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.”