Rick Barnes Monday Press Conference Transcript (3.9.20)

On if this team plays like it practices:
“I think most teams do (play like they practice) to an extent. You build habits and you build the continuity that you’re looking for. But I don’t think that at this time of the year, you can be really bad in practice, and if you are, you just haven’t gotten it figured out yet, and we were bad on Thursday. And that’s what really bothered me. You start trying to analyze it and say that our guys start to have people feeling good about them, and they’re kids, and they can get caught up in it and they can lose focus, and the key is that you’ve got to be able to reset your focus. You’ve got to enjoy winning, and I’m probably not one of the better guys to do that, because I’m always thinking that we’ve got to get ready for the next one, and you try to let guys do that. But after a day off, too, you think about it, we should have been able to re-focus better than we did. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Auburn because they played great, but I was just really disappointed in the fact that with the momentum that we had built, we did what we did on Thursday. On Friday you can’t do much because it’s a big game, and you hope guys can maybe turn it around, but when you haven’t built those habits, you can’t.”

Credit: UT Athletics

On if he thinks Santiago Vescovi has hit a wall:
“I don’t know if he’s hit a wall. He’s turned down some shots that he needs to take, and I told him, ‘You’re going to have to take the open shots.’ He got two shots blocked where he was way too slow getting to the rim, and we need guys to take the shots that we talk about them taking. Regardless, his parents were here, and that’s got to be an emotional time for him. He was totally surprised that they were coming, and then they left on Sunday, and it has to be tough because they’re a close-knit family. But again, there’s a combination of a lot of things, but the fact is, what he’s done this year, I’ve said it many times, is pretty darn phenomenal.”

On how important it is to get good bench-play during tournament time:
“It goes back to Saturday again, it’s a crazy game sometimes. Olivier (Nkamhoua) had arguably one of his very best practices that he’s ever had on Thursday, I mean he looked like a totally different guy, and then he goes in the game on Saturday and looks nothing like how he practiced. It was the same thing with Ticket (Davonte Gaines). He had been playing really well, but he’s lost his grandfather, he’s been gone since Sunday and he’ll meet us in Nashville. I’m sure some of that weighed heavily on him, because he had been really terrific, but he wasn’t as locked in Saturday. Uros (Plavsic), it’s the same thing I’ve said before, I wish Uros could have had a full season where he could’ve had a chance to play more, but we’ve got to play him, and right now you either win or you go home, it’s pretty simple. We need those guys, and like I said, after every game you go through it, you second-guess yourself, you scrub it out any way you want to, and I just know that we need those guys going forward and I hope that they can understand the value of accepting the role that we need them to play. I think most freshmen, they validate themselves by scoring as opposed to playing defense, rebounding, taking care of the ball, and that’s where they have to begin. Once you begin there, the other things will take care of themselves.”

On playing zone defense:
“I don’t hate zone, I really don’t. It’s just because of what we’ve gone through this year trying to get Santi caught up and guys in and out of the lineup. We haven’t had time to do it. We haven’t had a chance. We have a zone. We could throw it out there. It’s not very good because I see what we do to it in practice. No, I don’t have a problem with zone. It’s just that there’s a lot of things that we weren’t able to get to this year. As I said before, if anybody would’ve played our zone in the first five or six conference games, Santi wouldn’t have been able to play. We were just trying to teach him our man offense. Again, during the game if somebody went zone we simplified as much as we could, but the zone package that we had, (Santi) probably didn’t get that totally grasped until the middle of last month. There were so many different things we were trying to get in with him. I don’t have a problem with it, we just haven’t had a chance to do a lot of things because of the injuries, guys going in and out of lineups, just trying to patch things together at times.”

On how different Alabama is with Herbert Jones in the lineup:
“He’s a guy that I think any coach would love to coach. He’s going to do the dirty work. You have to admire the fact that he’s wearing a cast and shooting the ball like he is with one hand. Again, he’s a guy that presents problems in a different way for you.”

On defending Alabama’s 3-point shots:
“Same thing, you have to get out there and you have to extend it. They probably have shot more threes than anyone in the league. They’ve got guys that can shoot it deep and then obviously you have to be subconscious of where different guys are on the floor. They spread you out. Then you have to still help your teammates, you have to get a hand up, you have to guard the 3-point line without fouling. That’s the situation where transition defense is so important because if you don’t get back and get set they can pop you early and often.”

On Josiah-Jordan James’ inconsistency through the past few games:
“He was one of the guys who played Saturday the way he practiced Thursday. I don’t understand it; I wish I did. I was as surprised as anybody because you felt like he had finally turned the corner where he was starting to get into a flow. I know he doesn’t do it intentionally, I know that. That goes back to maturity. It goes back to understanding how to take care of your body. The way you eat, the way you sleep, all that built up to it. I don’t think he’s got that part of it down yet and I don’t think he understands how that part affects him more than he might know. I hope he’s learned that lesson. I’m like you, there wasn’t a person on the floor that was better than him at Kentucky. Then he came back after that, had practice, and we were like what’s going on?”

On where what Yves has done ranks in his coaching career:
“Obviously, I think he’s the Defensive Player of the Year, because when you think about us taking him off the court; think about the number of ‘fix it’ plays he’s had for our team. When we’ve struggled staying in front of the ball or in other areas of the floor, he’s had more ‘fix-it’ plays than any guy we’ve coached in a long time. For a guy of his size to go out and make those plays—and he takes great pride and joy in doing it. He’s had to guard all five positions in this league, he’s not afraid to do it and we’re not afraid to put him in those spots. But, it’s his ‘fix-it’ plays that I think make him the Defensive Player of the Year. We’re not a gambling team on defense, where we’re trying to get a lot of steals. I think a lot of people look at steals, where some guys get Player of the Year awards where they don’t really defend, but just steal the ball. To me that’s not what a Defensive Player of the Year is. Yves is a guy that not only can guard every position on the floor, but his ability to help his teammates at so many different levels is what makes him so impressive to me.”

On if the team has changed since playing Alabama in February:
“I do think we’re a bit different obviously. I felt like the way we played on Saturday we looked like the team that played back in January. I was just not very happy watching the tape on both ends of the floor. It’s baffling to be quite honest with you. I think you are who you are right now. Where we are right now, it’s hard for me to say we’ve improved. Before Saturday’s game I felt we had improved a lot. I know we have, but it’s just so baffling to know that we can revert back to the mentality we had. We still have a lot to play for and for us not to respond better mentally is so frustrating and disappointing.”

On what it would mean to see John Fulkerson named an All-Conference player:
“John is a guy who on Saturday was not as good as he can be on the defensive end. He had multiple defensive breakdowns, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I think John is an All-Conference SEC Player. I don’t know if many can truly appreciate—you all might, because you all have seen all the things we’ve had to deal with this year—for him to go from where he was a year ago, to becoming a focal point of team’s schemes and continuing to go get his every night. There’s no doubt he can get worn down some. You know he’s getting tired when he misses his assignments. His rotations and other things we need him to do defensively aren’t where they need to be. Some of that can be placed on me by not getting out of the game more, but he has gotten better with battling through fatigue. He’s never really been a player to do that and this year he’s done a good job of trying to kick it and get through it. But, the way he’s finished the year is as good as anyone in the league. So, I do think he’s worthy of that honor.”

On if he thinks that they have a good defense, or if some of the breakdowns worry him:
“I think we have a good team defense when everyone is doing their job. Jordan Bowden and Yves Pons are guys we can consistently count on. To be a good defensive player you have to take your specific matchup personally. If you don’t, I don’t think you can be a great defensive player. But, with that said, collectively you can be a good defensive team if everyone takes care of their assignment. Collectively I think we’re a really good defensive team and we have two or three guys when they’re really locked in are really good for us. The great defensive teams have five guys who take it personal, we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

On if there’s benefit to playing in the early time slot when needing to make a tournament run:
“I think so. I remember Bruce told me last year that he felt it was a big advantage that they got to play early and had longer to rest. I haven’t looked at it that much, but I would say playing early gives you more rest time in a tournament when you’re advancing and the more you can get off of your feet the better.”

 

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