Rick Barnes Media Availability (3/7/19)

Rick Barnes Transcript

On his thoughts about Auburn:
“I still think that teams are playing for a lot this weekend and next. There’s a lot left on the line for college basketball teams, especially in certain situations. When you look at their team, they shoot a lot of threes about any way you can do it. They can shoot it early in transition. They run a lot of sets where they are looking to shoot the three. They’re shooting it at a very high clip. They can turn people over, and they’re good at rebounding. I think they’re in the top 30 in the country at rebounding. They play fast and play some defense where they get in the backcourt and press you some. They do a lot of different things. Obviously, it’s a big game, but I think all games are big at this time of year for everybody because you’re trying to get your momentum and start playing consistent at a high level.”

Credit: UT Athletics

On Chuma Okeke’s play:
“He is playing really well. People may look at their team and think they’re undersized, but between he and Anfernee McLemore, they go get it. They play much bigger than they are. They are quick to the ball as a team. He is one of the big reasons for why they are where they are right now. He’s really improved. If you go back to from he started to where he is now, he will continue to get better.”

On the team playing better defense recently:
“I think it does help that we have a mature group. They know we got away from our defense. They know it’s something we have to do to be where we want to be at this time of year. Our offense can help our defense get better. We want to take good shots. When we are up, we want guys to not be hesitant to shoot the ball. It hurt our defense before these last two weeks when we were totally relying on our offense and thinking we were going to outscore people. We have gotten back to where we need to be. After looking at the tape from the other night, I thought we looked really good defensively against Mississippi State.”

On Admiral getting better on defense:
“I have said it all along. When guys get locked in on the defensive side and they’re good on offense, the offense will work for them. When you go into games putting pressure on yourself on the offensive end, it’s difficult. When he’s really locked in, he can defend. He has improved so much when you think about the last two years. When he’s locked in, he can guard every spot on the floor.”

On how Grant Williams’ game has developed over the last year:
“He has improved in every area of the game. He is versatile. He worked in the offseason to shoot the ball better and extend his range. If you look at it, there isn’t anything that he hasn’t gotten better at. Even mentally, he has had to face double teams and all kinds of things from game to game, and I think his mental approach has probably been his biggest improvement.”

On his reaction to Jordan Bone’s pass to Kyle Alexander in transition against Mississippi State:
“Bone likes to do that. He is good unless he tries to get too cute. When he tries to get too cute with the ball, he gets sloppy. He sees the floor. We tell guys all the time that, if they will run, Bone will get them the ball. When teams get back in transition, we want him to put the pressure on the other team. Halfway through the season, we were really running, and teams made the conscious effort to take away that early thrust. When that is taken away, he has to be the guy pushing. He loves getting the ball, catching it right away, looking and then throwing it right away. He can really see the floor, and he does a really good job of passing the ball.”

On his thoughts about juice plays from the team that are high risk, high reward: 
“I always use the term ‘respect the game.’ I don’t want to embarrass anybody. I am one of the guys who thinks you shouldn’t come down and throw it off the backboard and let someone else dunk it. I think you have to a great respect for the game, because I believe what goes around comes around. It gets back to respect and playing the game the way it should be played. I think emotional reactions can be good for you. Fans love it when you get out, run and dunk. They love those high-flying plays and three-point shots. Coaches like all the things that lead to that. With our guys, Bone has tried throwing a pass behind his back a couple of times. He tried to make those passes, and people are asking what he’s thinking. And the answer is he’s not. Those are the kind of plays you don’t want to see your team trying to make. My term is ‘respect the game.'”

On Jalen Johnson:
“Jalen has practiced better. He has come into practice locked in more, and I thought he came in and gave us a good lift the other night. We keep talking about how important those possessions are for us, and he came in and really took advantage of it. We just want him to take shots within the offense. We didn’t want him to go out there and do what Lucas did, trying to create shots. Sometimes guys do that in trying to create shots. We expect guys like Jalen, to play like within the offense. Time and score dictate a lot, but when he is in the game and in the flow of the offense, we expect him to shoot it.”

On improved defense:
“We have talked about it (defense) two or three weeks leading up to it. We keep stats the way that we grade out our film, and we weren’t meeting any of our goals consistently the way that we needed to. We kept telling them that we needed to get this and that, get our rebounding where it needs to be, and field goal percentage back to what we needed, but we were winning. As much as you talk about it, it is still a mindset. After the Kentucky game, I think they got knocked back down and realized we have to do this, or else. Since then we have been doing it pretty well.”

On Kyle Alexander’s minutes:
“Our players thought that was the best officiated game that they have been in all year. Kyle got caught in where he needs to be aggressive, and he has to be aggressive. In his own mind, he felt like if he was aggressive, then he was getting into foul trouble. He was trying to stay out of trouble, and you always get into trouble if you are trying to stay out of trouble when it comes to not fouling. I’m just glad he was able to get out and play on senior night. Hopefully he will be in full stride right now.”

On playing better for postseason:
“It has been a long schedule. We knew we were going to hit the gauntlet after our last game here with who we had to play. If you go back and look, I think we had to play Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State that were all picked in the top five in the preseason. We knew it was going to be tough, and we knew from the beginning that we needed to have a good start. It has been a long grind, but the guys realize we have been in tough games. It’s going to be a grind, and you have to embrace it.”

On trying to win SEC back-to-back:
“It would be great, but we have to go out and do it. This time last year we were playing at home, and now we are going into a senior night, where that team just came off a huge win against their rival. We have been in this all year, and we know what we are going into. They want to be apart of a championship team again, and it is right there for them, but they are going to have to go play really well.”


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