Rick Barnes and Zakai Zeigler and Transcript

Head Coach Rick Barnes Transcript
 
On an injury update for Josiah-Jordan James
“He’s working his way back. It will really be a game-time decision. But, again, we’re trying to work his way back, that’s what he’s trying to do.”
 
On if LSU is a team that plays with as much emotion as any team in the SEC…
“It’s really hard for me to say that one team plays with more (emotion). In this league, I think every team has its own personality and emotion, whatever word you want to put on it. I believe that. I think Will (Wade’s) teams play the way he wants them to play. They do a really nice job of mixing their defenses. They’re a team that really relies on your turnovers and you not taking care of the ball. I think they lead the nation in steals, No. 1 defensive team in the country. Then on the offensive end, they’re really good in isolation, good one-on-one players. But there’s a pace they like to play with. He’s done a good job with them. You go back over the last couple years, you can’t argue with the success that he’s had.”

Vols HC Rick Barnes / Credit: UT Athletics


 
On LSU defeating Tennessee four straight times…
“I think they’re a good team, I do. I think they’re a good team. I don’t know what else I could tell you. Like any other team in the league, we need to play good basketball. We need to have everybody playing good basketball. But again, and I’ve said it, they really do a good job with their one-on-one matchups, the way they like to do that. They’ve had athletic players. We need to play better, we need to do better.”
 
On the injury for Josiah-Jordan James
“He just got hit. He had a little cut above his eye, on the forehead.”
 
On Vanderbilt being physical while guarding Santiago Vescovi
“I told him he ought to be honored with it. I said it tells you how good of a player you’ve become and how people think you’re that important. And Santi is having a great year. You look at his numbers across the board, with everything that he’s doing. I think, one, he will continue to adjust to it. But I told him yesterday, you should be proud of that. The fact that people recognize you’re that kind of player. Again, I like him showing some frustration, if that’s what you want to call it. You know what? Santi doesn’t mind being physical at all. He really doesn’t. I think all players feel it gets to a point where enough is enough. I think that’s what he feels at times. I think he felt that the last time we played LSU. But he’s not going to back down. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”
 
On Zakai Zeigler’s stat line at Vanderbilt…
“We have talked about him a lot. He is probably, arguably the biggest surprise on our team this year. We were excited when we got him. The impact that he has made, did we think we were going to get that? Probably not. After him being here a short time—I keep going back to it, what is in his DNA. I don’t think there’s any question he is a competitor. I also think that is a sign of a good player that understands how to impact the game when he is not making shots. Some guys, they get so wrapped up in making shots and making shots. The play of game the was arguably his defensive steal. He impacted the game on the other end. I wish more players would let their offense go. I don’t think he took a bad shot in the game. It didn’t go in, but he found a way to the free-throw line. He impacted the game by just playing hard and not letting the fact that he was 0-for-8 get him in a funk where he couldn’t think and couldn’t play. That goes back again to his DNA.”
 
On if Uros Plavsic will start again…
“Yes, he will.”
 
On Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and the way he played at Vanderbilt…
“We are trying to get to where we get that rotation that we want to have. I think we are hoping he will continue to grow and blossom in there. We need production, there is no doubt about it. Brandon still has to catch up with the speed of the game and understand that activity that is always going in even when he is not involved in it. I say it all the time, but going from one play to the next play. Doing his work early. Getting set defensively. It is there in him. He just has to decide he wants to bring it out. It is a process. We knew that. I have said before, he has come a long way. People have no idea how far he has come in many different areas. Now, we would like to see him keep going and get more production when he is in the game.”
 
On if the starting lineup could still change…
“I think it could change. I have told you guys every year since I have been here, I don’t really care who starts the game. I am more interested in who we have to have to finish it. I think the first four minutes of the game are important. I think the most important part of the game is the three minutes coming out of halftime. We will go in and come up with a starting lineup based on what we see with consistency every day in practice.”
 
On facing LSU so quickly after the first game…
“It seems like it is a long time ago from my perspective because we have had so much in between and so many things we have worked through with our team and games. It seems like it was a long time ago to be quite honest with you.”
 
On Olivier Nkamhoua’s recent play…
“If we can just get Olivier to truly buy in to what we need from him—again, I think it kind of goes back to what Uros stated after the game the other night, it took him awhile to totally figure out what he needed to do to help our team. I still think Olivier is working through that in terms of consistency. We need him. He is arguably the most athletic guy on our team, and we need him to show that athleticism in a lot of different ways, whether it’s rebounding and blocking shots, which he’s proven he can do, or whether it’s when we go to our switch package and he can defend guards and stay in front of them while still doing what we need him to do on the offensive end. Again, we hope that he can get to the point where we know exactly what we’re going to get form him every single night.”
 
On if he thinks LSU is one of the more athletic teams in the SEC…
“I think they’re athletic. I think the way that Will (Wade) wants to build his team, I think I would say athletic and quickness. I think he likes offensive-minded players. They’ve changed their style from a year ago…their defense is different in terms of they’re trying to create a lot of offense with their defense. If you go back and look, they get 23 or 24 points per game off of their defense. You could maybe even break it down where it could be more. So when you play against them, everything you’re doing on your offensive end could dictate how good they are on the offensive end. Shot selection for us is really important because if you take shots where your isn’t ready to be in position to defend in transition defense or they just don’t expect it—(LSU) does a great job of capitalizing in those situations.”
 
On the top things he emphasizes to his team when facing LSU…
“Obviously you have to take care of the basketball. That’s really important against a team that thrives on your turnovers and your mistakes—early missed shots, whatever it may be. You have to take care of the ball, and I think it’s really important from our perspective that we understand scouting reports from individual personnel. Every game is going to go back to the fundamentals of the game. You have to rebound the basketball. Our defense has to be on point. We just need a great effort from everyone.”
 
On how Quentin Diboundje has progressed and what situation he’s looking for to put him into a game…
“Quentin has continued to work. He’s like all freshmen that come into college basketball. It’s all new to him, he’s still trying to figure it out. It’s just like Jahmai (Mashack). I think he slowly but surely is understanding more and more what we need from him and how we need it. I think Quentin has gotten to that point as well. The question you ask is a hard one to answer as far as what point in time in a game—I don’t know, I wish I did. We’re proud of him, he’s continued to work, he’s working hard every day, and at some point it’ll happen. All I know is that I’m excited he’s in our program and he has a great future ahead of him.”

Freshman Guard Zakai Zeigler Quotables
 
On the success the team has found in home games with a 9-0 start in home matchups this season…
“Really, I think it’s just the energy that Rocky Top brings to us. We know that coming into every game here, they’re going to have our backs no matter what. In every game, we have the same mindset that we believe we’re going to win. It’s like no other.”
 
On his late-game steal at Vanderbilt in Tuesday’s win…
“A few plays before that, I saw them being lazy while taking the ball out-of-bounds. They were being a little lackadaisical, so I knew on one of those times that I was going to get one of the steals. When I saw that moment happen, I saw the guy taking it out and being lazy under the basket, I knew I could jump for it.”
 
On the athleticism of LSU…
“They’re a very, very athletic team. We know that they have a few shot blockers, some guys that can play above the rim and some guys that can shoot the ball. But, we also know that we can bring that same energy right back to them. We’re not really worried about how athletic they are. We’re just getting back to us.”
 
On the team’s scrappiness, especially that of Santiago Vescovi in the win at Vanderbilt…
“I love it. We bring that physicality every day in practice to each other, no matter what. Once we go and play other people and see how other people react, it just brings out a fire in all of us once we see one person get into it.”

-UT Athletics

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