Rick Barnes talks about Vols losing 17-point lead against Auburn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Things were looking really good last Saturday for the Vols against then-No. 13 Auburn, but then the bottom fell out! Auburn dropped in the poll to become No. 15 after their hard-fought game against the Vols.

Dominating the game, Tennessee just could not finish the job. The Vols blew a 17 point lead by going scoreless for over seven minutes in the second half.

Twenty-four turnovers certainly didn't help Tennessee's cause as they fell to the Tigers 73-66. When asked Monday what goes into high turnover numbers, Coach Barnes had an interesting response saying, "Sometimes referees can make calls that aren't there and call traveling when it's not traveling, a block or a charge when it could've gone the other way. Guys going to look for trouble, it's been a problem that I can look all the way back to Florida State for where we turned the ball over and kept ourselves in the game because of our defense, but some of the ones that we make you just can't make."

Tennessee's NCAA tournament hopes took a blow with the loss on Saturday. That win would certainly have opened some eyes. The Vols, 15-12, will now try and regroup when they return to the road at Arkansas on Wednesday.

After the loss, Barnes answered some questions from the media.

On the second half of Saturday's game and how they could have stopped the momentum shift:

"We talk about execution and not just on the offensive end. When things aren't going well for you and momentum is changing, often times it goes back to your defense where you get spread out not doing the same things you were doing (earlier). On the offensive, end you still have to make shots. You have to execute. You cannot turn the ball over, and if you turn the ball over, it's going to fuel that momentum. We talk about ball security a lot, and when you start turning down shots, normally, things don't turn out well for you. With two minutes to go in the second half, it's a tie game, and I think if you go on the road this time of the year against talented teams, you take that every time. But, then you have to find a way to close the game out and to do that, we need not just one or two guys playing well, we need everybody playing well and doing what we need them to do. And we just didn't get that. We're all excited about the way Jordan Bowden played, but we would have loved to see John Fulkerson play the way he has played in previous games when Jordan wasn't playing well. Santi (Vescovi) getting into foul trouble was a big play, and him doing it eighty or ninety feet from the basket is just not a smart play. We've got to handle the ball better, you think about the turnover at half court, that shouldn't happen, we had a great 3-point shot when we were down three, but we turned it down, we dribbled inside and lose the ball. Those are just decisions that you hope you don't make."

On if the makeup of his team determines whether he calls a timeout:

"Yes, absolutely. You can call timeouts, but when you come out of the timeout and you don't execute, then why does it matter? I just know that at this time of year at any level of basketball that you have to have tough, hard-nosed, seasoned guard play. Because that's what it's going to come down to. So, you have to have it. You're going to have to have guards that can make some plays. They're going to have handle the ball correctly, make the right decisions, they're going to have to get your team organized. When you come out of the timeout, it's up to the guards to know exactly what they are doing, and we have just been really inconsistent there."

On Jordan Bowden's mindset on Saturday and how he can duplicate that:

"The one thing you have to give him credit for is that all year long he has played hard defensively. We have talked about it a lot. I don't think there's any question that he has pressed at times offensively to try to score the ball as opposed to just playing and letting it happen. We talked about the things that we needed at this point, and he was the one guy that did it. I thought Yves (Pons) played really hard, especially in the first half when Fulkerson got in foul trouble. Yves carried us pretty much in the first half. But I think Jordan knows what he has to do, and I think he played by far his best all-around game that he has played all year long. Like I said he has been good defensively all year long, and I wish we could say that about some of the other guys right now, and I can't."

On what the message was to Josiah after the game and what his mindset was:

"It's been the same thing; you can't turn the ball over in those situations. He turned down a shot. We've asked him all year not to over-dribble the ball, and if you think about the times that he's gotten himself in trouble or put himself in a bad situation, it's just dribbling the ball for no reason at all. Right there, he's worked too hard at shooting the ball, and in that situation, we would've taken a two or a three, but I was shocked that he was that wide open. I was shocked. But it goes back to what we've told him all year, that he continues to turn down shots and he gets himself in trouble when he shouldn't. Just shoot the ball. It's pretty simple, because he's worked hard at it, and we would've been fine if he had missed that shot, because again, we were shocked that he was that open in the corner."

On what goes into high turnover numbers besides missed shots:

"Well, sometimes referees can make calls that aren't there and call traveling when it's not traveling, a block/charge when it could've gone the other way. Guys going to look for trouble like we talked about. There's a lot of things that can go into it, but it goes back to decisions. Whether it's players decisions or referee's decisions, there's a lot of things that go into turnovers. I don't think referees are the reason you turn the ball over 25 times, but some of their decisions can lead to guys having to go in the game when you wish other guys were in there, and some of those turnovers occur. But, ours are occurring with guys that are playing a lot of minutes. Santi (Vescovi) has played a lot of minutes, but I can tell you he had two turnovers that he had nothing to do with. Josiah, all six of his were turnovers. So, you've got to make good decisions, and by this time of year, Fulky's (John Fulkerson) had too many turnovers, if you think about it with stumbling out of bounds, he doesn't get his balance, those kinds of turnovers, those are ones that you can't have. You just can't have those types of turnovers. But, it's been a problem that I can look all the way back to Florida State for where we turned the ball over and kept ourselves in the game because of our defense, and post guys sometimes can, I get that in their traffic, but some of the ones that we make you just can't make, and it gets down to where you have to have tough, hard-nosed guard play this time of year, or you're going to struggle."

On how he would assess Josiah-Jordan James's first year:

"He's had a tough year. He's been hurt all year long, and when you're in and out of the lineup, and he wasn't feeling great Saturday, he didn't practice the day before. At this time of the year, we have the confidence obviously that we think he can still fight through that because it's not like we're doing as much as we were in practice. It's just a matter of the mindset, but it's been a tough year for him. We've seen him grow in some areas, and then we've seen him take some steps backwards, but we know what he can be. The biggest thing he's going to have to do now is get himself back to playing as hard as he possibly can and get lost in the game that way, and I think once he understands that consistently, he'll figure it out."

On closing out games and fixing it late into the season:

"I told Clark Kelogg this. If we had this group from the very beginning and no injuries would have happened, we'd be way ahead; but that's not the way it played out this year. Santi's (Vescovi) been here, Josiah (Jordan-James) has been in-and-out. We haven't had any consistency there, so I know that has a little bit to do with it; even though you get frustrated with it you don't want to admit it. When I go see the team today and we watch tape, I'm not going to say that to them. I know it, we all know it. I've been doing it too long not to know that. We still expect them to figure this out right now. Is it frustrating? I think our guys would probably be frustrated with it, too, because they have made good effort to put themselves in good positions. The fact that we haven't finished some of these games that we should have is frustrating. The one thing I'll give these guys is that they have continued to work hard, they continue to play hard. Do we have some guys that need to play harder? Absolutely. I have seen some progress with some guys that we are pleased with and, obviously, we're pleased that Jordan Bowden came back, and I hope he can continue that going down the stretch. Again, I can sit here and go through the whole year and tell you it's pretty amazing that we have been able to put ourselves in some of these games from the beginning. When you're there and when you can't finish it, yeah, it's tough and frustrating."

On the effect of Auburn loss:

"We've lost how many games now? We are about to go play Arkansas who's another team that has their leading scorer back. It's not like anything is given in this league. You're going to have to earn it. If we play hard enough to earn it, we will and, if we don't, we won't. Do I think these guys will hold on to that? If I would've thought that after any game, it would have been South Carolina, because we really did control that game. When we were up at Auburn, there was a lot of time left which they had the ability to come back. So, to answer your question, I'd be shocked if that happened."

On Isaiah Joe returning to lineup:

"It spreads the floor, because he is going to shoot it deep. He's got great range, and they have given him the ultimate green light to get shots, and they work to get him shots. They will be a different team there than when they were here."

On how much Adrio Bailey changes the scouting report for Arkansas with them having three good 3-point shooters:

"Well, they do. You go back, they were arguably the hottest team in our league at the start of the year, and they hit some slides like everybody can. But, when guys go out, other guys get to develop, then they come back in, and they've got to mesh together, but we know they're going to shoot a lot of threes. We expect it and we've got to be ready to defend the 3-point line."

On what a Euro-step is:

"Well, you can't take two steps. You get a layup with one and a half steps, so you can sidestep with it, but when that fourth foot comes down, it's a travel. You can sidestep with the same one and a half steps you have there, but when that pivot foot that you take off comes down, that's when it's a travel. So, maybe I'll put together a tape for you and show it better, then you could probably understand it better."

On if he thinks it's hard to call:

"No, I don't. First of all, if referees call traveling every time in a game, that would stop the action a lot. There's a lot of traveling that goes on that doesn't get called, and I go back to Coach Knight. That was his big thing. He used to talk all the time about traveling and how he thinks it gives players more of an advantage than anything, and he's right. You can get by with a travel a little bit here or there, and it can help you, but it's a hard thing to pick up all the time."

On what John Fulkerson's issues were in the second half:

"I can't honestly tell you. He came in the game and played like he was going to try to do everything himself. He got the ball, tried to drive it through everyone and turned the ball over. There was no play there at all, but he broke out of the offense and found trouble. Physically, I don't think he worked as hard as he needed to, to get his positioning. If you're playing against John Fulkerson, you're going to get physical with him. We tried to do some things to get him in space and to let him do some things, but he has to do a lot on his own. He wasn't rolling hard to the rim, like he has been, so when you look at it, his lack of production comes down to his lack of execution of what he was supposed to be doing."

On his scout of Arkansas:

"We know we're going to have to defend them at all three levels. We're going to have to be locked in on our transition defense, on our personnel and we're going to have to rebound. But, if you don't take care of the ball, then we're going to have those same issues. I don't care what the situation is. Whether you've got a lead or whether you're coming from behind, you have to expect the other team to make a push. You expect to see momentum change here or there, and we have to take care of the ball in those situations and not just give the ball to the other team. You have to execute and not turn the ball over in those situations.

On Santiago Vescovi and if he knew he would be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Vols at this point:

"No. It's like what I said to an earlier question. I would've liked to have had him earlier in the year. I think he would have been an even bigger piece to the puzzle. For what he's done, do I still coach him hard? I do. Do I treat him as if he's been here all year? I do.

"His fourth foul is about as dumb of a play as you can make. We told him, even when he had the charge, 'Look, they're going to try to pick up charges on you. You have to play off of two feet.' But, he is competitive. He gives us a guy that's going to drive the ball hard, along with Jordan Bowden, but he drives it with a purpose. He can also make a play when he does drive the ball. For what he's done, I don't know where we'd be without him. The things he's been able to pick up and the things he's done having to learn things on the fly is like a guy getting called up from the G-League and being asked to play against guys who have played with a three-month head start and figure it out. He's done that."

On if Yves Pons is one of the best defensive players in the SEC:

"I do. He does a lot of things for us. I can't imagine there's a better shot blocker in the country at his height. Think about it. He's a great fix it guy. He defends the ball well. He works hard at doing his job. But, all of those blocks are fix it plays where he's come over and helped cover up for his teammate's mistakes. He's done that for us as well as anyone since we've been here."

On if Bud Walton Arena is one of the toughest places to play in the SEC:

"It's a great place to play. I would've told you up until last year when we went into Rupp when we were ranked No. 1, that Bud Walton Arena is as loud as any place we've been since I've been in the SEC. It's a great atmosphere, they love their team, and when they're playing well, it's one of the toughest places to play in the SEC."

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