By Jimmy Hyams
For a veteran team, Tennessee made some unexpected mistakes during an 84-80 loss to Auburn and Bruce Pearl on Senior Day.
The Vols had two senseless clock violations, had several defensive lapses that led to easy Auburn baskets, and took too many ill-advised 3-point shots.
That was enough to prevent Tennessee from capturing back-to-back SEC regular-season titles for the first time.
Barnes wasn’t happy with his team firing up 28 three-pointers, making only nine for 32%.
“I can’t explain that,’’ Barnes said of the number of 3-point tries. “It wasn’t in the game plan. … We settled and we shouldn’t do that.’’
The Vols made 20 of 33 2-point tries (60.6%) – another indication UT wasn’t patient enough on offense. This UT team isn’t built to take only five more 2s than 3s.
Tennessee guards Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner were 3 of 16 on treys at Auburn.
In UT’s four defeats, Turner is 10 for 45 from the field, four of 31 on 3s (11.8%).
UT coach Rick Barnes thinks Turner’s recent shooting slump is related to poor shot selection and Turner “pressing’’ on 3-point attempts.
Barnes said Turner can affect the game in other ways than just scoring and that Turner is “arguably one of the best defensive guards in the country.’’
While Barnes believes players can shoot their way out of a slump, they need to be mindful of good shot selection when doing so.
Tennessee enters this week’s SEC Tournament as a No. 3 seed, behind LSU and Kentucky. UT is set to play the second game Friday night, with the tipoff around 9:45 pm.
While some contend a conference tournament is meaningless, Barnes likes the idea.
“Conference tournaments to me are the beginning of the NCAA Tournament because a bid is at stake,’’ Barnes said.
Barnes said the teams that do best in conference tournaments are the ones that are “eager’’ to play.
In other notes:
*Barnes said he thinks goal-tending should be a reviewable play – or any play that involves points. Auburn had an offensive goal-tend on a 3-point try in the 22nd half that officials missed. Auburn got 3 points; the tip without goal tending should have been 2 points.
*Asked about LSU’s situation with the indefinitely suspended Will Wade, Barnes said: “Whatever happens, I hope the right thing will be done.’’ He said “in the spirit of competition everybody should play on a level playing field.’’ He also said being in the business as long as he has, he’s not “naïve about any of it.’’
Barnes added: “I hate it for our game. I really do. I hate to see a cloud over college basketball.’’ He said the only way to solve it is for guilty parties to “pay the price.’’
*Barnes said it’s a good thing that some are “disappointed’’ the Vols didn’t win the SEC regular-season title because that’s an indication
of how far the program has come. He said repeating is “hard to do’’ and he’s “proud of our guys for putting themselves in that position (to repeat).’’
*Even though three SEC teams are ranked in the AP top 10 poll and Joe Lunardi projects seven SEC teams in the NCAA field, Barnes said he doesn’t think the SEC “gets the respect it deserves.’’ He said it’s hard to find a conference better than the SEC.