Tennessee got back in the win column tonight with a win over the Florida Gators. It was another ugly game, but Tennessee got things done in the paint when they had to. Florida missing plenty of open jumpers helped too.
Rick Barnes seemed pleased with his group tonight. Here are four key points from his press conference after the game.
Hello again, Grant Williams
Just days after challenging Grant Williams to be more aggressive and get to the rim, Tennessee’s stud sophomore delivered. He was the reason why the Volunteers beat the Gators tonight, without doubt.
Barnes noted that Grant was playing faster, specifically in the second half. “We told him, hey we’re going to put it in there, but we want you to get rid of it. When he holds it too long and starts doing too much, we turn it over. We want that ball to go inside out. Our guys are stationary and we think they can make that shot.”
The Tennessee offense wasn’t much of anything without Williams on the floor in the second half. He exited the game quickly out of halftime after he picked up his third foul. Barnes was forced to play him at the 11 minute mark and you’ve got to credit Grant for playing smart down the stretch. He was the aggressor for the Vols when they absolutely had to have one. When he’s locked in like that, Tennessee won’t lose many games.
Florida head coach Mike White called Tennessee “one of the hardest playing teams in the country.” Rick Barnes said that’s why Tennessee is where they are.
“If we don’t (put in the effort), we’re not very good. You saw that against Alabama and in the last four minutes against Georgia,” Barnes said. “I appreciate the work ethic of our guys. That the reason why we are where we are.”
Progress for Jordan Bone?
Bone has been one of the more frustrating players for Tennessee this season. He’s been ice cold from the floor lately and has seen his minutes decrease in the second half of the season. Bone logged 32 minutes tonight, however. Barnes seemed pleased with what he brought to the table.
“In practice yesterday, we said we aren’t going to leave until you prove how aggressive you can be going to the basket. I don’t care if we stay three hours. He did it. He did that tonight. Even though he had a few shots blocked, he showed that he can do it. We need to put that kind of pressure on the rim.”
Bone was 3-9 from the floor, scoring six points on the night. This staff has been begging him to get out and run, trying to take advantage of his speed. Maybe tonight was the start of a turning point for Jordan.
A Derrick Walker Update
“He’s hurt. He turned his ankle in practice yesterday. He was having a tough time in shoot-around,” Barnes said.
No timetable was offered on a return for the freshman big-man. With Walker hurt, expect to see John Fulkerson’s minutes increase. Tennessee may even have to go small at times and run with just Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield down low.