COLUMBUS, Ohio (WVLT) -- Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes, Vols' starting five explain how UT can win against Colgate Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Kyle, you weren't able to play against Loyola in the second round. Does that give you more urgency this time around? Everybody is looking forward to it, but do you think you in particular are ready to go?
KYLE ALEXANDER: Yeah, it's unfortunate last year that I wasn't able to play in the second round. I'm excited regardless. I'm a senior this year. I'm excited regardless, I'm ready to go. I'm ready to play.
Q. Grant, how much do you guys think as a team you benefit from being through all this? This is not the first time any of you have sat up there on this stage, not the first time you've practiced in an open arena? The whole process, how much do you think you benefit from the experience?
GRANT WILLIAMS: We're definitely fortunate. We're blessed because not many people have a chance to do this once but we're doing it twice. So we're ready for the challenge. We're capable of anything that's thrown at us. And we're just ready to get out there and play.
Q. Admiral, how are you a better basketball player because of what happened last March, how it happened?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: I would just say I'm more motivated. But also it gave me an opportunity to go through the NBA process. So I learned a lot about the game, a lot of things outside of the game that helped me for this upcoming March.
But the biggest thing it taught me how much I loved my teammates, I missed my teammates. And it really gave me motivation towards doing something special in returning. So I think it made me better as far as being a leader and understanding what we want to get done as far as our goals.
We've been in great positions this year to win championships. We haven't finished, but at the same time we have a great opportunity to win another one this year.
Q. You mentioned after Sunday's loss that it was going to stick with you and obviously it hurt. How quickly were you able to flush that? And what was that process like to move forward quickly?
JORDAN BONE: Like I mentioned, it's tough to get past a loss like that, especially being in similar situations with the same team competing for a championship, and we failed against the same team twice. That's a hard pill to swallow.
But I feel like, just being a mature team and understanding that we're in a good position because we do have more basketball left, we do have another opportunity to go out there and compete, I feel like that kind of made it a little easier to get past those losses.
Like I said, it was a hard pill to swallow, because of the situation we were in. But we have another opportunity to go out there and do what we do. So I think that, like I said, it just shows the maturity of this team and the perspective that we have for this game.
Q. Kyle, this group, this unit has been together for pretty much the past three years, but for you and Admiral, this is going to be your last run. So this is going to be the last time you all can go through this together. So, I mean, where is the sense of urgency for you, Admiral, and for all of you to make this last run your best part of your season?
KYLE ALEXANDER: It's a good point you mentioned for me and Admiral. After all this is done, we're done. We're seniors and it's the end of the road. So the urgency is there because we're not trying to have this end anytime soon. We're trying to be with this group as long as we can.
So definitely there's a sense of urgency there. And I wouldn't want to be here with any other group of guys, because I love this group of guys.
Q. Admiral, as you take what you take from that loss to Auburn, but when you come back to the tournament again, is there anything you change with your routine, your approach, knowing that you've been here, done that in terms of the first weekend and all the buzz it gets?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Well, you can't change what got you here. And, I mean, just because you lose doesn't mean what you did was the wrong thing as far as process-wise. It just means that you didn't execute in the moment.
So, for us, it's just being able to adjust as far as it's really win or go home at this point. And we want to have a lot more opportunities to be together, play with each other. So for us it's just being locked in for 40 minutes and focusing on each game that's in front of us and not taking any opponent lightly, but also respecting the game and playing with the passion we know we all have and the love we all have and having fun out there.
So for us it's just really being locked in 100 percent collectively on a consistent basis every night, every film session. Really cherishing every moment that we have in the hotel rooms and the free time that we have, but also understanding that we're here on business as well. And we're here to accomplish our main goal, and that's to win a national championship.
But can't do that without winning the first game and the game after that. So we have to take it step-by-step and understanding that this process is just like any other process. There's levels to it, there's steps to it. And we've just got to understand that consistency and consistent buy-in and lock-in to the game plan and to each other is what's going to get it done this year.
Q. Lamonte, how important was that SEC Tournament for you in terms of getting all the confidence back, and was there a point where it wavered down the stretch in the regular season?
LAMONTE TURNER: I think whenever a shooter isn't making shots you're confidence wavers a little bit. But my teammates did a great job of keeping me up and making me realize that I do more than just score for us. So I just tried to find another role, tried to do other things to keep me going. But as far as confidence, yeah, I think making shots and getting going in the tournament definitely helped me.
Q. Jordan, what do you remember about last year, the way it ended in what Dallas and how that felt? And I'm sure you guys thought you were going to be around longer than that first weekend?
JORDAN BONE: Yeah, just a lot of pain, a lot of regret from that last game. I feel like this team still feels that, I mean, it's something that we can look back on as motivation to not get that feeling again.
But I feel like that was just the start of something special, honestly. Everything happens for a reason. So just having the right mindset, the right perspective of why things happen, I feel like that shows something about our group. It shows something about certain individuals, how they bounced back from that moment.
But it's been tough, man, it's been tough. I'm just moving on from that. But we have to use that to not get that feeling again. So we're just excited to play, and hopefully we can take this thing further than we did last year.
Q. Grant, has it been a long week since Sunday in the way that ended? Have you guys been eager to get here and get going?
GRANT WILLIAMS: As competitors, we're just ready to play. That's how the team feels. We're ready to get going. But we're doing everything we can to prepare and just understand that now it's a time where one-and-done, and you have to come with the right mindset every single day, every single game.
And we've done a good job of staying focused and we're locked in on our opponent. We understand what they do. We just have to go out and execute what the coaches have scheduled for us.
COACH BARNES OPENING STATEMENT: Well, obviously we're excited for our program, we're excited for the university and our players are excited to be back in this tournament again. It's something that you begin every basketball season with hoping to be a part of what is really, arguably, the best sporting event in our country.
Again, our guys have worked hard just like Colgate and all the other teams in this tournament. If you're here at this time of year it tells you that you've had success start to finish, but certainly you've had success to get your way into the tournament. And we're excited to be a part of it.
Q. I know you've touched on it from time to time in this season. But do you feel like this turnaround would have been possible without Kevin Punter being a part of this program your first year here?
COACH BARNES: I don't know how to answer that other than the fact that I know he's a big part of what happened that first year, because when we went in, we wanted to establish a culture of -- the fact that a group of guys that want to have a great work ethic. And he was the first guy that really, once we talked about how we saw that and what we thought that meant, he bought right into it.
And I've said many times that I'll always be thankful and blessed that Kevin was there when we got there, because he went above and beyond. And then by what he was doing when Admiral came in and then Kyle came in and Lamonte, it just -- he was the leader of those guys. And when he left, those are the guys, along with our two walk-ons, Lucas and Brad, that have continued to build that culture. And the next class with Grant and those guys were the ones that we've just kept building.
Q. How much of a benefit is it to have everybody back from last year? It's not new for any of these guys, the attention, the hype, the pressure.
COACH BARNES: Well, it's a benefit if they understand that you take nothing for granted, that you understand that this time of year everybody can play. And I think they do understand that. I really do. And we've been through a lot this year as a team and a lot of good things have happened, obviously.
But you can say that about every team in this league. But I'd like to see the fact that we've been here, but it only works for you if you make it work for you.
Q. You've had this unit for pretty much the past two years, but after this tournament, this team won't look the same. So have you started to sense some urgency from the guys, maybe knowing it's their last ride? They actually need to go out on top or at least as far as they can go?
COACH BARNES: We start every year talking about that every year is a new team. This team is not the same team that we had a year ago this time. And you're right about it. This time, again, we'll graduate some key guys to our program, not just guys that have had success on the basketball court, but guys that have really put a lot into building this program.
But they understand, I do think they understand it all. And I think they realize how difficult it is. They know that everybody can play. But the fact is, again, I think most coaches this time of year would be surprised if their teams aren't excited, on edge, ready to play. And certainly hope that we're there.
Q. To prepare for Colgate, what concerns you? What jumps out at you about them?
COACH BARNES: One, they're a well-coached team. They rely on shooting the 3, but they can do some other things. They have some size, they have length. They look to really try to take advantage of your help defense, too. They can mix some defenses up with you. And there's no doubt they're going to pretty much pack it back in there, I'm sure, and hope that we settle early.
And so they won 11 in a row, which tells you that they played their way in starting way back before their tournament and the way they're playing good basketball. And, again, their length and the fact that they can shoot the ball. They're going to shoot it a lot from back there. So we're going to have to be able to guard the 3-point line.
Q. You've been through this tournament 23, 24 times. I mean, that's a lot obviously. And you mentioned not taking it for granted. But as a coach what do you maybe not take for granted or do you maybe change some things about your routine about this first weekend, given all the buzz that it creates?
COACH BARNES: I think, one, you want to go with the formula that has gotten you here. I think, is when you start doing things that maybe the players look at you differently and think that -- I think, coaches can get players too uptight. I do. I think coaches could also maybe let players get a little bit too loose.
I think the key is to be who you are and what's got your team here and players be that. But I think we all want to come into this tournament with energy. You want to have the legs that you need to compete, the way you'll have to compete each possession.
And there's no doubt early in my career, I think, I probably got my team a little bit too uptight at times. But we've had teams that just fought to get here, was a great achievement in itself. And when you're fighting -- because it is something you don't take for granted, because you think about the 68 teams here, and then the teams in the NIT.
If you're playing this time of year, one, you've got to feel good about it because there's a lot of teams that took inventory early and aren't playing. But what you want to do, you don't want to look back when it's all said and done and not think that -- you gave it your best shot.
Q. Lamonte, do you feel like he kind of found his swagger back in Nashville with a big shot against Kentucky and had a nice game against Auburn?
COACH BARNES: He started making some shots, but what I hope he realizes, and I think he does now, he can affect a game whether or not he's scoring or not. And I will say this about this about him and other guys on our team, when we're really locked in defensively our offense flows much better. We play that way.
What you don't want him to do is get back where he forgets about his defense because he's affected games for us from the defensive end. But I do, again, he obviously shoots the ball better than when he went through that period there where he couldn't make a shot. So we're glad that happened. But yet I wanted him to come into the game with the mindset that he's really had the last month of the season.