Everything Justin Gainey Said Ahead Of Tennessee’s Rematch With Vanderbilt

Justin Gainey

Tennessee associate head coach Justin Gainey met with the local media Monday ahead of the Vols’ midweek rematch. The Vols are looking for their 12th straight win over their instate rival after knocking off the Commodores 77-68 last month in Knoxville.

Gainey discussed the challenges of defending a Jerry Stackhouse coached team, Tennessee’s recent offensive struggles and much more.

Here’s everything Gainey said as the Vols prepare to face Vanderbilt.

“It is tough. Coach Stackhouse, he is one of the best in the country when you talk about Xs and Os and the depth of their playbook. It doesn’t get any tougher to guard. He is one of the toughest preps in league. They’re versatile. They have big that can stretch the floor. They can play a lot of different ways. (Myles) Stute at the four or five with (Jordan) Wright playing the four. Liam Robbins is coming back. He is a versatile scorer as you saw when he played here. He stepped out and made jumpers. He scored on the inside. Coach Stackhouse puts them in really great positions to be effective. It’ll be a challenging game. It will be a test for our defense. That’s for sure.”

“Just having our bigs guard on the perimeter. We will have them guarding guards sometimes where they have to pick up at halfcourt and then you have to guard. Putting them in difficult situations against smaller, quicker guys to make them move their feet is probably the best way to handle that and what we have kind of done. We will continue to get better in that area. I thought the Auburn game, they took on that challenge and followed the scouting report and did a good job of bouncing back and being better. Not perfect, but they were better and we continue to improve there.”

“I think it is important we get more out of everybody. You could put Tyreke Key in that boat. Now, Tobe (Awaka) is in the rotation. Tobe and Uros (Plavsic). I think as we start moving, we have to expect more from all the guys. That will allow us to not have those droughts that we have. Sometimes, those scoring shortages that we have sometimes. It would be great if those guys took another jump, which I full anticipate. I think it is a complete team effort. I think everybody, per man, if you go around and look at those two games, I think everybody could stand to take a jump.”

“His defense has been really good. He is a physical presence. He is probably one of the strongest guys on the team. You talk about low-post defense, it is going to be hard to move him around and get deep post-up on him. He will go and try and protect the rim and shot-block. On the defensive side of the ball, he continues to improve. Offensively, he is strong. He posts up low. He can post up deep. He is a force on that low block. Those two things have allowed him to be able to see more minutes and add more depth to our inside game.”

“His energy. He brought an energy and a pop off the bench. He is always going to guard. He did a great job getting to the offensive glass and just being active and being around the ball. He did a great job. His role continues to grow and he continues to get more confident. That is just another weapon that we have.”

On Tobe Awaka having another level to his offensive game

“I think he has to get comfortable. He has to get comfortable and confident within the game. And to be able to impose that side and show that side of him. I think Tobe will be a really good low-post scorer. In actuality, he should still be in high school right now if you think about when he came in and all that stuff. He is developing a great pace. He will be a good offensive threat on the inside. I think every game that he plays and every minute that he plays, he gets more comfortable there. I think you will start seeing it more and more.”

On if the offensive inconsistencies are concerning

“Obviously, yeah. You want to be making shots. But the thing is, we’re getting good looks. In the game, they feel like good looks. But when you go back on watch in on film, it proves to still be a good shot. It’s just a matter of knocking them down. I’m sure our guys are frustrated with it because they are good, clean looks. They work hard at those shots every single day. It’s not like we’re asking them to come out and make some miraculous-type shots. It’s a little frustrating, but I’ve got confidence in our guys and our group. We’re going to continue to work to get good shots and they’re going to knock those down. I have total belief and total faith in it.”

On trying to work out the offensive woes against Vanderbilt

“Obviously it’s a rivalry game. In-state rivalry. They’re well-coached. Coach (Jerry) Stackhouse does an amazing job. They always play us close. They’re a really good team. They’ve been playing well this season. So yeah, it will obviously be a tough one, but we’re going to continue to work to get good shots. We believe that those shots will fall. We’ve got good shooters, we’ve got guys that can score the ball. We feel like just keep doing what we’re doing and those shots are going to fall.”

On what Florida and Auburn did to affect Tennessee’s offense

“They were similar in the sense of they tried to really make it tough on the perimeter for us, and didn’t really help much. We still feel like we got what we wanted. We got the shots that we wanted and that’s kind of the defense we’ve been playing (against) all year. It doesn’t feel like it was anything schematically, from a defensive standpoint, that they did. We got what we wanted, the shots we wanted, the looks we got. I mean, think about the Olivier (Nkamhoua) layup where it was uncontested. Those are great shots. It just didn’t fall. We feel great that those shots are going to fall for us as we continue to move forward.”

On if they worry about players pressing offensively after two poor games

“I don’t. I think we have a mature group. We have a group that has been through a lot. They believe in each other. The positive talk that you hear in the locker room, that you hear in the huddles, doesn’t lead me to believe guys will start pressing. I think if anything, it will encourage the guys to continue to work on their craft and work on it extra and also in practice.”

On what Florida and Auburn did to slow Zakai Zeigler down

“I think Florida, the length at the rim was probably one of the differences for him. I don’t think the Auburn game, I think he just missed shots. I thought Florida, it was (Colin) Castleton’s length at the rim. Some of those shots where he normally gets all the way to the basket and lays it up. (Castleton) was able to get off of our big and kind of contest it at the rim and block some. That was unique. Castleton is a really good player, a unique player with his length and shot-blocking capability. I didn’t think Auburn’s defense did anything to fluster him. Those shots that he took, those are shots that he normally makes.”

On the pride he takes in this team’s defense

“Really proud of our guys .They have completely bought in to being the best defensive team in the country and competing on that end day in and day out. Kudos to them, that regardless of what happens on the offensive end, they stay true to their identity and continue to compete on the defensive side and don’t let that side of the ball slip. So, proud of the guys, proud of the effort. Obviously we want perfection and there’s a lot of things that we can clean up within our defense, continue to work on. We’ll watch (it) today on film, we’ll drill it in practice as we prepare for Vanderbilt.”

Author: Ethan Moore