Tennessee HC Rick Barnes. Photo by Andrew Ferguson/ Tennessee Athletics.
Tennessee basketball closed its regular season with a 79-70 loss at Neville Arena at Auburn. The Vols and Tigers were neck-and-neck for 35 minutes before Auburn took control of the game late.
The Vols’ defense was not close to their high standards as Auburn scored more points in the second half than they did in the first meeting between the two schools.
Here’s everything Rick Barnes said after Tennessee’s fifth straight road loss.
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On where Tennessee missed Zakai Zeigler the most in the loss
“I thought Santi (Vescovi), we were concerned he might get in a situation where he would over-dribble a little bit. But some of it was because we weren’t executing the way we needed to do all the time on offense. But I thought he played as hard as you can possibly play. But we had some good things there. We just had way, way, way too many defensive breakdowns in areas that we haven’t in a long time. I thought coming out of halftime our defense wasn’t very good at all. But we fought back, we were in position. You expect coming into games, both teams to play the way they play, it’s going to come down to the last couple minutes. Then we had too many turnovers coming down the stretch, where you know you’ve got to get a shot. Overall, we’ve got enough guys that can handle the ball and do what we need to do. You’ll always miss guy like Zakai, but that’s not why we lost the game today.”
On what he didn’t like about the defense in the second half
“Just too many dribble-penetration layups. Not rebounding the ball the way we need to consistently all the time. Tobe (Awaka) did a great job (rebounding) in a short amount of time with it. But just the fact that deflections, we weren’t aggressive on the ball the way we needed to be. We normally get more deflections to get out. It shows, we had no fast break points, tells you that we’re not aggressive enough. Because that’s where we need to get deflections and get out in the open court. But a number of different things. Where we left the ball, just gave up too many easy baskets. In a game like this, this time of year, you can’t give up easy baskets. And we gave them too many good looks at it.”
On what went wrong offensively in the final six minutes
“The execution. I thought guys, again, we don’t have a problem with guys on their back if they can them, back them down but if you do that you have to get a shot and you certainly can’t turn it over. Again, I thought we over dribbled. I thought we stood around. We were, we always are all year long so much better when we’re moving and cutting and getting the ball moving as opposed to isolations, and we don’t do it a lot but when we do do it, we have to get something out of it.”
On Tyreke Key
“I thought Tyreke did a good job. I thought Julian getting back, I thought Tyreke’s demeanor, everything was really good but, again, I thought Tyreke and Julian gave us really quality minutes. Again, in the first half we just had too many mental mistakes with our gameplan. Fouling areas we didn’t want to foul. Again, same stuff they ran in Knoxville they ran here but getting our hands up, deflections— we didn’t have it.”
On why Olivier Nkamhoua played less in the second half
“Rebounding. He’s got to rebound and defend. That’s the biggest thing he’s got to do and we know he wants to do it. It’s gotta be his mindset and Tobe, I thought, gave us that. Uros, I thought, played hard. Jonas, I thought he did. I think Olivier plays hard but you asked me what we need and we need that defensive rebounding consistently out of him.”
On the mental lapses being concerning
“Yeah because we haven’t had them much. Again, but you have to understand it’s maybe only a couple guys. I’ll have a better idea of it when I watch the tape, but my mindset here is I know that a couple guys were involved with it where I didn’t think they were locked in the way they need to be locked in on the defensive end.”
On the ball movement being an adjustment after Zakai’s injury
“No. Just movement. Getting guys moving and cutting and getting downhill. Doing a lot of good things with it and, again, at the end of the game as opposed to staying together connected the way we need to, and again, we have guys that we think can back down and do it but if you’re going to do that, you’re going to dribble that much, you have to get something out of it. You certainly can’t turn it over. You can’t trip. You can’t. Those are big plays and it’s not the fact that they don’t want to do the right thing but if we’re going to go through that we have to be productive with it.”