Vol Hoops Media Monday – Rick Barnes Transcript

Credit: UT Athletics

On what to expect from South Carolina this week based on how physical the last matchup was:
“I think any time you go against South Carolina, you know that they’re going to play extremely hard and physical game, and I think everybody knows that. We fully expect it. They compete as hard as anybody that you’re going to play against, and that’s what we expect.”

On Kentucky and where the focus is for that matchup:
“I think our guys have so much respect for South Carolina, and they understand where they are right now. They have a great respect for our league, and I thought we went out and competed hard against Florida. I expect them to understand that today’s preparation is really important and get ready for Wednesday’s game. That’s always what we’ve tried to do, and that’s what I expect from them.”

On Chris Silva’s performance in the first game:
“I think what he did, he had a lot to do with it. If you talk to our players, they have as much respect for him and how hard he plays as anybody we compete against, because he is going to play extremely hard. He did it, and we’ve tried to guard him the best we can. We’ll continue to try to do that. He’s a terrific player, and it’s hard to keep a guy like that from not being effective. He was terrific and made it happen himself.”

On the matchups this week and if he’s started paying attention to other teams’ performance at this point in the season:
“I think in terms of sorting itself out, it’ll sort itself out in the next eight games. We’ve got to be focused on what we’re doing right now, and I don’t know the other teams that are playing in the league. I just think you’ve got to be so locked in on your next opponent that that’s what you’ve got to stay focused on. If you start trying to play this, that or what-if game, it just never plays out like that. It’s important from our standpoint that we know that we’re on the backside of the conference, and we know that the next couple weeks are important to all of us, regardless of where we are in the league. There are so many games. You can look at Arkansas with the 4-game winning streak. It can happen that way, it can happen the other way. That’s why you should look at it like, ‘This is what we’ve got’, and if we get side tracked from that, things can snowball if you don’t stay focused on exactly what you need to do, which is focusing on your next opponent.”

On balancing the success so far with the challenges ahead:
“We have a lot we can say that we’re proud of right now, but that’s over and done with. It’s about the next game. It’s about today’s practice. We told our guys that we want them to compete and enjoy that, yet, when it’s time to come back and get locked in on our next opponent, that’s what we have to do. It’s fleeting, and if you try to bask in what’s been done up to this point, you lose sight of what you need to keep doing to get better and move forward. All we focus on is, ‘Can we find a way to get better today?'”

On any update with Yves Pons:
“I talked to Chad Newman earlier. He did a little bit with him yesterday, just dribbling and stuff like that. He still has a little bit of swelling, so he’ll have to wear a mask. They’re hoping to get that here by tomorrow. He’ll do more today. He won’t do any contact work with us, but he’ll do more today, so that’s where it is right now.”

On how he instills focus on each next practice into the 18, 19 and 20-year-old players:
“Our coaching staff and the culture that we have where it’s an everyday commitment, and the fact that we don’t have any magic dust. It’s just, ‘Can we get our minds trained to go out every day and know what we did yesterday, if it looks big to you today, we haven’t done much.’ We have to keep trying to strive to be the best team that we can be, and I really believe that our best basketball is ahead of us if we continue with the attitude that we’ve got to get better. Every player’s got to get better. We can clean things up; we’ve got to rebound the ball better. Some of the turnovers we had the other day were silly, careless turnovers. You can always find things that you can do to improve on. The effort, we don’t ever take that for granted. That’s just a matter of coming in every day and saying, ‘I’ve got to find a way to improve,’ and that’s really what we’ve tried to do. We’ve got to stay with that.”

On his team’s recent offensive rebounding issues: 
“I think it’s a little bit of everything. When you go back over the last two games, we allowed some guys to get behind us because we didn’t put a body on them. Some of them were tough bounces, some of them were balls getting batted around with three or four guys going to get it and depending on who’s got the inside positioning where he can either catch it or tip it out, and so it’s a little bit of all of that. Concentration would go in there too, but some of them we can fix; there’s no doubt it. Some of them we have to fix because we have given up a number of offensive rebounds that have turned into three-point shots, which is a great time to get them. They are like daggers. When you have a great defensive stop and they come up with a rebound off the miss then kick it out while you are still trying to scramble to get back or get the ball and they hit those threes, those are tough ones. But those are things in an area that we can get better and know that we need to get better.”

On how difficult conference rematch games can be: 
“You go back to our game with Missouri and our game with Florida. Their coaching staffs made some adjustments, and there’s no doubt that Coach (Frank) Martin won’t do the same. The second time around you are a little bit more familiar with what you are seeing because it’s the second time. One thing about his teams, as Missouri and Florida did, they’re going to play hard and they’re going to compete. We are all playing for something, and there is a lot of basketball left to play in the regular season before we head to Nashville. I’ve got not only a lot of respect for the coaching staff but also the players. This league is really competitive. We have really good players in this league that want to win, and there’s not a team in our league that doesn’t still have a chance to do something special with their season because you’ve always got a conference tournament no matter what happens in the regular season. But again, we do have a lot of respect for who we are getting ready to play. Obviously, I can sit here and speak volumes about Frank and his team and the things that he stands for and the way he does things, and I know our team feels the same way.”

On if he expects Grant to finish stronger this season than in past years: 
“I think so, but he was dealing with some things with his body that we don’t talk about. But, he’ll do it. You go back a year ago and this is around the time that Admiral really got it going, where he really came into himself. I do know, being a year older and a year wiser, these guys understand that there’s still a lot of basketball left to play to achieve the goals we want to achieve, and I expect him to do what he always does to take care of his body. I think he will; his conditioning is better than it was a year ago. I still think he will keep getting better there, and he needs too.”

On what his team is doing defensively that they weren’t doing before:
“An awareness for the details more than anything, and playing and understanding how we have to get better. We talked long and hard about guarding the ball and spent a lot of time working on that. We’ve talked about our ball-screen defense and rebounding. We are going to have to continue to emphasize. It goes back to what I always say. It’s about today. Can we getter better today in those areas? And they have done that. They have embraced those things. Simply because they understand to be the team that we want to be, it’s a difficult game to be perfect, we aren’t going to be perfect but those things we have to be a lot more consistent with. That’s probably where we have improved over the last couple weeks with our defense. We are a little bit more consistent then we were.”

On how he keeps it fun for the team despite the business mindset:
“That’s a great question. I think that when you do have an attitude about getting better every day, what you do is want them to enjoy winning a game. The fact is that they’ve put the work in. They’ve done what they need to do, but the tough part is that you’ve got to let it go really quickly. You want them to enjoy it more than you want them to feel relieved. I think coaches probably feel more like that. We win a game, we’re relieved we get the game, and now, you’ve got to get ready for the next one. You do want to enjoy it, but that’s a hard thing to do when you’re in the middle of a really competitive year/season. It’s knowing that you’ve got to let it go quickly and move on to the next one because the enjoyment of it can’t last long. You’ve got to get back to the grind and that’s what you do. For a little bit, you can take a deep breath and enjoy it, then say, ‘Okay, now we’ve got to do it again’. That’s the challenge when you’re in competition; everyone else can probably enjoy it longer than those that are really in the arena every day fighting because they’ve got to let it go quickly and get on to the next one.”

On if he expects Yves Pons to play against South Carolina:
“I think if his mask his here, he will. He will probably have to wear the mask for a couple of weeks. He will not do any contact today. If it comes in he will definitely do it. I think Chad has told that it will happen. We will see how it goes.”

On the guys wanting to build more joy and if it’s a natural concern during the streak:
“We all do it a little bit different in terms of it. We all have different mindsets. I have been around some coaches. Coach Steve Alford was here, and he came into visit with us and he actually made a big point of it. He told me that you ought to enjoy it and then move on to the next one, which is neat having an outside perspective. I think our guys do. That is probably not so much in my make up, but when it is all said and done you go back in your mind. My enjoyment really comes everyday going out and seeing how much better we can be. The games are obviously why we do it. I think our guys probably enjoy it. I like to think we have a good time together, but we are also working to try and accomplish something. Everybody is going to go about it their own way and get started. The whole focus has to start on what we are doing today when we come back in and get started, we got to stay in the moment with it. I am not going to overanalyze any of it. We played hard and competed Saturday. We said hey that is what we wanted to do. Let’s enjoy what we did and get after it today.”

On if a late regular season loss might be good for the team:
“I subscribe to try and play the best you can play your next game. If you win the, you win them. You lose some. There has not been an undefeated team since Indiana in 1976. I just think we all want to win them and sometimes I think you all want to try and read stuff into things, and I do not think teams think like that. I do not know of any competitor that does not want them forward and think I can win this game. I think when you lose, how do you handle that as well. I do not think you can overreact too much. I do not think you can get too high or too low. I think you got to stick the course with it and understand who you are and what you are about. You have respect for your opponents. We know that anybody on our schedule can beat us. I told our team that the other night. I told the team the other night, ‘When I was a sophomore in high school we won one game my sophomore year and we beat the state championship team that only lost one game and won 32 straight. We were 0-10 and they were 10-0 and they had a great player by the name of Walter Davis. They came into Hickory and we beat them. We did not win another game while they went on to win the state championship.’ From that experience that is why I always had great respect from the game itself and that things happen and it can happen in a 32-minute game or 40-minute game. So I just respect the game that much that you have to be ready to play every single night.”

 

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