Video & Transcript: Tennessee Talks About Escaping Against Hawkeyes
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Tennessee student-athletes Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield as well as head coach Rick Barnes. Questions for the student-athletes first?
Q. Admiral, can you explain how you guys can look so dominant for long stretches and then have what happened —
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Honestly, one of the things we always say is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, never has to be perfect because basketball is never perfect. Most times that’s how a game goes sometimes.
You have a big run, you have stretches. The way we started the game, that’s the team we win. The way we finished the game, we can’t have that. That’s what got us beat throughout the season.
The team you saw in the first half is what won 31 games. We have to be consistent in that aspect. But this time of year it’s about winning, about surviving and advancing. All I can say is, go, Vols.
Q. What can you say about overtime and what you guys were able to kind of reverse the momentum and execute the final five minutes?
GRANT WILLIAMS: We knew we had to make plays. We knew that defensively we had to step up because we came out halftime and we were trying to slow the pace of the game down and that’s how they like to play. And we should have just kept going how we were going and kept the pace up, kept trying to being aggressive and dominant.
That’s a learning moment. We got it done. And going into overtime, we just said, we’ve done this before a lot. We kind of fought through those games. We just knew we had to get stops and we knew what plays were we were going to go and attack and we got it done.
Q. Grant, seemed like you wanted the ball in overtime. Is that true? What was going through your head as you walked out after the final buzzer of regulation?
GRANT WILLIAMS: No doubt. I definitely wanted the gall, definitely. I knew I had to be aggressive. But I also knew my teammates were going to hit shots. At the end of the half, I knew Lamonté was feeling it and also he was going to get us a good shot.
So I knew that putting the ball in his hands we were going to get a great opportunity. And we did. We had multiple possessions where Monté had big shots and he also was defending his butt off tonight commend and respect.
Gotta give credit to all the guys. Kyle Alexander was phenomenal tonight, and if anyone doesn’t believe that or anything like that he was incredible. He was on the glass, he was a presence, he was defensively there. He was doing his job and it’s all love. Hey, Coach, how is your suit? A little wet?
COACH BARNES: My suit got soaked. I got soaked and when my hair gets wet it don’t look that good. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Would you like to make a statement, Coach.
COACH BARNES: You’ve got to give Iowa and Coach McCaffery and his staff — they just got back in it. We turned it over — when you have a lead like that you can’t turn it over the way we did. But they took advantage of it.
Once it got to overtime I thought we really responded the way we needed to. But it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. But I think because it did you’ve got to give all the credit to Iowa, and the fact that they took advantage of some of our silly turnovers.
But Lamonté Turner I thought was key in setting the tone of the game early. I thought we were aggressive. Came out played the way, the first half, like we do when we’re playing our best basketball. But second half, we talked about the first four minutes, and we didn’t do what we said we wanted to do in terms of, again, coming out setting the tone.
And Grant continued to pick up some silly fouls, and Admiral and that changed the flow of the game and his foul in the last minute and a half of the first half was a dumb foul and that changes the game a little bit. Then he picked up another one trying to take a charge. We just weren’t a real smart team when we had the lead.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Grant or Admiral.
Q. Grant, can you describe the pass that you made at the start of overtime that might have changed the flow of the extra period?
GRANT WILLIAMS: I just knew they were coming with the double team. I spun baseline and they came and the dude sunk down on JB, so I knew I had to get the pass. And Bone was wide open. I don’t know how I got it there, I don’t know how I did it. But it got there and I had made the shot.
Q. One year ago, a year and a week ago, you were on the other side of this emotion, would you describe the difference how you felt now from how you felt a year and a week ago?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: I would say the biggest thing is we’re more appreciative for the fact that we had another opportunity to play in a game like this. And for it to almost go similar to what it was last year, it’s almost nerve-racking for a lot of guys on our bench because it was a lot of pain for us we worked very hard last year to get to this point.
And this year we worked even harder and put ourselves in a great position to be here. We knew we were going to get here. It didn’t matter what city. We knew we were going to be in the tournament. So to be back here and be on the other side of it, it feels great. And we won’t take that for granted but the biggest thing we learned we can dominate. We can dominate a game and we need to do that for 40 minutes. We didn’t do it tonight and we have to be consistent.
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GRANT WILLIAMS: I feel like a fifth grader who just ate Skittles. Just want to say that.
THE MODERATOR: Can you play better than you did in the first half?
GRANT WILLIAMS: We definitely can. We had a lot of breakdowns in the first half. That shouldn’t have happened. We had some offensive possessions where we turned the ball over. Those are possessions we can’t have. But we definitely have the talent to play better in the first half than that first half.
THE MODERATOR: Go celebrate. Welcome to the Sweet 16.
Q. The final play of regulation, is that what you wanted with Jordan Bone in the corner for three?
COACH BARNES: No, we wanted the ball to Lamonté. They jumped into a zone. We were going to go with a high-ball screen with Grant, and they jumped in a zone. We, again, we were waiting for it to get down.
But we had success just getting the ball to the middle of the zone. But now, in that situation, players have to react as quickly as they can. But we were really putting the ball in Lamonté’s hand and see what he could create. But they went 3-2 zone. And we should have, again, on that roll I still think Grant was there but it was hard for three guys out there see it.
I thought Kyle was terrific today. It was really interesting throughout the game and our bench where we were wanting to sub, and at the end of the game Admiral kept saying, you have to leave Kyle in; don’t put me in; leave Kyle in because they felt like he could do what he needed to do.
And he did some — he and Lamonté — Lamonté’s defense was huge. He set the tone for us early. But I tell these guys all the time, you know, your defense gets you the lead and your offense keeps it. And you can’t turn the ball the way we did to come out in the second half. It’s just sloppy.
But you know what? You sit back there longer than you normally do this time of year, but couple of calls that were tough calls. But Fran did a great job. We knew that once foul trouble — they were trying to put fouls on Grant and Admiral, and we were trying to do the same thing on the other end.
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And Lamonté was really dialed in and his conversation throughout the game with his teammates was fabulous. It really was. And when we came out the start of the overtime, we just said, hey, we’re starting over. We’re going to go get aggressive.
And we got back on our heels where we just — when you turn it over like that and you give teams those opportunities, you know, it’s going to put you back on your heels. Some of the ways we turned that ball over, it just baffles you sometimes.
But, again, you’ve got to give — Fran’s a terrific coach and his staff. They do a great job. But I thought the biggest key was what Lamonté did with Bohannon. I thought that was the biggest key in the game. He was hounding him, harassing him the whole time.
Q. Schofield took a 3 near the end of regulation that looked like a two for one tactic?
COACH BARNES: No, it was supposed to go inside. He was so wide open it was hard to turn down. We knew they were starting to double Grant Williams and when we have the small lineup, we run that little set; it’s an offset where they can’t double with the post. If it comes into the post that means one of the wings or guards have to come in and double because they can’t get down there. But he was so wide open.
Q. A lot of us interpreted that as two-for-one like an NBA two-for-one. Was that true or not?
COACH BARNES: First half we were trying to do it for certain. But I don’t remember how much time was on the clock.
Q. About 45 seconds.
COACH BARNES: Again, we ran it right away to score. We weren’t coming out to try to hold it, but again the ball was supposed to go inside.
Q. You took him out right after that and he didn’t play in the overtime. Why?
COACH BARNES: He didn’t want to play. He kept saying leave Kyle in the game. Kyle is important. With four fouls, he knew they would come right at him. He said, Coach, I can’t guard the way I can guard. I’m going to foul. So you have to leave Kyle in. That was his decision. He said, leave Kyle in the game.
Q. What went through your head at that point? Did you not question his own judgment?
COACH BARNES: No, because again Kyle was effective. Kyle wanted to play. And Kyle did a lot of great things today. But the other shot was a tough shot, the one he had on the baseline where I think he shot an air ball, that was a bad shot. There was no reason to shoot that.
But the fact is, we knew they were going to keep trying to punch it inside. And they ran a little, what we call lollypop action where they were getting us deep in there. But after that Kyle tried to do a little bit better job fronting when he was that deep.
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But, again, that’s where I thought the guys were really locked in. They’ve been together a lot. They were talking during the timeout. And we actually at one time put Admiral back in the game in regulation. But he said, “Coach, leave Kyle in the game. We have to have him to rebound the ball for us.”
And I think you realize that the players, they have a feel better than probably anybody in the building. And he felt like that was the best thing.
And Lamonté Turner kept saying the same thing, too, we’ve got to have Kyle in the game. Normally in those situations we go with a small lineup because it’s a pretty efficient lineup. But I trust my players. I do. And for the fact that they felt he needed to be in the game, you know, we went with it.
Q. I saw that Admiral was standing up next to you, looked like he was almost taking coaching stance, even with being in foul trouble. How does that affect your team knowing that he’s still helping and doing well, doing things for the team even though he can’t be on the floor?
COACH BARNES: Well, it helps. He’s into the game. He’s a competitor. He’s been here longer than anyone. He and Kyle. It was great to see it happen today. I thought it was great no selfishness on his part. He’s been with this guy forever, Kyle Alexander, he’s watched him grow up from a little baby giraffe to where he is today, where he used to wobble down the floor. And it’s amazing when you think how far he’s come.
But the fact that he felt — again, he and Lamonté, those guys were adamant: Kyle’s gotta be in this game; he’s got to be in this game.
And so, again, I think it’s their team and I know how hard they’ve worked. And if they felt that strongly about it, we could go up a possession or two and see what happens. And at that point in time we had made up our mind we were going to really play through Lamonté and Grant. We were going to let those guys, we were going to play through those two guys.
Q. Was anything special said before overtime, any special thing? And Jordan Bone, who missed the last shot against Loyola last year, missed the shot at the end of regulation, but he made the one at the start of overtime. How big a shot was that? And did you want to get him involved in overtime?
COACH BARNES: He can shoot the ball. There’s no doubt about it. And Grant, I don’t know how he got that pass to him, because I saw where he swung baseline. But those are the kind of 3s we want to take once we go inside/out with it. The ones I don’t like, and we actually did that a couple times in the first half, where the emotion of the game, the way we were shooting it, but we took three 3s in the first half we shouldn’t have taken where emotion got the best of us.
But when — Bone’s over there, he and Lamonté and Bowden, we expect them to shoot — actually Bowden turned down one in the first half when we came out of a timeout, said we’ve got to play inside/out, and Lamonté drove it really well from the right side and Bowden shot faked and drove it. And I can’t remember what happened. But I know he should have shot that one.
Q. Talk about how far your players have come, how far has this program come since you’ve been here?
COACH BARNES: Well, you think about it, Admiral Schofield, Lamonté Turner — well Lamonté wasn’t on that team; he was redshirting — but Admiral and Kyle and our two walk-ons who have been a big part of our team, Lucas Campbell and Brad Woodson — and those guys lost 19 games, I think, four years ago — and I think the year after that, 15.
And we came back after that, what was Grant’s freshman year and their sophomore year, and had the hardest spring we’ve ever had in probably my last 20-some years as a coach. We put them on the track, because I told them, you guys have no idea what it’s like to play, because we had not made the NCAA Tournament — we didn’t make any tournament.
And I said we’re going to be a team that plays into March, there’s three more weeks of basketball. So I said for the next three weeks we’re going to get on the track and let you know this is how long the season should be.
And they didn’t like it. But they embraced it. And then last year when we got where we were, they actually said they thought that was the turning point in our program. So the end of last year, when we lost, a tough loss to Loyola, I went back and reminded those guys, you guys said that that was the best thing we did, so do we need to do it again.
They said, let us take care of it. They really did. For the next two weeks, last year, you would have thought they were still preparing to play three weeks. They’re a close group of guys. And they have worked hard. And I’m happy for them.
And you could tell the other day against Colgate, the first meeting we had with them, after last year, we said to them, we don’t get to pick up where we left off a year ago. We’re going to have to earn our way back there. But you ask them to a man, they would tell you that — and we talked about it after the game against Colgate — and that’s what they wanted to do was to get back there see if they could go further.
So that’s been on their mind. And they wanted to do that. And I thought that they carried a little extra stress because of that. And then we came up here and all I talked to them about was we’ve got to win a tournament, between us, Colgate and Purdue and Cincinnati. And I wasn’t real happy that Cincinnati (indiscernible), we’d be playing in their backyard and we’re right here in the middle of Big Ten country.
But we’ve been a good road team. And these guys found a way to get it done. And the credit really does go to them. They worked really hard. And it hasn’t been easy because as a program we work but they’ve embraced that. And I’m happy for them and mad that they just soaked me when I walked into the locker room. They got me good. They got me really good. But if it makes them happy, I can deal with it, you know.