Everything Rick Barnes Said Following Tennessee’s Win Over McNeese State – Rocky Top Insider

Everything Rick Barnes Said Following Tennessee’s Win Over McNeese State – Rocky Top Insider

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee earned its fifth straight win on Wednesday night, defeating McNeese State, 76-40, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Vols’ offense struggled in the first half but elite defense allowed Tennessee to open up a double digit lead as the Cowboys scored just 14 first half points.

Barnes discussed Julian Phillips’ performance, the consistent defensive effort and much more.

Here’s everything Rick Barnes said about Tennessee’s victory over McNeese State.

More From RTI: Three Takeaways From Tennessee’s Win Over McNeese State

On Tennessee’s offense in the first half, what changed in the second half

“The one thing we talked about, we wanted to be aggressive, we wanted to run, use tempo. We wanted to play quicker. (McNeese State) did exactly what we talked about for two days. They do a great job of it. They’re zone. They’re very active. When you play as much zone as they play, they know how to make the adjustments to what you’re doing, whether it was early, packing the middle hard. And we told our guys that they’re going to come double from the wings. If they don’t short corner, they’re going to double. We worked hard on trying to catch the ball in a ready position, to pass or shoot it. In the first half, you make a couple threes, you make your free throws, you have a different feel to the game. But the one thing we did, we didn’t let the fact that we weren’t very good on offense in the first half affect our defense. I thought our effort defensively was good throughout, for the most part. Gave up offensive rebounds, but some of that had to do with some tough shots that were thrown up and they had come off differently. But got to give (McNeese State) credit for running those down. But the second half, we started playing the pace that we talked about, that we wanted to play with from the beginning.”

On the new ACC-SEC Challenge in future seasons

“You know what, obviously growing up in this part of the country and understanding the history of the ACC and the Southeastern Conference, I think it’s great. I think it’s great because you go back and look, at one time, how many of these two leagues, I think it was the Southern Conference many, many, many years ago. The fact that it’s regional, I think it’s really good. I think it’s going to be good for both leagues. I think it’s going to be great for TV, fans, everybody. I’m excited that we’re at that point with it.”

On Julian Phillips getting to the free-throw line as much as he does

“We told him while were down in The Bahamas, we felt like he was driving to get fouled opposed to driving to score. He made a real conscience effort, I thought, in the Southern Cal game. In the Kansas game I thought fatigue was a real factor for him. Three games in three days against three high-level teams. And I didn’t think he shied away from the stage against Kanas. I just thought he was really tired. But yet he still was trying, those last two games, to drive and score. I thought he was doing that tonight. I thought he missed a few shots tonight, again, maybe fatigue a little bit. I’m not surprised with what he does because he brings it everyday. He’s trying to get better.”

On this team being locked in consistently on the defensive end

“We talked about our depth, tonight regardless of the score was, we said if you don’t do your job you’re coming out of the game, defensively. Whether it was a missed free-throw blockout, you didn’t rebound the ball, whatever it may be. Blow-by. And it wasn’t a lot. We’re just trying to get this team to totally understand their roles. It’s a defensive mentality. We have to have it. I mean, you think about it, we struggled to score tonight and you have to give (McNeese State) credit for that. But I don’t think it was so much struggling to score, it was decisions. Our perimeter guys, they started putting too much pressure on our inside players. They had chances. And I said to them at halftime if we’re playing a game and we’re running man offense, and you had that look, would you take it? And they said yeah. I said well you’ve got to shoot the ball. Guys, when you get good looks at it, you’ve got to shoot it. The one thing we didn’t want to do, and our guards got us stagnant trying to throw the ball in there. And the guys were moving, but they don’t have anything to do with it when they get it. The defensive mentality that we’ve had, we’ve still got to get better. I will tell you that. I could tell you 18 offensive rebounds means there were 18 possessions where we didn’t finish it. So we’ve got to obviously clean that up.”

On Julian Phillips’ defense and rebounding improving

“It has, but I was on him hard tonight because I thought we had a couple possessions there where four guys, we would’ve had a five-second count if he would’ve played hard for one second. That’s where he’s got to continue to grow and understand that, especially when you’ve got Santi (Vescovi) and Shack (Jahmai Mashack) and Zakai (Zeigler) out there, and Tyreke (Key), and (Phillips) is at the four, he can’t be the guy that they can bail out to. But he’ll learn that. He’s a great teammate. He knows that he has set the bar high for himself. We certainly set a high bar for him. He’s learning probably more than anything how to deal with cardio toughness, probably as much as anything.”

On how hard it is to get young people to understand that bad offense doesn’t have to result in bad defense

“I think if you talk a lot about how you can impact the game — we all know, there’s some nights when you can’t make shots. That’s just the way it is. Some teams I’ve had just can’t make shots and they struggle. But you can always impact the game. You always can by doing your job, the details, creating something. Defensively, you should never have an off night defensively. Ever. That’s just mental toughness and paying attention to a scouting report coming in. Your mental mindset and makeup before the game and I think it is critical how you think from the time you start your prep until the time we have our walkthrough and the four hour period right in there is critical. I will tell you, we’re around these guys so much you almost have a really good feel for when they have it and we talked a lot about it, if we want to be the team we want to be, we have to continue to raise the bar for us. But there are certain things that are non-negotiables. There really are. If they don’t do certain things, they know they’re coming out of the game. They do because they’re non-negotiable.”

On Jonas Aidoo’s impact around the rim defensively

“He’s getting better. He’s going to have to get quicker with the ball. I told him, when you’re out there with four guards, we don’t need a fifth jump-shooter, we need someone that is going to do something close to the rim. He’s a factor on defense close to the rim and he should be a factor on offense close to the rim. But he’s got to get off his feet quicker with the ball and play quicker from the shoulders to over his head. The way he affects things around the rim on defense, I think he should be that effective on the offensive end.”

On having five guys with at least five rebounds and if that’s the plan rebounding they may have to go with

“I like it like that with every team. We tell them when that shot goes up, we expect them to blockout and expect them to pursue the ball. You have to go get it. We’ve got sometimes three guys, four guys out there when they get the ball we’re going to go with it opposed to waiting for an outlet pass. But we want all five guys pursuing the ball every time that shot goes up.”

On being aggressive defensively

“Every time out I say we want to continue to play hard without fouling. We do it every game. We talk about playing hard without fouling. We don’t want to put people on the free throw line. We think we can play hard without fouling and we think if we can handle the ball the way we should and get our early gap defense set and get ready to make plays there — again, we don’t like to foul and we can’t foul regardless of what the numbers say whether they’re good, bad or in between. We just want to play hard on the defensive end without fouling.”

On how important these three games before the Maryland game are for some guys

“I think it’s really important. I told BJ (Edwards) that I thought he went in and really tried to play hard tonight other than the exception he had a chance to go make a play on a ball and he didn’t, gave up a basket. Tobe (Awaka), it’s a big week for those guys. Those minutes, we said it the last four minutes they were in there, we just kept talking about how valuable these minutes are right now. They better show us they can guard on the defensive end because we’re not concerned about not one of your offensive (possessions) right now. We want to see that they’re in tune with what we want to get done defensively right now, so I think these games are important for a lot of reasons. I think they’re important to see what type of consistency we can start developing as a team. And again, our message to them before the game was, ‘are we mentally tough enough to raise our standard within ourselves. Can we look at ourselves and say, how can we get better regardless of who we’re playing.’ With that attitude, I thought the defensive mindset was there. We weren’t as aggressive on the offensive end tonight, especially in the first half as we should have been.”

Author: Ethan Moore