Quotes: Rick Barnes and John Fulkerson Preview Saturday’s road tilt at Kentucky

Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes Transcript
 
On if there is any extra intrigue playing Kentucky…
“I think it is. You go back and you have great respect for basketball programs that have been good through every decade, really starting back in the 1940s. You recognize that those programs have been special for 70 or 80 years and there’s a reason they’re special, because they’re good year in and year out. Expectations at those programs are always extremely high. Obviously being here at Tennessee now seven years, prior to coming here, I didn’t really know that much about the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry because I grew up on the other side of the mountain and everything was based on what was going on over there. Certainly people get excited. I think when every coach builds their program, they want people to be excited. Obviously I have great respect for John (Calipari) and what he’s done. I’ve said before that he’s the perfect coach for the University of Kentucky program with what he’s done and the ability to sustain it. They’re had very few down times when you think about it, especially with the way this league has gotten so much better. Everybody wants to throw out numbers with what league is better based on statistics and all that, but I can’t imagine there’s a league in the country this year that has what we have. I’m not there’s a league in the country that has an many pro prospects as this league has.”

Vols F John Fulkerson / Credit: UT Athletics

On Tennessee’s past success at Rupp Arena…
“I don’t know if I can answer that other than the fact that we’ve had some guys that have played well there. Those same guys that won up there a year ago came back here and beat us soundly in every way that you can be beaten. I hope we play our best game tomorrow, but I hope it’s not nearly as good as the game we play after that. I think John (Calipari) had done a terrific job with his team, they started out with some new pieces that they had to put into the puzzle and he has them playing really nice together right now. There isn’t enough you can say about Oscar Tshiebwe with what he’s doing. The last guy that I hear that got 20 rebounds as many times as he has was Marvin Barnes way back in the early 1970s—I think he averaged that. What he’s doing there is phenomenal. Again, I can’t put a ‘why’ on it, I just hope we can do it again, that’s all I can say.”
 
On scouting and preparing for Oscar Tshiebwe…
“I think you have to be transparent with your team and show what he does. We talk about it all the time, we try to get our guys to go at it like that. Is there a talent to it? Absolutely. The biggest thing I think is a want to do that, because it’s hard. When you’re getting that many rebounds, when other teams are playing against them, they’re saying, ‘We have to work hard at keeping him off the offensive boards.’ I remember when I was at Providence, when I met Marvin Barnes, he used to tell me that he would tell his teammates, ‘You block out and I’ll go get all of them.’ And he did, pretty much. I’m not sure how Kentucky is doing it, other than that fact that Oscar has a tremendous passion and a drive to go get it and you admire it, because you want that from people. I think he understands the importance of it anyways. With what he’s doing, he has to. I’d like to get some of our guys to do that with that mindset.”
 
On if he would be content with John Fulkerson playing like he did against South Carolina every game…
“Absolutely. If we can get the consistency from him and our other older players. We like to see some separation with guys so we can really get into a rotation, that would be good. We have a confidence in our guys that we put out there and we like to see consistency there from them as well, but we really need our older players that have been through this before. Our younger guys are going to look to them in so many different areas, so we need them to be consistent.”
 
On the key to having an elite defense…
“Well if you look at our offensive numbers it’s been obvious we’ve been putting all of our emphasis on defense. As good as our defense’s numbers are, our offense’s numbers are that bad. Maybe that’s the key, I don’t know. The fact is our guys believe in it, they know it’s something that we go from day one with, as we continue to put our system in from day one and we expect guys to buy into it. The numbers look good, but we still know that we can get better. We have guys that we know need to get better in certain areas and we’ll keep doing that. Like I said, I hope we play our best basketball game tomorrow but I hope we’re better the game after that. We just want to see each guy improve like that from one game to the next so we can continue to build and grow. I do credit our older guys with a lot of that because they really do get locked in on our game plan and how we want to do things on the defensive end. When they’re talking and they’re active they are really calling out things. This time of year, John Calipari and his staff know us probably as well as we know them and when you get older guys that are talking. You get teams that really talk, especially defensively, you got a chance to do something special.”
 
On history making motivation for win in Rupp Arena…
“Well I haven’t thought about it. I don’t know, right now where we are, where we really are locked into trying to figure out who we are, what we need to do. I’ve been up there over seven years where we didn’t play well, and again, I haven’t thought about that. I went home last night when I’m breaking down our tape and seeing some good things. My whole mindset with our guys today is let’s do what we’re working on right here and see how it shakes out.”
 
On what the rivalry with Kentucky means to him…
“I want to win. I don’t care who we’re playing. I have, honestly, as a coach, I’ve never tried to put a great deal of emphasis on one game over the other. You look at where we are in our league, arguably the three most important games that we play are Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, because those are our three common opponents. So, that’s six games of our SEC schedule. So, we’ve never tried to make one game over the other that that much more important. What I’ve often told our team is I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, you get up to play one team like a Kentucky and then you think that hey, we can just cruise through other games. That’s why we’ve always tried to go as far, we’ve tried to go with our game plan each and every day. We’re consistent with our players, where they understand that we value every game regardless of who we’re playing. I will tell you this, if you were in our locker room from the start of the season to right now, you will see that. I think we played 13 games, we have not done anything different in terms of our prep, because we want them to understand it. Every game is a big game and if they don’t believe that, come March they will. Again, we talked about what makes games like this. I mean, obviously it’s big for the fans. There’s no question about that. I mean, it’s like a border war. They’re two and a half hours north of us. They’ve been playing I guess, forever it seems like but a lot of it has to do with the success that Kentucky has had. I’ve said many times before that this program here is working towards being in that kind of situation where every year, year in and out, if you’re talking about every year as being one of those kinds of programs. Eventually you want to keep going, keep going, keep going to where there’s a standard that’s been set, and you’re always trying to reach that standard.”
 
On the challenges Kentucky presents in the post…
“I mean, last year (Davion) Mintz came in here and lit us up, I think he had five threes last year, I mean really the game they beat us by 20 or something, but it wasn’t even that close. I think Mintz hit five threes, they had, I think maybe, one of their best shooting nights against us in here a year ago. They played great, so, we have respect for all their players. I mean, we’ve certainly played against Kellan Grady, you know we’ve scrimmaged Davidson every year that he was at Davidson and know him, played against (Sahvir) Wheeler last year and I’m sure he’ll be ready to play tomorrow. So, we know these guys and it’s not just their post guys that we have to be concerned with.”
 
On Santiago Vescovi needing support on the perimeter…
“Yeah, there’s no doubt that he’s a person they game plan for—there’s no doubt. But, the way they’re guarding him, it’s also opening up a pretty good gap there if we can take advantage of it. If they’re going to hug up to him, opens the floor up a little bit more. Santi’s fine with being a screener and moving without the ball. He’s gotten himself, I’ve mentioned this so many times, his conditioning, but he impacts the game whether he’s scoring or not. He rebounds like he’s a 6’5 or 6’6 player, and he defends. He’s one of the older guys that knows what’s going on during the game. He probably has, well there’s no probably to it, he has the best feel of any player that we have. He’ll come over during the game and say, ‘Hey we need to do this coach, or we need to do that. We need to set this situation up because of the way they’re guarding me.’ So, Santi’s very smart, very unselfish, and he’s learning too. I mean, he’s never been guarded the way he’s being guarded this year so he’s learning to work through that as well.”
 
On how teams are handling Kennedy Chandler
“I think Kennedy will continue to get better. He’s seeing a different defense pretty much every night. Where he’s starting to understand, and again I’ve mentioned before that every game has its own personality, and you got to, as much as we try to simulate what the other team might be doing, say with him on ball screens or whatever it may be. He still has to learn to adjust because they might make adjustments throughout the game and it’s not going to always be the same every time he comes down the court, but he’s learning that. If he’ll continue to embrace that and realize he’s young, learning a lot, he’ll be fine.”

-UT Athletics

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