Rick Barnes Monday Press Conference Transcript (2.10.20)

On his takeaways from the Kentucky game:
“We talked a lot about some of the defensive things that we always would break down, but we go back where we feel, again, our offense is allowing too many easy plays that we can’t defend. The fact that we still give away too many offensive possessions where we can’t get a better shot, we’ve got to work towards getting a better shot. We talked about getting off to a better start, so we need our bench, because there’s no doubt that I thought we had guys that played too many minutes. But, when you’re behind and you’re trying to get back in the game and you know you’re playing against a team that can explode on you as I think that any team in our league can, we don’t want to put our bench players into a situation where they’re the ones trying to play catch up. When you’re always trying to catch up and they go in, their minutes can be magnified because of simple mistakes that most people wouldn’t see, that we see. So, we talked about how much we need our bench to help us so we can cut down some minutes there. From a basketball standpoint, offensively we can be better, and there’s no doubt that our guys played hard. There is no doubt. They made the effort, they made the effort on the defensive end, and if you think about it, they’re a really tough team to defend with their balance. But we know we can get better and we’re going to have to get better.”

Credit: UT Athletics

On Arkansas’ recent losses and how they are different since Isaiah Joe’s injury:
“When I’ve watched them all year, I think Coach (Musselman) has done a great job. Eric has just done a great job coaching, he really has. They’re aggressive, they drive the ball really hard, they obviously lost a key player (Joe) that shoots the ball, and that you had to give a lot of attention to. But, he still has them being aggressive, they’re a really terrific defensive team. They really get in that gap heavily and make plays in the gap and they really turn you over, and when they do, I think they’re terrific at getting out and getting those baskets and making you pay there, so again it goes back to ball security, but I think he’s come in and done a terrific job with them. Again, they lost a terrific player, but I’ve watched them for many years, and he knows what he’s doing and he’s going to make the adjustments that he needs to make with this team.”

On past players who, like Uros Plavsic, he needed to be more physical and how you coach that:
“The most recent would be Kyle Alexander. Kyle was the same player. I think Uros can continue to get a strength program under him, but then it becomes a mentality, too. There’s no doubt he’s got to get stronger, but I do think he’s stronger than Kyle was at the same time. I think right now, it’s him developing the mentality himself that he’s got to be willing to be more physical, and we just played against a guy that I think has done just that in Nick Richards. I think he’s a guy that over his time has continued to get more and more physical. And it takes time sometimes, but there’s no doubt in our minds that Uros won’t try to do what we need him to do.”

On how he helped Santiago Vescovi adjust to help turnovers:
“A lot of things have adjusted for him I think. For one, he has gotten himself into better shape, that’s where it started. There’s no doubt he can shoot the ball, he has a great feel for the game, he’s competitive, he sees everything really well, he knows he’s going to have to get better defensively. I think some of his breakdowns on Saturday were because of fatigue, but he’s going to have to improve there, and he will. I don’t think there’s any part of what he is doing that hasn’t gotten better. I also don’t think there’s any question that he will continue to get better because he loves the game. He works at it and he truly wants to be as good as he can be.”

On the pace of play of his team so far this season:
“No question we want to play faster. It goes back to our point guards pushing the tempo and not just our point guards, but just our guards in general. We have told them all that if they get a rebound that they can go with it. Certainly, Jordan Bowden along with Josiah (James) and Santi (Vescovi), but yes, we would like to play at a quicker pace than we are playing.”

On the impact of missing Josiah James’ rebounding:
“There’s nothing harder to guard then a guy that gets the rebound and comes out with it. That’s really hard because that guy comes out with the ball, not taking time to look to pass it and just advancing it. When you have guards who can rebound and go, it puts a lot of pressure on your transition defense. And Josiah, who I think might have been our leading rebounder and at the time might have been our leading three-point shooter, he’s a guy that was certainly shooting the ball well for us, and we miss him. Somebody asked me that night about Lamonte (Turner), we miss what Lamonte would have brought. But those things happen, it happened at Arkansas, it happens at other places around the country with teams. It puts some younger guys in positions to where they are probably going to have do more than they maybe thought or expected or what we really thought or expected. If you look at the numbers we are being outrebounded, and one or two games can skew those numbers but as long as I think we are getting better at the areas we need to improve on like right now it’s guarding the basketball.”

On Jordan Bowden’s performance defensively:
“Terrific, when you think about he and Yves Pons, they play as hard as any two guys you will see in this league. And I just think when Jordan struggles it’s when he tries to do too much. We haven’t asked him to go out their score tons or go out and do this or that. We just want him to play in the flow of what we are doing. He’s had some looks that I’m sure he thinks he should make, and everybody thinks he should and that’s part of it. But, overall defensively I don’t think we can complain about him in any game this year.”

On Josiah’s Injury
“He’s still day-to-day.”

On struggle of younger players getting major minutes
You just said it, you do struggle with it. I believe in those guys, but I also know this, if you put them in a situation where it is high level and they don’t do something well, it could set them back two to three weeks. I thought Davonte (Gaines) went in the other night and he was dribbling the ball down the floor, he got it tipped from behind, then he picked it up and threw a cross court pass, those type of plays, you can quickly see their body language change that we see every day. So now we’ve got to get them out, because we don’t want it to keep going. We put guys in and we are so alert at their body language because we’re around them all the time. We can tell when they’re tittering a little bit. That’s a tough thing as a coach and as a coaching staff. We’re all locked in here together.

“What I was saying earlier, if you get behind early against a team you know has the ability to go on spurts. A ten-point lead can get to sixteen or eighteen really quick and then you’re really fighting back uphill. You know you have starters out there that are tired and you want to rotate them out. Now you’re really concerned about putting these guys in where there’s a lot at stake. That’s where sometimes we get into extended minutes, but it’s tough and you struggle with it. The fact of the matter is in our trust level. Can we trust you to go in and do your job and not try to think you got to do something that you don’t have to do? It works both ways to be quite honest with you. Like Olivier (Nkamhoua) didn’t play at all in the first half and we thought he was terrific in the second and that’s hard to do. He knows he had a lot of opportunities earlier in the year and he’ll continue to have those opportunities. Uros (Plavsic), you watch him throughout the game. He did some things but he went through some spurts too. Yves (Pons) right now is very comfortable playing next to Fulkerson on the front line. So, when you play that bigger lineup, Yves goes to the perimeter. Now you’re dealing with two different scenarios there where Yves really likes to be around the rim. He feels he can be more effective blocking shots, which we know he can. When he’s playing on the perimeter, he’s got to come further to make those type things happen. It’s just where we are right now and what we have to work through. We really are looking for consistency with those younger guys. Can we count on them or can we not? The fact of the matter is that we have to continue to develop them, and that’s what we have to do.”

On Santiago’s (Vescovi) experience with the NBA Global Academy and how it’s helped him at UT:
“You know, I think being away from home for a few years like he has been and being able to travel, there’s no doubt that it brings a level of maturity. But, simply being away from home has really helped with that. He played against good competition and it’s a different game and I think some people are still surprised that he’s only 18 years old. What he’s done is really next to remarkable. When you really think about it. For a guy to have three practices and when you think about it, we have two guys on our roster that weren’t on our active roster when the season started. Both of those guys are still figuring it out, but what Santiago has done, there’s not a lot of guys that can do that. For him to come in and do what he’s done is remarkable. He’s still learning. There are things that we will do out of a timeout that we take for granted and he’ll look at me and say ‘what do you want me to do?’ I’ll tell him and it’s amazing. He’ll do it. It’s really remarkable. There were a couple of things we wanted to do if Kentucky was going to stay in their zone that he hadn’t done yet, because of all of the other things he’s trying to catch up with, but you tell him one time and he can figure it out.”

On having home-and-homes with three SEC foes in the last month:
“I think it can be both more and less difficult. There will be adjustments from both teams when you play that quickly against one another. If you asked me at this time of the year I would probably say it’s easier, because you’re into a routine and you can recall it pretty quickly. The fact is we have a lot of tough games that are opportunities and we need to be prepared to try to take advantage of it.”

On whether he prefers to play Saturday/Tuesday games or Saturday/Wednesday games:
“It doesn’t really matter either way when you look at it. If we played on Wednesday, Sunday would be there day off. When you play on Tuesday like we are now, Wednesday is there day off. It doesn’t matter to me, but I bet if you ask the players I would say they would prefer the Tuesday games. I haven’t asked them. In some ways you look at it like you get more rest when you play on a Tuesday, with their day off being during the week. I know we’ve played four or five weeks in a row on a Tuesday. Last year I don’t think we did it at all, but I don’t think it really matters.”

On Jalen Johnson getting increased playing time in the last few games:
“There’s no doubt, with Josiah being out, there’s more minutes to be had. But, Jalen is working. He’s really trying to do the things we need him to do to help us win. He’s really working hard defensively. He’s making a conscious effort to rebound on both ends and that’s what we need him to do. The fact is I do think he’s more comfortable now that he’s gotten more minutes, but we need him to continue doing what he’s doing and to knock down some shots when he’s open.”


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