Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee’s eight game winning streak came to an end Saturday night as No. 9 Arizona knocked off the Vols, 75-70, at the McKale Center in Tucson.
The Vols led by as much as seven in the first half but Arizona used a strong close to the half to even the game at halftime. The Wildcats jumped out to a strong lead in the second half before Tennessee used a comeback to cut its deficit to one-point in the final minutes.
Tennessee had three possessions with a chance to take the lead but couldn’t get shots to go as Arizona held on to win the second game in the home-and-home series.
Arizona got to the free throw line 27 times while Tennessee got there just 10 times— a statistic that Vols’ head coach Rick Barnes was not happy with postgame.
Here’s everything Barnes said in the Vols’ second loss of the season.
More From RTI: Rick Barnes Unhappy With Uros Plavsic Antics
On what went wrong once Tennessee cut the deficit to one
“Well Tyreke, we isolated there, set a screen for what we call a little notch action, didn’t do it. He was waiting on it and Uros went to do it and that was a big turnover right there. I think we had a chance to actually take the lead right there. Then we had some looks, we had some pretty good looks at it right there. It broke down on the defensive end. I thought too much on the back door cut. Fouling 45 feet from the basket. They’re an inside team. They’re going to do what they did there but we didn’t have enough guys have good enough nights, I think offensively. And then some of them are players that have been very consistent on the defensive end and had some breakdowns at the wrong time. Even at the start of the game we overhelped and gave their best shooter a wide open three to start the game. We’re better than that but give Arizona credit. It was a hard fought game which you knew it would be. When you go on the road and you guys know that. Coming down the stretch in a possession game like that you can not, can’t turn it over the way we did and you can’t have the defensive breakdowns. That’s simply sometimes just fouling and putting guys on the free throw line.”
On the free throw discrepancy
“I have a lot of respect for these three officials. I’ve known them for a long time but not real happy because I didn’t see it that way. And I don’t want to take anything away from Arizona. We were going inside as much as they were and I don’t know. I don’t know what to say other than I thought a couple plays at the end— it’s going to be tough for us to look at. I know when we get that on tape it’s going to be tough to look at them with our players. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Arizona because in games like this they’re hard fought and I know those guys are trying to work hard but that one play at the end where Santi went down the court and all three guys said they didn’t see it. That’s tough to take at that point in time. Like I said, I’ve got great respect for those guys. I’ve been around them but certainly there was a wide difference in free throws tonight.”
On the postgame scuffle
“I didn’t see what happened. I’m not happy with Uros. I’m not happy with his antics. Honestly, I’m really tired of it because I think it hurts our team. We want him to be hard nosed, physical but we don’t need the antics. He’s got to be more mature than that. We were up six, he gets a technical foul and people look at him and they see it. At the end of the game, I don’t know what happened. I haven’t talked to anybody about it.”
On Tennessee’s response to Arizona’s physicality
“I thought Olivier played really hard, I do. Tobe certainly did it. Uros can do that. Jonas, we don’t expect him to be physical, but he can’t go 1-for-5. And his first shot every night can’t be a 3-point shot, especially in a game like that. He can shoot the ball, but he still doesn’t understand. He’s not in sync with what we’re doing and understand. Like I told him, when we’re out there with three guards, we need our guards taking those shots. We need our big guys playing the role we need them to play. I thought Tobe went out and battled really, really hard. He’s going to just keep getting better and better.”
“I think physically we certainly should be able to go up against anybody. Early in the game, again, too many breakdowns in the post. Fronting them, getting on the high side, which we knew they were going to throw it across. We knew they’re going to score inside. They’re too good of an inside team. That’s what they do. But that’s not what beat us. The inside play is not what beat us. What were they, (24 of 27) at the free-throw line? The fact that we started the game, we had three offensive charges, which were just us being out of control. Technical fouls. Just things that we can’t do. And in the end, like I said, we had too many defensive breakdowns at the end with guys that you guys know can play defense. Some of that could be fatigue, too. I thought that was the case in the Maryland game. It could be (at Arizona). But when we’re down, we have to try to keep our best offensive players out there, who happen to be our best defensive guys, too. We just need to get more consistency from some guys. There are some guys that are obviously struggling right now to make shots. We’re a good basketball team. You come in here, and I didn’t think we played great. I know we’re better. And we were still in position to win the game. Just a couple really silly turnovers and a couple really hard breakdowns on the defensive end at the wrong time.”
On Olivier Nkamhoua being so productive on the offensive end
“Olivier is a good player. If he would just settle in and get consistent with what we need him to do, he’ll do that. He wants to win. He’s strong, he’s physical. Nobody is going to play perfect. But he took the challenge. We knew they were going to go inside. Again, they’re a good offensive team. But ‘O,’ if he gets back and just consistently does what we need him to do, it’s just going to make us that much better. Because I know other guys are going to come around and do what we need them to do.”
On what needs to happen for Julian Phillips to get going
“He’s got to slow down. He’s a typical freshman where — terrific player, great teammate, but I think when you’re struggling, you think you have to do it on the offensive end as opposed to getting locked in defensively. That’s a huge key where when you’re struggling on the offensive end, you’ve got to get going (defensively). Games like this, referees, and I get it, they’re not going to bail guys out going away from the basket. If you’re going to go in there and drive the ball hard, you’re going to have to go up through people. He drove the ball in the first half and tried to lean away against a seven-footer that blocked his shot, but if you’re going to go — early with his charge, it was never there. He had already made up his mind and he’s a good offensive player. He’s just got to slow down on the offensive end. He’s got to do that for us and the way he can do it is by putting his thought — and he can shoot it, but that’s all he’s thinking about because there’s so much pressure on you as a player. He’s just got to get lost on the defensive end.”
On Arizona’s 15 second-chance points to Tennessee’s two
“They’re big and a good rebounding team. They had a couple early in the half where there’s some battles going on where their guards came up with some, too. With all that, we had two great looks at the end when we could have tied it or gone up and then, the big guy made two free throws and I think he’s about 50% on the year. We have a chance to be a really special team if we’ll keep learning and get everybody to play their role, do what they need to do and just keep getting better because it’s a long way. We’re just getting started. This game will help us. We come in here and they’re a top-10 team and again, we had chances. We had plenty of chances. Even when we got down, I thought there was no panic on the part of our team. They found ways when they had to. It just wasn’t enough at the end. All those things that happened at the end, we can fix. We can fix it. We can’t maybe fix making shots, but if we would have defended and not fouled 45-feet from the basket. Back-cuts Those kind of things, who knows, but we’ll learn from it.”