Barnes: "I'm really proud of these guys"

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Tennessee men's basketball team hits the hardwood once again on Tuesday night for a showdown against SEC rival Vanderbilt. Tip-off inside Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network.

The Vols dropped a heart breaker in Columbia, falling 63-61 to South Carolina on Saturday night.

UT was led by junior John Fulkerson who poured in a career-high 25 points and reeled in a game-high of nine rebounds. Fulkerson's 25 points came on a career-high-tying eight made field goals.

Junior Yves Pons also had a productive night, scoring 13 points, pulling in seven rebounds and rejecting three shot attempts. His three blocks moved his season total to 65, which is just ten away from breaking Tennessee's single-season blocks record.

A win Tuesday night would be the Vols sixth consecutive win over the Commodores and their third straight win inside Thompson-Boling Arena.

Here's what coach Barnes told the media during his weekly Monday news conference on the UT campus:

On what he thinks about the charge call after watching the game film:
"I don't know about that particular call. At the time I thought that and now I can talk to you about a lot of other calls I don't agree with, but in that particular instance, when he spun, there was contact and I thought the defender was there. But, as I said, there were a lot of other calls we could talk about that I wouldn't agree with."

On if Yves is healthy and how Josiah did in his first game back:
"He's struggling with a little tendonitis in his right knee. He hasn't done much, you guys saw him—he didn't do much at practice for a couple of days, but he's such a tough kid that he'll keep fighting through it. I thought Josiah, for the most part, for not being able to do much for the last couple of weeks went out and was okay. Some of the things he didn't do is just related to not playing and he needs to clean it up and he will."

On where Josiah is limited:
"He was doing some good things. We felt like he had really started coming around, but he's dealt with that injury all year. I'm not saying it's the exact same injury, but it's in that area, and he told me he'd come back when he thought he could play. I think the way he handled it was the right way to handle it. Now, it's a matter of him getting back and getting his conditioning back where he needs to have it and getting him back into the flow with everybody."

On how tough it is to not see Jordan Bowden step up late in games:
"We all feel for Jordan because, one thing I will tell you, he has continued to defend at a high level, which is hard to do when you're not playing as well as you want to play on the offensive end. The other day, two different players missed a free throw and went down right after that and almost broke down on the defensive end where they didn't let the missed free throw go, and they weren't as locked in as they needed to be and gave up a play on the defensive end. For a guy that has struggled as much as he has, he hasn't done that on the defensive end, and to be honest with you, we all keep thinking sooner or later, it's got to happen. Obviously, he's having his worst shooting year that he's had since he's been here. We just hope it happens because he's doing what he should be doing, and sometimes it can become a mental block, and we do everything we can to try to get him to understand that when he's open, he's got to shoot the ball. We just ask him to take good, in rhythm shots to be honest with you. He just needs to see a couple of them go in, and hopefully, he can get it going."

On if the turnovers on Saturday were due to South Carolina's defense:
"Some, but John Fulkerson's travels had nothing to do with their defense. Davonte threw the ball out of bounds with no pressure on him because Josiah broke his cut. That had nothing to do with them, that was us. That was the most frustrating thing from our team, it was the fact that we turned it over too many times where they had nothing to do with it. That was the most disappointing thing, where it was just careless mistakes that we talked about, and twice we turned it over where we knew we were going to lob the ball, and we got a lob dunk and then Josiah came out in the timeout, and why he did it we don't know because that wasn't even the play we had on. We start the second half with a situation where we ended up with not a great possession because we didn't execute. Those are the things that are the most frustrating. The 20 turnovers, a lot of them were just us, and that's not to take anything away from South Carolina, but when you're not being guarded on the perimeter and you travel with no pressure, that's just being careless with the ball."

On if they are looking towards the postseason:
"I think the most important thing is where we can get leadership. If it's not from the older guys, it's got to be from the younger guys. We showed a clip in the game that hasn't happened too many times this year; because if you look at our older guys they're not the most vocal. If you talk to them, they are on the side of being quiet. There was a play where Davonte Gaines was playing really hard, got tripped, got up, and made another play and turned around and talked to his teammates in a way like we need to get a stop here. That's what we're lacking and we need that. I don't care if it comes from the sophomores or the freshman. They have to do it. As we continue this year out, that's the one thing I think we can get some momentum somewhere going for the future with this team. We challenged our older guys yesterday about that. Where is it going to come from coming down the stretch? We have a lot of opportunities in front of us. We've told them there's not a game on our schedule we can't win. You can't turn the ball over 20 times, because once you do that you have to play near perfection to win a game. You don't want to go into any game thinking you have to be perfect, but if you're going to turn it over 20 times, you have to darn near be perfect if you want to win. So, that goes back to what we're talking about with leadership. We want to be in the postseason; but right now, we have to worry about Vanderbilt. We have to get ready for that and then the next one after that. We always think about the postseason don't get me wrong. We always think about. But, we know what goes into it and its winning games. You have to win games."

On Tuesday's game against Vanderbilt:
"I think Jerry (Stackhouse) has done a great job. I really do. When I watch them, I think his players have improved. Obviously, they went through a period where they were in a shooting slump and it hurt them. There's not one guy on their team that hasn't improved since we've played them. Again, I think that's a sign of terrific coaching and players that want to be coached. They have made it hard for everybody they have played. They obviously beat LSU when they were undefeated and number one in the league. They had Kentucky down at halftime. They're close like everyone. So, you have to be ready to play, it's plain and simple. They have the ability and they have proved, even though they have the one win, that they have played everybody tough. I guarantee when they sit down and watch tape, just like we do, they show the what-ifs and things they can certainly fix. I'm sure that's what he and his staff are trying to do."

On things he can do as a coach to get big plays out of the older guys:
"When you talk about it, I don't like any of the phony stuff. It's something as simple as saying something when you're coming down the floor. I'll give you a great example. I thought Kotsar was terrific coming down the stretch Saturday. I watched him talking to his teammates on defense and it's nothing crazy, it's just being aware of what needs to be said in certain situations of the game. Fulky has done some of that for us. In the out of bounds play the other day he took charge and called the play. People pretty much know that when the shot clock gets under 10, we're going to switch all ball screens. In the first half, we had no problem with it, in the second half we do, because they can hear us. You'd be amazed at how often we talk to our guys about guys knowing where the shot clock is on the defensive end just as much as the offensive end. When you go to set a ball screen, guys away from the ball need to be communicating that and that's the leadership we need. We know each other well enough to know a guy's body language and when they're struggling a bit. I told Yves during the game 'hey Yves, the other coaches don't think you've got it right now,' and immediately he flipped the switch and became much more aggressive. It's subtle things where players should be thinking of their teammates more. That's getting out of your comfort zone a bit and I don't think there's a single guy on our team that would bark back if I guy told him to play harder.
"To me, that's the beginning of the kind of leadership we need. It's not the ra ra stuff, it's the little things that need to be said between players. It's really more difficult than you would think trying to get guys to talk throughout the game. The best teams we play against are the teams that communicate throughout the game. We have little adjustments that we make in-game and we're not getting it from sometimes one guy. That's when we need someone to tell them 'hey, we've moved our offense up higher, you need to get up here,' and that's what we're not getting."

On Jalen Johnson only playing 13 minutes on Saturday:
"Like I've told you all, all of these guys are going to be judged on production. Jalen missed a shot and on the defensive possession, we had a scout that said to not go under on one of there players and he did. Davonte had been playing well and we had Josiah back. When Josiah was out, Jalen got those minutes. Everything we do with these guys is based on production. What's difficult for players, is they look out and say 'this guy gets more rope then this guy,' and it all goes back to what we see every day in practice. Can you earn extra rope? You can. Davonte Gaines—and I hope he can continue to earn extra rope, he's put together six games where he's been incredibly consistent—he did something in our scouting report he wasn't supposed to do and he didn't play after that. The games are so close and the possessions are so important you can't wait and hope that he's going to get it. There are certain guys who are out there that have been out there more who have more rope? Yes, but they get that rope because they earn it and they earn it every day in practice. There are only a certain number of minutes in a game to go around. Look at Uros, he goes in the game and the violation he had stepping across the lane like that, he can't do that. That's a possession we lose. When you lose a one-possession game and take a point away from a good free-throw shooter that's what loses games. When you're working your way into the lineup you have to do the things we need you to do to really help us win. You don't have to be perfect, but you can't do things that are absolutely out of the norm in terms of what we've talked about. You can't go under on a screen against a guy who can only step behind a screen and shoot. You can't step into the lane when a guy isn't even attempting to shoot the ball yet. Those are breakdowns that can't happen. That's what's tough about it. As time goes on, guys have to get out there and earn more rope, but he would have come out for that mistake regardless. I could tell you multiple times where guys have worked their way in and out of the lineup. Most of the time when they work their way out of the lineup it's because they don't do what we've talked to them about. It's the role we need them to play and if they're not willing to play that role then they're not going to play."

On the inconsistencies and challenges of this season:
"If you would have told me when the season started that Lamonte Turner wasn't going to be here and Jordan Bowden was going to have his worst shooting year ever and for us to even be where we are? We have two guys on the roster who weren't even on our opening day roster. If you think about when the season started, we were expecting Lamonte, Jordan Bowden and Josiah-Jordan James to play a lot. One of those guys is no longer with us, one is having as a tough a year as he has ever had, and the other has basically been hurt from the start. For us to even be where we are after those things, I'm really proud of these guys. And the fact that we had a guy that had three days of practice and has done a tremendous job, Uros (Plavsic) sat out much of the year. I think a lot of teams go through these things and I don't think anybody feels sorry for them. I can only tell you what we have gone through. Right after Christmas, we were a team that looked like a shell of what we were when we started. Without Santiago (Vescovi) I don't know where we would be right now, but to be able to continue to fight back and still be in the thick of it, is a real compliment to these guys, I think it really is. We're not talking to them about being young, because I think these guys have played enough minutes right now that we're in it. I go back to Saturday, John Fulkerson had six turnovers, you don't expect that from him, that's a lot of turnovers from a post guy. Yves (Pons) had two that had nothing to with the defense. It's the older guys in games at this time of year that have to really step up. You can't travel, you just can't do that. Fulky had one turnover where he got tripped then he stood up. You can't stand up, that's a rule. Those are plays you can't have. Our whole year has been inconsistent, and for these guys to continue to fight and to have given everything they have got, I would not trade them for anybody because I know they are trying, I know we are going to get so much better as time goes on. Does that make us feel any better right now? We were all disappointed in losing the game Saturday because we controlled it for the most part. It really it got away from us at the seven-minute mark because we felt like they were reeling at that point and then we had some missed free throws, they go down and we let them have a straight-line drive. We hadn't let them do that all game long. We go back and look at all the things we said we have to do to beat these guys, we did them all and then the last couple minutes we gave up a couple of things that we can't. But you have to give them credit. Lawson made a tough runner on the baseline and then hit a wide-open three where we over helped and that's how quickly it can change. But does frustration come in sometimes with where we are? It does, but the bottom line is we have to find a way to finish it and we had it, but we didn't finish it, so we have to let it go and get ready for tomorrow and then Saturday and on from there."

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