Rick Barnes full postgame transcript after Vols beat Gators

UT coach Rick Barnes / Credit: Jeff Jacoby - WNML
UT coach Rick Barnes / Credit: Jeff Jacoby – WNML

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes

(Opening statement)
“That was the best 20 minutes we have played all year on both ends of the court. We were really being aggressive and swarming on the defensive end. We kept our offense moving and we really played a terrific first half.”

“We have team that I don’t know if they have ever had a lead like that. It’s hard to play with a lead like that if you have never had it before.

“We got careless with it, started to turn the ball and just not executing. It goes back to what we have always tried talked about. Our defense definitely got that lead for us but then we allowed the offensive end for us to start turning the ball over.

“It was a great win for us. I am really happy for our guys. Again, without question it’s the best game we have played all year and certainly the best 20 minutes we have played all year.”

(On if he expected the team to come out hot)
“I don’t really know. I stopped doing it a long time ago, trying to wonder if a team’s ready before the game. You never know. There’s times when I’ve thought our team would be ready to play through the years, and we weren’t. Other nights, we just didn’t feel good, and they just come out and explode. I think this group of guys, they’ve worked hard. We still know we’ve got a long way to go, but tonight was a good night for us.”

(On the decision to start the game with a smaller lineup)
“We knew they would show their pressure. We wanted to have some ball handlers there, and we knew that we could open up the court a little bit. Mike [White] does a really nice with his team. They’re aggressive. They defend. Like him, I’m not happy with the fact that we had 12 turnovers in the second half. We’re going to mix our lineups all year. We didn’t really decide what we’re going to do until this afternoon.”

(On if he’s ever started a lineup that small)
“I don’t think so. I’d have to think long and hard about it. Maybe when I was at George Mason. I don’t think I even did that. I think we had a 6’8″ or 6’9″ guy. I’d have to think long and hard about it.”

(On outrebounding Florida)
“We knew that we were going to have to swarm and be active, and really force as many shots as we could. They’re smart. They were going to try to play over top, and we had to get in there. It’s harder to score there than you think, when you’ve got five guys standing around your legs and there’s not a lot of room to work. We did a good job of coming up with some loose balls early. We got out in the open court and we ran, and we were sharing the ball. Really, it was by far and away our best defensive effort.”

(On Kevin Punter Jr. coming out in attack mode)
“We want to see that. He got a little tired there at the end. Like I’ve said to you before, he’s still learning how to play that position. One of his turnovers wasn’t really his fault. He was ready to get into an offense, and his teammates weren’t ready there. He was getting all the pressure, and that’s where he needs help. He didn’t get it there a couple times.”

(On the importance of Kevin Punter Jr.’s confidence)
“He’s a scorer. You guys probably know that a lot more than me. You’ve seen him two years now. It goes back, and I just think he works hard. I think he’s a confident guy, and he’s got a really good mid-range game. He’s a guy you talk about getting into the lane area, into the belly of the lane, and he’s good at it. He gets in there. He’s got long arms. He can get the ball up with somewhat of a high release. He spends a lot of time working in that area.”

(On how difficult it was to start such a small lineup)
“One, you want to also try to get off to a good start. You’re thinking experience-wise. You know, can we get the most experienced team out there? The other thing is, I think we’ve got some athletic guys. We knew that we were going to have to shrink the court, because we knew they were going to try to play over top of us.

“They missed some shots, but it’s tight in there. It is. We were aggressive, and we were breaking the ball loose a little bit. A couple times in the first half, it looked like there were eight guys within a three foot area.

“I thought both teams battled. We knew we were going to have to try to keep it from going over top. That was the big thing, so we knew our backside defense would be important. We know they like to drive, and they do a great job of getting downhill. We did a really good job in the first half of plugging gaps and getting back. They made some threes.

“All I can tell you is that it’s the best that we’ve played, and I thought it was the best communication we’ve had as a team all year until we started turning the ball over. I thought we were really locked in. We just got sloppy with it.

“I told our guys I’ve got a lot of respect for Mike [White] and what he does. They’re not going to go away. They started smelling it a little bit. We came out and actually got lucky. They missed a pretty good look at it. I think we got fouled and came down and made some free throws, but we went through a period at the start of the half where we needed to score. [Kevin Punter Jr.] shot across the baseline there. It was a big shot to get us going in the second half.”

(On spending more time working on defense and that paying off)
“We have to play both offense and defense. We know that we’re going to struggle at times defensively, so we have to be a really efficient offensive team. And I think that we can put guys on the floor that can really score the ball, I really do. I think we can do that, and I think we can score in the paint. We played tonight the way that you have to play in this league to win, by defending. And we still have to get better, we really do.”

(On Armani Moore’s performance)
“I thought he was terrific in the first half, and I think he can be the ultimate glue guy, the guy that can really tie it all together and keep it moving, keep it flowing. I think he’s pressing offensively. I think at the free throw line, it’s strictly mental. He’s a competitor, and he get frustrated, but he’s a senior now, he has to mature about it. Players go through slumps. But in the first half I thought he was terrific. I thought he got in the low post, had some great passes, and really picked it apart for us down there. He got us some easy baskets with his passing.”

(On Admiral Schofield’s defense on Florida’s big men)
“I think he’s getting better. He still has to mature a little more and understand the game better, but he did a good job of wallowing up, and trying to get down where we could get down and dig it out down there, and get it to where we could block shots. It has to be a team defense where one guy has to try to stay between the ball and the basket and another guy has to take up the space, and the guards have to come down and rebound.”

(On Schofield’s work ethic helping his product on the court)
“I think that everybody knows that there is nobody on the floor that isn’t capable of making a three-point shot.Tonight we did a really good job continuing to move because they switched a lot, especially one through four. But Admiral, he’s in here all the time. He wants to be a good player. I don’t there any secret to it. The more you put into something, the better you’ll be at it.”

(On fixing defensive problems)
“Even after the Auburn game, I don’t think we played very well, and I told the guys, there’s little things, and we can fix them. It’s as simple as jumping to the ball. We weren’t doing that. Tonight was the first time we played a terrific team defense in the first half. Guys were getting to the gaps, guys were getting to the help line, they were working in the post. We have to have five guys moving all the time. We have to do a better job on our end keeping guys fresh because we’re asking them to play at the pace we want them to on offense and the energy that we have to put in on defense. We need our bench, we need everybody.”

(On opposing teams trying to force Kevin Punter to play defense)
“On defense, we switch, sometimes we switch one through five, we’ll go just try to work it out the best we can. I thought it was a big thing for him especially at the end of the game because they stayed up and pressed. The fact that he sat at the end of the first half with those fouls I think helped him in the second half, but I do think we’re still putting a lot on him. There’s no doubt that people are going to pressure him, some teams in the backcourt. But when he gets going downhill with the ball, he can make some difficult shots. There’s no doubt that people have gone after him.”

(On Schofield, Punter, and Hubbs getting the majority of shots)
“Yeah I think that’s a big thing because I still think we have to make the extra pass a few times. Robert took a shot right off the edge of the top of the key and KP was wide open on the wing, he’s got to get him that ball. I do think these guys are understanding more what they have to do and we just have to be more consistent.”

-UT Athletics


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