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Rick Barnes: Brandon Huntley-Hatfield will play more going forward

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Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The minutes of Brandon Huntley-Hatfield have been a hot topic throughout the season. The former five-star prospect reclassified to join Tennessee early, looking to boost a frontcourt that could use another big body.

However, as the season went on, Huntley-Hatfield began losing minutes. Uros Plavsic was the beneficiary, finding a regular spot in the rotation. Huntley-Hatfield’s effort was called out by Rick Barnes as his minutes continued to dwindle.

Tennessee was absolutely annihilated by Kentucky on Saturday as the Wildcats started hot and stayed hot all afternoon. The Volunteers had nothing going in the paint, highlighted by John Fulkerson’s 0-0-2 statline. It wasn’t that long ago that Fulkerson was lighting up the Wildcats with a 27 point performance in Rupp Arena — and now this.

Fulkerson tested positive for COVID following the Arizona game, where he had a great performance. He hasn’t been the same since. The same thing happened last season.

Back to Huntley-Hatfield.

The freshman didn’t find the floor until halfway through the second half, and he immediately responded with 11 points on 4-5 shooting. After the game, Rick Barnes admitted he would be seeing more playing time.

Tennessee needs a shake-up, no doubt about it. Huntley-Hatfield was a five-star for a reason, and no matter what he shows in practice, it’s beyond time to toss him into the fire and see what happens.

With Fulkerson’s struggles and Olivier Nkamhoua’s inconsistency, Tennessee could use another look in the post. Huntley-Hatfield is averaging just 11 minutes per game, scoring 4.2 points and grabbing 2.8 rebounds per contest.

Barnes has been consistent with his stance — if you practice well enough to play, you’ll play. He clearly hasn’t seen what he wants out of BHH to this point, but the fact of the matter is, Tennessee needs BHH. They need a shot in the arm to come from somewhere, and Huntley-Hatfield is at least worth a shot going forward.

Tennessee travels to Nashville to face Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, then hosts LSU on Saturday.

It’s not exactly panic time here for Tennessee, but the Vols need to string some wins together. Doing the same old stuff doesn’t seem like the way to get that done.