Everything Rick Barnes Said Following Tennessee’s Victory At LSU

Rick Barnes

Rick BarnesPhoto By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee jumped out to a quick lead over LSU and coasted to a, 77-56, victory over the Tigers Saturday afternoon.

The Vols rained in three-pointers in the first half against LSU and Zakai Ziegler took complete control of the game posting his second double-double of his college career and this month.

Here’s everything Rick Barnes said on the lopsided victory.

More From RTI: Three Quick Takeaways On Tennessee Basketball’s Victory At LSU Saturday

On going with a smaller lineup with Uros Plavsic out

“Yeah, we had made up our minds the last two days. We had tried to go with it. First of all, really proud of our guys. We have a bunch of guys under the weather right now. Santi (Vescovi) was not feeling good. Did very little in practice yesterday and tried. Julian (Phillips) wasn’t feeling great. Obviously got some other guys, Uros, other guys that haven’t felt well. Really proud of them, the way they came in and fought through it.”

“I thought it was good. Early in the game I didn’t think we had any physical presence inside, the way we need it with that lineup. But we should still be able to do it. We certainly got guys that can shoot the ball at all five positions. Defensively, for the most part, did a pretty good job when we got the lead. The last 10 minutes of the game, they pretty much just drove the ball at us and we didn’t do the best of jobs that we need to do.”

On winning two road games this week while dealing with injuries and illness

“I’m proud of these guys, I really am. Simply because we haven’t been able to do a lot of what we like to do in practice with it. These guys, Josiah, we’ve really sort of kind of tried to use the games to get him where he needs to be with his cardio. Today, I thought he did a good job. He came out early … I do think he helps Julian and Santi and  ‘Z’ being on the court, because they’ve played a lot — other than Julian — of basketball together. What I told these guys, we’re a good basketball team right now, but we’ve got to get a lot better. Whatever we need to do, we need to all get better. Coaches have to get better, players have to get better, because there’s a lot of basketball left. We can’t stay pat where we’re at right now.”

On Tyreke Key coming off the bench, what he liked about his play at LSU

“I thought he was terrific. Tyreke is one of those guys that has been under the weather. You know what, early in the game, they were out-rebounding us. He and Julian probably changed the rebounding. Tyreke went and got three big offensive rebounds. I thought he took some great, balanced shots. Worked hard defensively. He’ll play more minutes. I probably should’ve put him out there more tonight, too. Santi, I didn’t realize he played as many minutes as he played. Santi really wasn’t feeling well at all. But I’m proud of both Tyreke and Santi because they, again, they both have been sick. Tyreke coming back from being sick last game and not playing at all. Coming back out, I thought he was really good.”

On the amount of different lineups used in practice being preparation for games where players are out

“Yeah, I think so. And the fact that we always talk about roles, different lineups. We know there is a lot that can go on throughout a basketball season. Like I’m proud of Jahmai Mashack. I think he’s going to continue to get better and more comfortable out there. But you look at what we have and the way we do practice, we do mix and match it. But one thing is, I go back to preseason, Zakai was normally on what would be the gray team. The first group would probably be the orange team. The gray team is just so competitive because of those guys wanting to compete. We just flip them over a little bit. I have been impressed that for the most part, the growth of Jonas (Aidoo) and Tobe (Awaka). You get Uros back and then you get ‘O’ (Olivier Nkamhoua). Again, I know we need ‘O’ to do more than he did today, and he will. I think all that we’ve gone through throughout the season has given us a chance to play different guys and get them minutes. And we, as a coaching staff, have confidence in every guy we have on our team if they go out and do exactly what we know they’re capable of doing.”

On facing seven first year coaches in a nine game stretch

“I have great respect for coaches. It’s hard. This is a hard — we’re all dealt different hands at different times. I think of the coaches in the league that are new and trying to certainly build programs, the SEC is in great hands with them. We had a big turnover and we have a new wave of coaches coming in and you watch them, there’s so many good schemes going on and it’s really neat watching. My staff does an unbelievably good job of scouting. They spend weeks ahead of time to start getting ready for teams and to try to know what we need to do to help our players. The fact is with our time, like Uros (Plavsic), we were going to make this (starting lineup) change whether he was healthy or not, but he was fine last night and texting all of the coaches wanting to know all of the plays. Wanting to know exactly what he needed to do when he went into the game. That speaks volumes to our players. They want to win and they want to get better. They pull for each other at an extremely high level which is great and I just think again, we keep talking this time of year the more leadership we can get from within and those guys talking and doing things. I thought (Zakai Zeigler) got a little tired today. A couple times at the end when we were in that area where you have to continue to play but also work the game, and we weren’t great on offense, we got deep into the shot clock a little bit. It’s a tough game to manage like that, but every minute he’s out there at the point like that, he’s going to get better. With as much as different situations as he’s going to see, but again, have a very unselfish team. We really do. We’ve got a group of guys that are very unselfish and they’ll come back and we’ll get ready. I can promise you this. They’ll compete against each other every day in practice.”

On if he feels like Julian Phillips is hitting his stride

“I do. I do. We have to keep him aggressive. He’s got to — first play of the game, we ran something to get him going and he took a not a very good shot to be honest with you. And then a foul he can’t commit that early in the game. Then he came down, his second foul, he grabbed the guy, just wrapped him up. As a group, we’ve got to stop fouling. We don’t want to lose our aggressive on defense, but we’ve got to stop fouling. We foul way too much.”

On why now was the right time to change the lineup

“We’re getting to the halfway point and this is a team we really thought we would play with early in the year and the fact that Josiah was a key component that was missing from it. Tyreke has certainly come in and Julian has come in and played themselves right into the middle of the lineup. Zakai, whether he starts or comes off the bench, he’s going to do what he does. Santi, again got hurt again in the Kentucky game, missed a game, has been sick. He battled today, I was impressed with him because he was not feeling good but he still impacted the game defensively. We’re going to still play whatever the game calls for. Whether we need to get big, we can get big, but Josiah normally can guard anybody on the court. I thought he got fatigued today in the second half a little bit. Otherwise, we don’t think we’re giving up a lot of physicality with our small lineup.”

On why he feels like this team can still get so much better

“Because I’ve been with them a long time and what I do know, to get to where we want to go we have to get better. January is not the time to stall. It’s not the time to think, we’re okay it’s just going to happen. It won’t happen unless we make it happen. We still have to get consistent. We still can get so much more out of our frontline. We will because they care and they want to do it. You’re in the end of January now and it’s time to put it down and know that we have to get better.”

On Zakai Zeigler’s passing changing the team’s ceiling

“It changes it alot because, again, the fact that he can score it. You’d think a guy his size couldn’t score at all three levels but he does. He can get it to the midrange area. He shot a couple shots tonight that I thought he settled with fatigue— I do think that. It’s neat because a year and a half into his college career and the way he has worked to continue to learn the game, that’s what he’s doing. He’s going to continue to get better-and-better each time out.”

On forcing 19 turnovers and turning it into 31 points

“Well we need to do that. I’m sure (LSU coach) Matt (McMahon) will feel that sometimes they did it to themselves too, a couple of them. Our team, I think, the fact that they come out locked in against LSU gives them the ultimate respect because we know they’re capable, like any team in this league, we’re not good enough just to show up. I think our guys understand that. When we came out early and weren’t great early defensively but we got settled in and started making some shots. Got a little separation and our defense started getting better. We didn’t have nearly as many deflections as we needed but our switching helped us at times. We’re not afraid to switch if we have to in emergency situations. Overall, again, for where we are right now with our team and what’s going on within our team with the bug— I’m really proud of these guys.”

On Tobe Awaka and Jahmai Mashack ‘holding on to the rope’

“They’re a big part of this team. They’re big. You know what, they’re going to continue to be a big part of it. We believe in both of them. Both of them are high level competitors. As they continue to find their way offensively they’re going to get there. I can tell you, I believe in both of those guys. I’m really proud of where Jahmai has come and what Tobe has done in a short time. Both of them, we look at those guys as being somewhat of the future of what we do.”

Author: Ethan Moore