Coach Rick Barnes wants to see a championship level of play out of Tennessee, so he wasn’t satisfied with the 73-65 win at Ole Miss on Saturday.
“A win is a win this time of year, but we were terrible coming out of the locker room in the second half, and it was the same the other night against Florida,” the coach of the No. 19-ranked Vols (21-7, 11-5) said on the SEC Network.
“We allowed our offense to let them get out in transition too much in the second half.”
Tennessee ultimately prevailed, clinching a double bye in the SEC Tournament with the victory.
Barnes appeared in no mood to celebrate, knowing the Vols have work to do before a challenging road trip to Mississippi State on Tuesday night.
Saturday, the downtrodden Rebels (12-17, 5-11) opened the second half on an 11-0 run to cut the Tennessee lead to 4 points.
“I don’t think they should get it down to 4 [points] if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do,” Barnes said. “Being at the end of February, you’d like to think your team understands the importance of momentum.
“There’s no lead that’s big enough, especially early in the game.”
Ole Miss, however, made just 1 of 23 shot attempts beyond the 3-point arc, essentially shooting itself out of contention at The Pavilion in Oxford.
Tennessee junior Admiral Schofield starred with 25 points, but Barnes saw all of his team’s warts, and he didn’t hesitate to address them.
“Grant [Williams] continues to pick up cheap fouls,” Barnes said. “His first foul of the game is just being lazy. He should making basketball plays instead of just hoping he gets a call called his way.”
Williams was limited to 20 minutes because of foul trouble. Williams scored just 6 points on 3-of-10 shooting and had 5 rebounds.
“We didn’t do a great job on the boards,” Barnes said, noting the Vols were outrebounded by Ole Miss, 47-43. “Just like I told the guys, we’re doing things at the end of February we shouldn’t be doing, especially with guys who have played enough basketball to understand how important possessions are.”
Barnes said forward John Fulkerson was not available for the game after getting kicked in one of his calves in practice.
Freshman Derrick Walker responded exceptionally well, however, after Barnes had limited him in practice since the power forward sprained an ankle on Tuesday.
“Derrick Walker was really good for a guy who hadn’t practiced in two days,” Barnes said. “We weren’t sure how much he would be able to do because he did very little in practice.
“He’s consistently the best we have with what we’re trying to do with our ball-screen defense.”
Walker led the Vols in plus-minus, Tennessee outscoring Ole Miss by 26 with him in the game.
Calling for Kyle Alexander
Barnes said Tennessee needs more from Kyle Alexander than his 0-for-1 shooting, 4-rebound effort in 15 minutes on the floor on Saturday.
Alexander was seen in a protective walking boot on Friday, and that could have played a role in his limited efficiency.
If so, Barnes wasn’t saying so.
“We need Kyle Alexander,” Barnes said. “Right now, he’s not even a factor on the offensive end.”
Alexander had led Tennessee in the plus-minus statistic over the course of the season, but on Saturday the Vols were minus-13 with him on the floor.
Winning basketball. pic.twitter.com/1jadzIhEB1
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) February 24, 2018