Rick Barnes Media Availability Transcript (12.2.19)

Credit: UT Athletics

Tennessee head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes meets the media to recap the weekend at the Emerald Coast Classic before looking ahead to Wednesday’s home contest against Florida A&M. That game tips off at Thompson-Boling Arena at 7pm ET. Tickets are available at AllVols.com.

Head Coach Rick Barnes
On what the team learned during the tournament games in Florida:

“What I’d like to think is taking care of the basketball more than anything. We reached a lot of our goals in the first game defensively, but we lost the games because we turned it over and allowed 24 points. I’d like for them to know, and we’ll point it out again to them today, that when we do execute the things that we practice, we play pretty well. I thought that we showed a lot of determination, even in the Florida State game when we were down. It felt like we were fighting uphill the whole way, which we were, but they stayed with it. I think they’ll learn that there’s a lot of different ways that you can win basketball games, and there’s a lot of ways that you can lose them. I told them this after the game—I don’t know if you can win a game in the first four minutes, but you can certainly lose one because of the way we had to fight back. We did show some toughness. Then, against a really good VCU team, we weren’t nearly as good defensively in the second half, but some of that had to do with what they were running. They were doing some guard-to-guard action with a dribble out which was hard to guard. We stayed with it, but we’ve got to get better. I think they do understand that.”

On Fulkerson’s high and low-scoring games during the tournament:

“All I can tell you is after the first game, I told both him and Jordan Bowden that they had to do more. I said that you guys know we are counting on you to play at a high level every single night. When you’re getting ready to scout us, there’s four guys you’re going to pay close attention to, and that’s the four older guys right now. It’s pretty obvious. It’s not hard to figure that out. We’ve got to have John Fulkerson wanting to go score the basketball. There’s no reason he can’t score 12 or 14 points a night, but he’s got to want to do it. You see he shoots a very high percentage, but he’s got to want the ball. He’s got to want it and work for it and demand by the way that he posts up (and) where he posts up. Jordan Bowden’s going to have to learn it’s not going to be easy. He’s going to have to bring more to it than thinking he’s going to stand and get open on one screen or one cut. He’s going to have to get better at learning pace on how to get himself separated so we can screen for him. John Fulkerson needs to know the fact that even a year ago we expected him to want to take on more of that role, but now there’s no doubt he’s got to do that.”

On Davonte Gaines and Jalen Johnson both being backup guards:

“I think we need them both. I do. I still think we’ve got to get minutes cut down with both Lamonte and Jordan, even Josiah some. I mean, we’d like to keep those minutes around 28 or 30 if we could. That will depend on those guys to be quite honest with you. They can go in and show us and compete. What they did was exactly what we needed them to do. I don’t think they tried to force the issue offensively. One offensive rebound you score in the game is a big play, and that was a big one that Jalen got for us. Those guys, again, they’re different. They’re two different players in the way they play, but yet they both can be effective. We would like to see them both, and Drew too, as he continues to understand how hard you’ve got to play at this level (and) understand that he’s going to have to be able to guard the basketball or people are just going to attack him every time he comes on the floor. We need all three of those guys, to be the team that we want to be. To get back to being the kind of full court defensive team we want to be, we have to have depth. Without that depth, we can’t go 40 minutes like we’d like to on the defensive end.”

On the importance of guards rebounding:

“It is. I’ve always thought the best running teams are when you get guards down there to rebound the ball and go with it. Josiah’s done a terrific job of that. He’s rebounding it really, really well. They’re all capable of it. Davonte might go with it. Jalen might not, which is okay. Even when Lamonte and Jordan Bowden rebound it, it allows us to get out quicker and go with it. With our front line, it’s not like we have an overbearing, long front line right now. So, we need everybody to rebound it and get the ball. We’re playing our best basketball and we’re playing our best defense when we’re boxing out and pursuing the ball.”

On his faith in Lamonte Turner with the last shot:

“That play could’ve gone either way. We leave at the huddle and I look at Josiah(-Jordan James) and I said to him, ‘You have two options. You either have (John) Fulkerson at the rim or Lamonte will come off and how they play Lamonte will tell you what to do.’ I said, ‘Believe me. Just look the other way when we get started and when they hand you the ball, start looking at the ball and Lamonte will read it.’ It was a tough situation on a defensive team from that situation because you don’t know if they are going to go for two or three. You would like to think they wouldn’t shoot a three and that they are going to go at the rim and get fouled. If they would’ve switched out, we would’ve thrown the ball to the rim. They didn’t switch. At the very end, they both realized they weren’t going to switch. You could tell by watching it. But, when Lamonte broke loose, both guys flew to him. If Josiah had to use the pump fake, Fulkerson could’ve dunked the ball. It all happened so fast, but Lamonte had the option to tight curl or get to the three. As soon as the big fella came up, Lamonte had to go to the corner and I told him it was going to be one pass and a shot. But it is a tough play for the defense because they are thinking that they are going to go to the basket. They are going to try and get fouled or drive it some way. But Lamonte made the call to get to the corner. That was his read.”

On how the freshmen handled the environment and how they played:

“I think what was good about that was that they handled it. Any one of them got rattled by the atmosphere. They pressured early, which surprised me, to be honest with you. We didn’t handle it well the first part of the game. The pressure hasn’t really hurt us a lot, but it was just the way we were throwing the ball away. I thought the freshmen being out there, and really at some critical times, when you’re trying to come back, they showed poise and showed that we could count on them. It is really simple right now. We have to not only get better as individuals, but as a team. We know there are things that we have to do defensively and offensively to get better, but some of it is you just have to believe what you practice and people won’t let you get to your first option. I think that is what this group learned more than anything, is that it is going to take more than one option to score the basketball. It looked like we were just trying to make one pass and make a shot and we locked to one side of the floor. We need to get better at moving from side-to-side.”

On if the turnovers against Florida State seemed uncharacteristic:

“What surprised me about the turnovers in the Florida State game was who was turning them over. Lamonte turned it over a lot where he was trying to do too much. We were telling him that he has to trust his teammates. Even at the play at the end of the first half, against VCU, he should’ve thrown the ball. You are not going to drive and make underhand lay-ups when the guy is bigger than you. He has to make those plays. That is what he has to get better with. I know he is leading us in turnovers and he shouldn’t. He is too good of a player to have whatever he is averaging in turnovers per game. The way he started the game really got everybody else on their heels. Everybody is looking around like what is going on here? He is a guy that you count on to take care of the ball and he owned up to it. He told the guys at halftime and after the game that it was his fault. But we need him to be solid with the ball and we need Jordan Bowden too. Some of his turnovers were forced turnovers. People are going to attack you and you have to take care of it. What we will learn when we get together today is how turnovers did cost us the game. Regardless of the defense we played against Florida State, when we meet the goals that we want defensively, we shouldn’t lose. But when you are that bad on offense, that is something you can’t overcome. I think that is something that they will learn today if they don’t already know, because we have talked about it enough. You have to take care of the ball.”

On who besides John Fulkerson can help Tennessee in the post:
“Olivier (Nkamhoua). Olivier is so much better than he’s playing right now, but it goes back to us needing him to buy in to what we need him to do. He’s as talented as any player that we have on our team. He can score and we think he can score against anybody. He has to slow down. As soon as he gets the ball he wants to dribble it. He’s never had to play in tight space. That’s what he’s learning right now, that you don’t get the ball and take one or two dribbles across the lane without someone coming and slapping it away and not having your feet ready to go up and explode. He’s young, but all of this stuff is going to help him. I expect to see him make a big jump, because I know that he’s disappointed that he didn’t play better in Florida. But, he did some good things. He’s learning to play harder on offense. All young guys measure their worth in points, all of them. He’s going to have to realize there’s so much more that he can do than that. I think that’s one thing where Josiah has been very patient. He’s turned down some shots, which he can’t do because all of his shots he turns down normally result in turnovers. But when he takes his shot, we all think it’s going to go in because we work hard at shooting the ball. I think on Olivier’s side, when he does what we practice, he’ll be fine. He hasn’t done that yet. And that’s where he’s gotten in trouble.”

On Drew Pember not playing against VCU:
“Just the fact that they were driving the ball really hard. We knew that they were going to drive, drive, drive at that point. They came out shooting the three well and we tightened up there. So they did what you would expect, you get behind and they’re coming at you, trying to get fouled and lengthen the game that way. So that was the sole reason why he didn’t play.”

On what he’s interested in seeing from his team on Wednesday before a 10-day break:
“We need to add some things to get ready for Wednesday night. Florida A&M is playing I think Kansas State tonight and you never take anyone for granted. It goes back to this time of year, coaches are more concerned about their own teams and playing good basketball. We have to clean up some things and add some things that we haven’t had a chance to add. We’ll do that over this next period and really somewhat get everybody healthy to be quite honest with you. We’ve had some bang ups and things that we need to get cleared up, so we’ll have a chance to do that during the exam period.”

On the importance of Yves Pons being able to get inside and score:
“He can do more of it, and he can do it in a different way. Going inside, you can put a guy with his back to the basket and score that way, or you can get him in some ball screens and get him rolling to the rim, sometimes give it to him and let him turn and face. Yves can do a little bit of all of it, but I think we’re all still looking for the exact play that when he wants it, he knows what he’s going to go to. Because, he’s going to be playing against bigger guys, and like I said, playing inside doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get the ball and back your way down and score. But, I’d like to see these guys work to get their spacing early and not settle to be pushed off the lane, because Yves is certainly strong enough to get the ball wherever he wants to get it.”

On if he would like to see Josiah-Jordan James become more of a scorer:
“When he’s off the ball, there’s no doubt about it. When he’s on the ball, like any of our point guards, he’s still learning what we want from a point position in terms of how to initiate the break. But when he’s off the ball, we do play through Lamonte at times, but when we’re at our best is when we’re playing how we practice, with all five guys engaged and taking their shots when they’re there. He has to do that. But he’s gotten better each game, I think he’s starting to see it more. He just needs to continue to learn the game and understand it and understand what we’re looking for.”

Senior Guard Lamonte Turner

 

On his game-winning shot against VCU: 

“Coach drew up a play we ran frequently in the summer and in preseason. We knew they were probably going to switch so me and Jordan (Bowden) acted like we were coming together, hoping they would pre-switch and one of us would be open and I was actually, so I came off the bottom of the baseline off a screen, I saw they didn’t switch correctly and I knew I would be able to get some space. I did and I was able to get the shot off.”
On what gives him the confidence to believe he can make a shot with the game on the line even when things might not be going well: 

“In those moments I get in a zone. I don’t really think about what I’m doing or what is going on in the game necessarily. At that moment, I’m just trying to make a play for my team and honestly I just kind of get locked in and it just kind of happens.”
On what he and the team learned and will bring back from going 1-1 in the Emerald Coast Classic and lessons learned:

“Just what coach has been preaching. Those games come down to one possession, that’s just how close they are, we could’ve easily been 0-2 or 2-0 down there, so just learning how all of the small details affect winning is big for us as a team and good for our younger guys.”
On how the atmosphere compared to a tournament game and what he told younger guys to try to thrive in it:

“After the first game losing against Florida State I told them that, that is what an NCAA game is going to feel like. You are going to play a team you are not necessarily familiar with, you are not going to have too much time to prepare for them because it is a quick turnaround. Just the feel of the place in there and the atmosphere and everything it felt like an NCAA tournament game. So, like I said it was good for our younger guys getting a feel for it going forward.”
On what he needs to do to improve his shooting percentage:

“I just need to take good shots. I need to believe in myself to take good threes and give myself a chance to make the shot, a lot of times I get the ball at the end of the shot clock and I have to take some that I necessarily don’t want to take so that affects my percentages. But. I just need to take the right shots on offense, and when we get good shots on offense I think my three pointer will level out.”
On how much Jalen Johnson and Davante Gaines developing, help him and Jordan Bowden in getting more rest:

“It’ll help a lot, the deeper our bench is will obviously help us as a team. Jalen and those guys have really been improving over the past few games. Jalen showed some toughness last game and played some great minutes, same thing with Davante (Gaines), those guys are learning and once they figure it out we are going to be a really good team, because those guys can come in and really help us win some games.
On how important this time of year is to stay ready even with two games in two weeks:

“It’s going to be big for us, getting in the film room, watching film, learning from our mistakes, taking care of our bodies, making sure we’re ready to go. We are going to have a lot of time off to scout, so we just got handle the mental side of things and understand the importance of that because right now obviously our bodies are feeling tired and just being mature about it and getting in to do therapy and going in to things like that and just being smart.”

On if his turnovers come from good defense or trying to do too much:

“Florida State is a good defensive team. Same with VCU, but I think a lot of times, I’m forcing it. I’m trying to over-compensate, and I need to trust my teammates more and give them the ball and get rid of it sometimes when I’m trying to make the play. I think as I continue to watch film and continue to learn from Coach Barnes, I’m going to continue to get better in that aspect, and I’ve got a lot of room to grow.”

On how losing the Florida State game felt after playing so well defensively:

“It hurt. Like I said, I took that loss on the head because I felt like I put us in a hole early. We’ve got younger guys, guys that aren’t as experienced, so you don’t want to do that. Being a senior leader on this team, I don’t want to put my guys in a position to have to fight early in the game. So, I feel like that could change if I play better to start the game, and we have a better chance. It definitely hurt, knowing how we played on defense, but it’s also something good to look at, because we know we can play defense on some of the better teams in the country.”

On what has impressed him the most about Josiah-Jordan James:

“Just his toughness. Coach is hard on him, but he continues to respond, he continues to keep his head up and keep his confidence. That can be tough, and just to see him respond and continue to grow and get better has been big for us.”

On how hard it is for Freshmen to adjust to doing more besides scoring:

“Coming out of high school, it’s always tough because you’re scoring twenty points, scoring thirty points, and you get highlight tapes and stuff like that and that’s what it’s all about. The glue guys, the guy who gets the rebounds and stuff like that don’t really get that much praise in high school, but in college, those are the things that affect winning, those are the things college coaches look for. So, I think it’s just them needing to change their mindset when they come in. It’s also a bit of a lack of knowledge about what the college game is like, so once they figure that out, when we get them on the floor to get their minutes, they’ll be better able to help the team.”

On if he would like to see more or less minutes:

“I’ll do whatever my team needs me to do, honestly. If Coach feels I need to play 33 minutes a game, I’ll play 33. 40, I’ll play 40. It doesn’t really matter, but I think going forward, as my young guys continue to play how they’ve been playing, and improve how they’ve been improving, I think my minutes will go down.”

On how impressed he’s been with Yves Pons:

“Yves is a warrior. He’s very competitive, a lot like myself. He doesn’t back down, he’s constantly trying to protect the rim, and at 6’7 he’s averaging almost three blocks a game, which is amazing. So, just to see him do that and the improvements that he’s made has been awesome.”

 

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