“Not very,” was Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes response when he was asked about how pleased he was with the Vols’ performance in the second half against Arkansas.
“They got whatever they wanted — what’d they shoot in the second half? 50-something percent? We’ve got to give them credit. They came out and won the second half.”
Tennessee won by 19 points and the game was never once in doubt. But you start to see why this team is so good when you listen to Barnes harp on the fact that his team got beat in the second half of a game that was already decided.
The Vols exploded for 55 points in the first half against Arkansas, shooting the ball at an extremely high percentage as they ran away from the Razorbacks. They did that without Admiral Schofield, who was forced to the bench after picking up two quick fouls. Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner picked up the slack, burying the Hogs before halftime.
But Barnes wasn’t pleased — he’s never pleased. He won’t be pleased until Tennessee is cutting down the nets come tournament time. It’s why this team is what they are today. Barnes is fighting complacency and quite frankly boredom these days. He’s got to figure out ways to keep this team razor sharp, even when the game has been decided. He knows that if they develop those habits when they’re up 25 points, they may spill over to when they’re in a tight game.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds where guys just stood and watched,” Barnes said. “At the end of the game, they were just more aggressive. In the first half there were some good things, obviously. Tonight I did something I normally don’t do — I walked right off the court, right into the locker room and told them that as a team, I didn’t think we were totally locked in. Again, I give Arkansas credit. They continued to fight and go score and we didn’t have an answer for it.”
Arkansas outscored Tennessee 53-51 in the second period, giving Barnes plenty of ammo to come at his team with over the next couple of days before they face Alabama on Saturday.
Not too long ago, Tennessee was the team on the other end of this stick. Barnes has turned his roster into a true juggernaut in just a few years time. Now he’s having to come up with ways to keep them engaged in blowout situations.
Whatever he’s doing, it’s clearly working. Tennessee is winning at a historic pace, outscoring their first four opponents in SEC play by a combined 100 points.
Tennessee is the 3rd major conference team over the last 20 seasons to outscore their first four conference opponents by 100+ points. They joined 2000-01 Duke, who won the National Title and 2012-13 Florida, which went to the Elite 8.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 16, 2019
(h/t @EliasSports) pic.twitter.com/1CvlHLjHJj
Tougher days are undoubtedly ahead as the conference schedule toughens up. Rick Barnes is doing everything possible to make sure his team is sharp and focused for those looming tests ahead.