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This time Vols were “locked in” on defense against UK

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says his team was much more “locked in” on defense than when it lost to UK. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

When Kentucky beat Tennessee two weeks ago in Rupp Arena, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was not happy with the way anyone on his team played defense.

That changed Saturday in Knoxville when the Vols pummeled Kentucky 71-52.

“We were just telling our guys to not be emotional but be more intense because they beat us every way you can be beaten (in Rupp Arena),” said Barnes. “We just felt like we had to be really locked in.

“I think I would say that with every guy in this difference. They were more focused on what had to be done and that is not to take anything away from Kentucky, because they are an outstanding team. They are hard to score against.

“I thought it was a real tough defensive battle. It might have been the best we have been, but we didn’t make enough shots.”

Tennessee made 27 shots which was more than enough to beat Kentucky because the Cats were a woeful 14 of 44 shots, including just five of 19 from 3-point range.

 Barnes hopes his team can continue to play this way defensively. The Vols and LSU are both 14-2 in SEC play with two games left while UK is 13-3.

“You like to think you guys understand it. We’re an older group of guys now. We had to add a few things here and there, defensively. An older group of guys should be able to do that. You would like to think if they were as focused as they needed to be, it is going to take that kind of effort every night,” Barnes said after the win.

“We were much more aggressive in a lot of areas. We settled a little bit offensively to start the game. We were a little bit over-emotional in the first half in terms of our shot selection. Two or three times we went up and had to drop the ball off and almost got it blocked. Those guys we were just too impatient.

“In the second half, I thought we came out much better. We put them on the free throw line too much in the second half. We were definitely a much more aggressive team here than we were in Rupp Arena.”

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  1. Is this the year that Cal doesn’t have them ready for postseason play? It appears that might have been some evidence of that yesterday. This team was disgraceful in every aspect of the game. PJ seemed okay with conceding the SEC POY to Williams as he reverted to his play of last year. Hagans has played his way out of defensive specialist of anything. I think he has had 1 steal in last 4 games…maybe 2..not totally sure. Johnson and Hagans have been slipping for a few games now but the meltdown of Herro might have been biggest surprise of the day. What we witnessed yesterday does enable me to restart the feeling that Cal is slipping. We enter SEC tournament probably rated #3, Cal continues to miss on the quality bigs out there and doesn’t coach up the ones he has, the coaching parity in SEC has never been greater, and I am, once again, thinking we will not see #9 raised on Cal’s watch.

  2. Wow! I wonder how long you’ve been waiting for us to have a bad game? I’m not certain what coach or what team you would feel positive toward. Wouldn’t be Duke after their latest loss to Virginia Tech would it? This has been one of Cal’s best coaching efforts and that is recognized by other coaches and most of the fan base. So we had an “off” game and you start slamming the coach and players? There are 5 or 6 teams that can win it all and Kentucky is one of them, Tennessee and LSU are two more.

    1. William you miss Mike’s point as do most Rah Rahs. We didn’t just lose a game, we were not competitive in any way which is an alarm for this point in the season. We were humiliated on the same level as the azzwhooping that Duke gave us. You should never lose LIKE THAT at TOURNAMENT TIME! I am not sure if Travis has a pro career ahead of him, but there is not anyone else on this team ready to go pro. All of them should come back to work on their biggest weakness…lack of mental toughness. This team has to talent to win it all, but it doesn’t have the maturity to do so. Its anyone’s guess as to how far they will go. We could very easily win both tournaments or get beat in the second game of both. That is who this team is. They need another year of seasoning.

    2. William…….you and a few others (Inc. the Pupster) who has just jumped on board need to take a big deep breath and relax. It was Sunday morning, and I wanted to stir the pot a little and have some fun. Many of you guys take me and the Catman a little too seriously, but you do love to hit us for speaking some truths. The only ones that I have consistently trashed all year is Nick and EJ, and they have earned it. They should be arrested for both impersonating 5* McDonalds All Americans. They are better cheerleaders than players, and I hope they both transfer out because they show no signs of improvement. I am not thinking that Cal is by any means done, but I do feel his best years for UK might be in the history books.

  3. Catman and Mike, you two yahooz couldn’t carry those UK players’ jock straps. It don’t matter how they play, you both will trash em anyway. That same UK team, plus Travis Reid, kicked UT’s butts from one end of Rupp to the other. Had they had a healthy Reid Travis yesterday it could have made the difference. The hell with Tennessee and their “Rocky Top” and vomit colored orange. They won’t make it past the first or second round of the NCAA tourney. Go cheer that team on cause you sure don’t give this UK team much of a chance.

    1. Washington may be ready to make the leap to the NBA, but he’s the only one on the team even remotely ready for the jump…IMO.
      Having said that, I was disappointed with the loss, but it may prove to be a blessing in disguise. I would rather see UK in Louisville than in Kansas City or somewhere else.

    2. Pup…Try not to be too surprised or disappointed if UT kicks our butts again. I do recall giving the guys a lot of plaudits for their W and play in Lexington. Bottom line…after the total team collapse yesterday, it is difficult to feel real positive about our being Final 4 contenders. We have a couple of freshman that still haven’t got it and a couple that have lost confidence.

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