KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Head coach Rick Barnes met with reporters on Monday at the Ray & Lucy Hand Digital Studio, previewing the Vols' upcoming game at No. 13 Kentucky (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
A full video replay of the press conference can be viewed above while the full transcript of his comments can be found below.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes
(On what stood out in the video review from Saturday’s Georgia game)
"It was the same thing that we thought during the game. Once (Yante) Maten left the game, obviously J.J. Frazier was going to make every play. And it is very difficult to guard a guy that is going to keep the ball in his hands the entire possession. On the ball screen defense, we tried different things, but the fact is our point guards did not do a good enough job staying attached. Our post guys that were supposed to be in our ball screen… our defense, we changed that a little bit. They didn’t do the job, and then the guys on the wings didn’t do their job. So it was a combination of everybody. When you let a guy dribble through your whole team, it is obvious that you’re not getting it done on the defensive end. They made some timely threes at the time, too, because (Frazier) penetrated and when we were there, he made a couple of great passes out. Like I said the other day, when teams shoot over 50 percent against us, it is going to be hard to win games."
(On the consideration of playing zone defense against teams with quick guards who can penetrate)
"I know one thing ... we struggle to rebound sometimes with man, so I think we’d really struggle in zone rebounding. I think the bottom line right there is when a player is doing that, we have to answer on the other end, too. We were doing that and then we went through a stretch where we didn’t do it. That keeps putting pressure back on them. If we are getting into a zone, we are telling the other team we are going to put this player at this position on the court, and if you still want to attack them, you can attack them wherever you want to attack someone. We just didn’t do the job we needed to do, and that goes back to where Grant (Williams) is at a point where he is somewhere in-between, because he normally does a pretty good job. Kyle (Alexander) does a pretty good job. He has been an anchor there for us. Grant is trying not to foul, and he is caught in-between how aggressive can he be but he still has to make those plays. Lew (Evans) and Admiral (Schofield) obviously struggled some, too, with it. Our point guards were just getting way too much separation off the screen, and that is what was putting so much pressure on our other players."
(On Tennessee’s point guards)
"Actually, when you look at the tape, Jordan Bowden probably does as good of a job as anybody. He wasn’t there much. Shembari (Philips) has proven (he can run the point) at times, but he had a tough time (Saturday). I still think he is not locked in as much as he needs to be right now. I told him yesterday that we need him to do on the perimeter what Kyle is willing to do on the inside for us. Our guard play is just one of the situations where it is kind of, ‘Who is getting it done?’ And that will be the guy who we’ll put out there."
(On how many games coach has played in Rupp Arena and how much better Kentucky is at home)
"I think this might be my third time. It’s one of the great arenas to play (in). The passion… you can feel it when you go there. We have been in big arenas, and we have been in places where the crowds have been good. It is going to get back to execution. I think they will do some things differently, obviously, in terms of how we handle pressure earlier in the game. They could do things like that. We have to be prepared for that. They look like they are doing a little bit more continuous ball-screening action to get guys involved. They aren’t the exact same team that we played a couple weeks back. I’d like to think we have gotten better in some areas. This time of year it would be disappointing if we let the crowd bother us."
(On Grant Williams’ maturity)
"I think it takes a special player to make that statement. With the missed free throw I can go back and it was more than that situation. Defensively, we didn't play well enough to win the game. Georgia is a really good basketball team. I said after the game that they have had as many bad bounces as anybody this year. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game and you have to give them credit for it. They came in and stayed with it. They lost one of their key guys, which changed part of our defensive plan, too, because you go from having to guard two guys to one guy deciding he has to pick up the slack. It would have been better off the other way. Now you have to guard a guy who is about as fast twitching as there is. Our guys will tell you that he is a hard guy to guard. Grant has done a lot of great things this year. We expect a lot from him and he expects a lot from himself. Like I said earlier, I think he is trying to figure out how aggressive he would like to be defensively without getting himself in foul trouble. He and our post guys – other than Kyle -- weren't very good with our ball screen coverage."
(On the importance of Kyle Alexander playing well)
"He has been playing great and if you go back to these last five games he has been shooting 55 percent and averaging six or so rebounds. He has done such a great job for us at the beginning of games, especially getting us second-shot opportunities. He works because he is a worker and he is going to keep getting better and better. I said a year ago that it is going to be neat watching him kind of grow up right in front of our eyes here. I think he is doing that and he is going to keep building his stamina and his minutes. It couldn't happen to a better guy because everything you want from a player he is willing to do it for you. He is a total team guy; he knows he works as hard or harder than anyone on the team year round. When you do that, good things start happening to you and good things have started happening to him."
(On if he sees the college game moving back to four quarters)
"I have said it before that I think we should have a universal game. I think the rules that we should be playing are the international rules, with quarters that reset the same way. I am just for a universal game and the quicker we can get to that I think it would help our game overall. Even when kids get to high school, they should play with a shot clock and that would help their progression with it. I think from high school on it should be a universal game. I think there should be different rules as kids are growing up and developing, but once you get to high school on you should all be playing the same game. The international game is a great game and some of it would need to be tweaked, but the four quarters, it is only a matter of time before it does happen."
(On wanting Jordan Bone to score more)
"We want him to use his quickness and he is a much better shooter and scorer than his numbers show. We thought he was our best shooter at the beginning of the year. I can tell you in practice he shoots the ball really well. Missing nine games has been something that he isn’t going to make up. He is still learning some things, obviously. But he is a guy we know that can get going. I think all of our guards, if you look at their shooting percentages, it is not indicative of what we think they can do and some of that goes back to their shot selection not being very good in the beginning of the year. Now that they have learned how to play through our post guys, they are going to have to be able to knock down some shots from the inside out because we go into every game fully expecting the other team to double-team our post players. So with that said, it’s important that they get their spacing and knock down those shots and we think they are capable of doing it."
(On preparing for Kentucky)
"It is a different game. We talked to the team about it yesterday that when we were here last time we were coming off a good win against Mississippi State and we were at home. Now we are coming off a tough loss and going on the road, so mindset is very important, how are we going to be able to get on to the next one. That why I told our players that win or lose you have to let them go this time of year. You have to get ready for the next game and I hope that we do that. We will get back at it today and see where we are and what we have to do. I think our players know what we have to do to compete at the level we need to compete at. We have to get that mindset going today and go in there tomorrow and see if we can execute."
(On his preferences of basketball rules being universal)
"A lot of it goes back to while I was at Providence College and young. I got to spend a lot of time hearing Dave Gavitt talk about basketball. He was the first guy that talked about widening the lane, whether it was a trapezoid (or a square). Again, he talked a lot about the international game and the purity of it, the way it’s done. That’s when I started thinking about it, when you watch it. But 40 minutes, that’s what we should be playing. I think quarters are there. I think we should be playing with the NBA lane line. I think that would help clear up some more collisions around the basket. There are some pretty tough ones there. I think it would help officiating around the rim. I think that would help. Resetting the fouls would probably shorten the game, because we all know they can get to the point where they’re too long. I still don’t like the rule where coaches can’t call timeouts. I don’t think that’s a good rule, but I think that’s an international rule. If I’m right, the players have to call it. I think, just like they went back and tweaked the rule a couple of years ago, where you are jumping out-of-bounds and you can’t call time. I don’t think a coach should be able to call timeout when there’s a scrum for the ball 60 feet away and there’s an official standing there. Nobody knows who has possession of the ball. I think that’s a play that’s an easy call for the official. Players, in that action, should be the only ones (able to call a timeout). I just think we’re in a teaching-developmental stage in college. We’ve got a lot to teach these guys and I just think that we should be allowed to call timeout other than in a situation where a guy’s falling out-of-bounds or a scrum away from you, where that should be called. That’s not that difficult to do. The shot-clock, I think, is where it should be. I do think the NBA lane line would make a big difference. I think the 3-point line would go back a little bit, which I think all of that would be good for us."
(On his team’s 3-point shooting)
"There are a lot of teams that are 3-point shooting teams. They go through times where they aren’t making shots. What’s important to me, I think we’ve got guys that are capable of making shots. I think if you think about it, I think every guy we put on the floor can. I think Kyle Alexander can make threes. When they take rhythm threes and they take good shots, we don’t have a problem with guys shooting the ball like that. My biggest concern was, is, and always will be, when you’re not making shots, can you stay in the game and figure out a way to win it? You can’t do that if you don’t defend at a very high level. To do that it’s finishing plays, defensively, not giving up offensive rebounds. You’re going to run into some games, sometimes, when teams are hot and they’re making shots, doing some of those things. But you’ve got to be able to withstand it. At some point in time, even with them doing that, you’ve got to break the rhythm some way, somehow. Whether it’s scoring and then making plays on the other end, you’ve got to do that. It’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be easy. I still do think we’re capable of making enough threes to win basketball games. We’ve just got to continue to get better. I would say the same thing on the offensive end. I do think, this time of year, that’s what it’s about. If you want to finish strong, one, you’ve got to play really hard. I think we’ve got to play harder than we played the other night. I think we have to do that. I think that we’ve got to execute defensively, at a much higher level, than we have, and I would really say, the last two games. Even though we were fortunate to win the Ole Miss game, it’s just going to take us, collectively as a group, everybody taking another step forward."
(On going up against Kentucky for the second time)
"I think they have a number of players that can (take over a game). You look at their (stats). (Malik) Monk leads the SEC in scoring. (De’Aaron) Fox leads the SEC in assists. I’m sure they’re looking at the tape and saw what J.J. Frazier did to us off ball-screens and they’re feeling they can do the same thing. You saw what (Edrice) Adebayo did to us here. I mean, he dunked it, four or five dunks. (Isaiah) Briscoe, he’s just one of the great competitors that you’re going to play against. They’ll run plays for guys in situations that you wouldn’t expect to step out and shoot. John (Calipari) knows what he’s doing. He knows his team. They’ve got a number of different guys that can have just spectacular nights against you. So again, whether it’s Kentucky or Georgia, we, ourselves, have to do a better job of doing the things that we talk about that we need to do, from our point of view. There are a lot of teams in the league that have guys that can put big numbers on you."
(On his team responding to adversity)
"Well, I’d like to think they’ve learned when you win, you can enjoy it for a little bit, [but] you better get ready for the next one. I’d like to think when you lose, and it’s a whole different taste and feeling. You better have some perseverance in the fact that you’ve got to look at it. You’ve got to go back and look. Young teams, I think especially young teams, when you win, they probably have a little bit harder time, when you look at the tape, seeing the things they really didn’t do well in that game. That’s when young teams struggle with consistency because they’re feeling good about it. But when you lose now, they sometimes might have a harder time letting it go. But there’s no question, you have their attention a whole lot more. You’d like to be able to keep it all the same, win or lose. They realize, 'Hey, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes when we win. We’ve got to learn from them when we lose.' Sometimes you can play poorly and win if you’re really, really good. But if you continue to do that it’s going to get you at the wrong time. I just think that they key is, and some of this is new for our guys who are going through it, where we walk around and people are telling them they’re surprised at where we are this time of year and all this. From what we’ve talked with them about from the beginning, they shouldn’t be, because we told them what our expectations were. It wouldn’t matter. People haven’t been talking about Georgia. I guarantee you Georgia is looking at themselves thinking, 'Hey, we can win six or seven games in a row.' I’d like to think there are a number of teams in the league that think like that and that’s why this month is so important, that you continue to get better. All you can really do, and it’s the truth, is you’ve just got to worry about today, win or lose. Win, you’ve got to go get ready for the next one. If you lose, you’ve got to go get ready for the next one. If you look down the road, we need to get this one here, we can’t lose this one -- I don’t think that’s how you live, and I don’t think that’s how you coach. I just think all we have is today. We’ve got to figure out a way to put our gameplan in and get it in our heads at a very high level. Then tomorrow night, hope that we can go out and execute it, what we think we need to do."
(On having confidence going to Rupp Arena)
"Well, I’d like to think that we’re a confident team. I would like to think that. I don’t think it was a lack of confidence. I’m trying to think here, maybe early, but I don’t think all of our guys are playing real confidently right now. But I think the majority of them are. I think that, as a group, they are confident, wherever they play, that if we compete and do what we need to do, we’ll have a chance. I don’t think there’s any question, whether it would be Kentucky or South Carolina or Florida, anyone. I think that they do believe that. They believe in themselves."