slowing down Vanderbilt)
"It's kind of tough when you play a team one time, but once you play a second time, you get a feel of how they run their offense and what to do in putting a little bit more streak on your defensive assignments. I feel like we did a very good job of carrying out our defensive assignments. We had a couple of breakdowns, but as a collective unit I thought we did a good job of sticking to our defensive assignments."
(On Antonio Barton)
"He was great. That's one reason he's here today- to play and show what he has, to make a statement."
(On defensive play)
"Yes. That's where we've been somewhat short this year. We come out and show spurts of playing great defense, great breakdown of it. Today I felt like we were very consistent. We had a couple of defensive breakdowns but nothing major. I feel like today we were very consistent throughout the whole game."
(On communicating on the floor)
"It's very difficult, but one thing Dale Ellis told us yesterday about trusting your teammates, helping each other out- whether if you know one of your guards is slower on the defensive end, step over him, take the charge, talk to each other on the court. I feel like we did a very good job today of talking as a unit."
(On team chemistry)
"I don't think our team is hard to figure out. It's getting our chemistry going. Today, we were helping each other out, whether it's on the defensive end or the offensive end, an extra pass or ball swing back around to you. I think we did a very good job of sharing the ball and talking to each other."
Sophomore Guard Derek Reese
(On the team enjoying Antonio Barton playing well as much as Antonio enjoyed it)
"We were happy for him. Dale Ellis talked to us yesterday about loving your teammates. You have to love what he is doing. If he is being successful you cheer him on. Everyone needs to have the energy and just love each other, help each other out. So when he was hitting those shots we were trying to get him the ball a little more and just cheering him on. It gives him the confidence to make even more and to keep playing better."
(On role players stepping up during these important games so close to the tournament)
"It is very important. We can't win with just five players, three players or whatever it is. We need to win with a team all 15 of us. Everyone needs to do their part and their role the best they can. Some night Jordan (McRae) may not score 25 or 30 points so someone else needs to step up. He still had a good game everyone else was just stepping up to their role. It is just very important not to put too much pressure on the role players. You just need to come in and contribute to the team."
Junior Forward Jarnell Stokes
(On their play today compared to other days)
"We defended very well. Vanderbilt ran a lot of good sets against us at home, last time, so we were better prepared for it. We knew that (Kyle) Fuller was their main guy as far as getting in the lane. We took him out of the first half, and that was the ball game."
(On Vanderbilt wearing "Our State" shirts in their first meeting of the season)
"Yeah it means a lot to me, being a home guy. I hate when another team tries to claim the state when we are named Tennessee. Rivalry games inside of the state definitely mean a lot to me."
(On NCAA tournament bid)
"I don't know if I was necessarily thinking about that. I was just trying to keep our hopes alive, and come out and play with energy and play with enthusiasm. I think that was the biggest thing for us today."
(On how Antonio Barton's play translated to the rest of the team)
"We are very tough. I sat in this same spot I think the Ole Miss game and said he was probably our X factor for the rest of the season. When he is playing well it opens up so many things. If we are playing pick up, he will play like he did today, every game. That's what I tell him, go out there and treat it like a pick up game."
(On winning by 38 with Jordan McRae not scoring as much)
"I didn't know that. I felt like Jordan played very well, he struggled with fouls, thats part of it. He gave us a lot, he was the reason for our hot start. He came out with a lot of energy and thats what we need from a senior."
(On the difference between the two Vanderbilt games)
"We definitely wanted to come out with a bang. Dale Ellis talked to us yesterday, he is a quite tempered guy, but his words meant a lot to me, they stuck with me. He asked us to blow them out for him, so I guess that was a part of it."
Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings
"Well, we were beaten at every turn. They got off to a great start. We were never able to do anything to negate anything that they did. We didn't shoot it well, we didn't guard well, we just didn't play well and they played very well on both ends. Disappointing day for us to say the least."
(On how Vanderbilt has been getting off to slow starts)
"I certainly didn't think the game was going to be like that. I thought we would get back into it, fight our way back into it, we just never did. They were better than us the entire 40 minutes. There was never a point where you felt like we were anywhere close to controlling the game or the better team in the game or playing better in the game. They were the better team in the game for the entire 40 minutes."
(On Tennessee shooting the ball well)
"They started shooting it well. They made all those threes in the first half and we have a little bit of that lately, guys shooting 23 percent and jump up and make one or two against you. The percentages suggest that that shouldn't happen until it does. You are just in a big dilemma with them because of Stokes' presence inside and so you go down and you try to give support where you think you can and then they T-off from the outside. So when everybody starts making shots like they made today it is going to be tough for anyone to beat them. If they shoot it like that it is going to be tough for anyone."
(On what hindered them today)
"We couldn't score it inside and we couldn't score it outside. We just had nothing. Damian [Jones] couldn't get on an attack inside and we couldn't get him the ball when he was open a few times. He got pushed away from the basket a lot. We just didn't have anything, anything going all afternoon."
(On if the team wasn't focused because of the previous Florida game)
"I would like to think not, we tend to try to move on to the next game regardless of what happens before it. I thought based on our two days of practice that we were more prepared to play than what we demonstrated today."
(On what Tennessee did better today)
"They probably controlled our penetration a little bit better. They probably did a better job just covering the ball. We weren't able to turn the corner on it like we did at our place."
(On Tennessee's inside players)
"It makes a big difference because I like [Josh] Richardson is one of the most underrated players in our league. They have two physical guys inside that are most very difficult to guard, difficult to box out, and they make the game easier for everyone else. [Jordan] McRae is obviously a terrific player. They just get in that rhythm and then everybody starts making them, which is what happened today. [Antonio] Barton made the first few. I have been saying all season long that they are a really good team and I think they have a chance to do really well in the NCAA Tournament."
(On if Tennessee will make the NCAA Tournament)
"I certainly do. I have been saying that for weeks. I said that when we played them the first time. I certainly do."
(On Rod Odom)
"He didn't have a great day. Kyle [Fuller] didn't have a great day. Those two guys played great the last time we played them and neither one were quite as good today. But no of them were, we didn't have one guy that I thought played the way they needed to play in order for us to have a chance to win this game.