KNOXVILLE -- Quotes after Tennessee's 88-58 SEC victory here Saturday afternoon over No. 25 Kentucky.
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH Cuonzo Martin
"Great work against a top 25 opponent. Guys did a good job of competing from start to finish. Just a tremendous effort from both ends of the floor. I think in the last three games this is the Tennessee team I am accustomed to seeing, people are really playing hard. I thought Trae Golden really led us from start to finish. I thought he did a great job running the team and being Trae Golden. Attacking the rim, making plays, and when that happens everything else falls in line. Your shooters are ready to shoot the ball, dribble, penetrate, and they have to identify five guys as apposed to two or three guys. We got better with our offense, the floor really opened up and I think that all starts with Trae Golden. When he plays the way we expect him to play, everything falls in line and it becomes a fun game. We had great crowd support, tremendous energy, so it was fun to be apart of."
(On Trae Golden's play)
"The stretch he was going through, whatever it was, I have no clue, we were trying to figure out everything; physically, mentally, anything you can think of. That was not they guy who finished for you last season. That is when you have your ups and downs as a team because the guy you can count on for production at the point guard position is not at the level he needed to be. Everything falls apart and you struggle when you are trying to find lineups, you are trying to find ways to get guys better. If he is playing like that and Jarnell Stokes is playing the way he has so many games, then this is Tennessee Basketball at the level we expect it to be at. That is with or without Jeron Maymon and you have those guys playing as advertised with Jordan McRae scoring the basketball. I could not figure it out. There were so many things going wrong. You are trying to figure out if you are practicing too long, whatever the case may be, you bring in the trainers and doctors you try to figure out everything. I do not know if he put the pressure on himself and mentally and physically came taxing to him. It was hard for me to say what it was, we could not pin-point it."
(On today's game-plan without UK's Nerlens Noel)
"That is a talented team, you have guys who can score the ball. We felt like offensively they were still the same team. That is a major piece. They do not go down to him every time on offense. He's a guy who gets put-backs and dunks. The threat we felt like they would pose to us on offense was now you have four guys on the perimeter who make plays and all of the sudden Poythres is your center, Wiltjer is your four or five guy and all of the sudden they spread you out and penetrating, and I thought our guys did a good job accepting the challenge. Of course defensively when you watch him on film we felt like if there were any breakdowns in the gaps we watched him play defensively and you are used to having a guy behind you so there is a breakdown on the perimeter and you have a guy who can block shots, you cannot all of the sudden switch him out after 20 plus games and you say, wait he is not back there anymore and you are down 15, down 20. That is a major piece not to have behind you."
(On the team's speed up and down the court)
"It is the same system. I just think that at the end of the day with your struggles early in the season, in Jarnell Stokes case, I thought he had a solid game up until his last six or seven games he was kind of hit or miss. It was the same way with Trae Golden, I thought he played well against Wichita State but he was kind of hit or miss. What I mean by that is not necessarily making or missing shots, but the flow and the body language and the feel in any game, there just was not the consistency with those two guys, with those key parts not clicking, it's tough. Now with them playing at that level, everything else falls in line."
(On managing the game so the team did not slow up)
"Just play hard. You have to play hard, you have to compete. They understand we are fighting for wins as a team and continue to get better. I was not really worried about that. Obviously you want for this one to be over with, and you do not want anyone to get hurt. Obviously Josh got the hit but those are the things you look for in games like this, continue to compete but you do not want guys to get injured."
(On how his teams get better over the year)
"I think last years team was learning a system. You lose 90% of your team before and with no proven guys to speak of you are trying to put a team together to win games. Then you have the addition of Jarnell Stokes and you get better and I think that was the case with them. In this case, once again you have two key parts who are probably at the level on a consistent basis, then you have Derek Reese who was not in practice or the flow of it, which is not an excuse, it is a reality and now you are trying to find ways to win games. You are tough out there, things are falling in line, especially when you have a chance to be successful."
(On team's consistency the past few weeks)
"My approach is always the same. I approach it a little bit different when your losing games because it's emotionally taxing, especially the way we were losing close road games. That takes a toll on you, so really it's just trying to find ways to get guys the confidence level to win a ball game. And, all it takes is a couple of wins and your back on the ground. For me, my approach is guys that didn't play, I'm constantly calling. Q (Quinton Chievous), D'Montre (Edwards) and Kenny Hall didn't play; I'm constantly calling and texting those guys to get them ready to play the next game, to continue to work on and improve their game. So when your number is called, you have the opportunity to be successful."
(On the team's defense)
"Well, I just think you have to start doing it. Stop the ball, first, then identify the ball in transition. Your safeties are the guys who get back and are helping. They get where they're supposed to be, and you force those guys to make plays. With a team like that, you want to try and get them in a half-court offense. If they're allowed to pass once or twice, then pull up and shoot, especially Goodwin and Poythress. Those guys if they can catch it at the wing, one dribble their at the rim. So you have to deny their wing passes, push those guys up towards the half-court line, and make those catches tough. Then, your able to play defense."
(On margin of victory)
"This is a very talented team, even without (Nerlens) Noel. I knew we played well. But it's a talented opponent, so I don't want to sit here and say that. I don't care who the opponent, you hate for one of their guys to be out like that. It's just unfortunate."
(On early start)
"Even if he was there, the point was to come out and jump on them and make those guys defend. At the end of the day, they still play about seven guys. We wanted to force those guys to make individual plays."
(On being aggressive)
"When you think about it, we have guys that are good offensive-rebound specialists. If you offensive rebound and you get them, then they can't get out and run like they want to. So part of our game plan was to crash the offensive glass, get back and lock the wings down. And, we did a good job of that today."
(On making all five 3-pointers)
"We've been spending a lot of time shooting them. I guess that's just what you have to do, and we will spend a lot more time shooting 3-point shots. We have guys that can make shots, but when you have space, movement and post play, which is the offense we expect to have. Then, you have opportunities to make those 3-point shots. But I don't really want our guys just settling for threes, outside of maybe Skylar McBee. Just because our penetrators are capable doesn't mean I want them becoming 3-point shooters. You know, if you have an opportunity to know it down."
(On team's demeanor)
"Well, I just think guys learn to understand the system. A new guy like, Armani Moore, and Trae and Jarnell aren't the same. They are different now. We didn't loose games because of those guys and that's not to put pressure on them, but I know when I was a player at Purdue University. If Glenn Robinson didn't play well, chance are, Purdue didn't win that night. Your best players have to be what they are. You look at this team, best player isn't on the floor, it's a different team. It's part of it."
(On attacking the rim)
"Well watched some film on it. He gets a lot of credit for being a shot blocker, but he is so good at on-ball defending. He moves his feet well, know how to get steals. He is one of the better defenders in the country. He isn't just a shot blocker; he knows how to defend. I think that's with any shot blocker. If he was in the game, we would have gotten him away from the rim, and then, used dribble penetration to force him to make extra play. But you can't just let him sit around the rim."
(On too much confidence)
"I don't worry about it. When you win ball games, I like to have that type of issue if your winning. So not really, these guys understand. They want to be successful, and they know the things we have to do to be successful. If you don't defend, we don't have a lot of success.
TENNESSEE JUNIOR GUARD Trae Golden
(On significance of today's win over Kentucky)
"To me personally it means a lot. I think it means even more to Tennessee. I haven't beat Kentucky since I have been in college so it is just a great win for us."
(On the difference in attacking this game versus other games this season)
"I think it made a difference since they didn't have their big man down there blocking shots. Willie Cauley-Stein can still block shots but maybe not at the same rate that Nerlens Nole could. But you know that didn't matter for us, they are still a good team without him. We just wanted to attack and get to the rim as much as possible."
(On difference in confidence driving down the lane knowing that Narlens Nole wasn't there)
"I say there isn't a difference because I try to do that to every team. I think every team has their own special shot blockers, so I just try to be the guy who attacks and makes plays for my team."
(On Kentucky's attempt to force going left but going right anyways)
"I don't know, I think I can use my left hand just as good as my right hand. But I was just trying to attack which is the biggest thing for me."
(On the injury time off helping heal all bumps and bruises)
"The one I had, the hamstring, but other than that no. It was only a week but in that week I worked really hard rehabbing"
(On the pressure on hamstring and legs)
"Since it is the grind of the season we don't practice as much so maybe that is what it is. We just came out and had a lot of energy. I think I heard there were something around 22,000 people here today so we just wanted to make sure that we stayed aggressive, kept this win and got one for Tennessee."
(On opinion of whether or not Kentucky quit out on the court)
"I don't think I saw them quit."
(On thinking the point guard could stop the drive to the basket)
"Just as my mind set as a competitor, I go into every game thinking that the point guard won't be able to guard me. Jarrod Polson started tonight but that didn't matter. Anybody that they were going to put in front of me I was going to try to attack and make plays for my teammates."
(On any advantage over Jarrod Polson)
"He is a strong guard similar to me. He is a big guard. There was not any type of advantage. I just tried to attack him like I would any other person."
TENNESSEE SENIOR GUARD Skylar McBee
(On large margin of victory going into game)
"You know I always thought so. I think that's what you have to do, continue to play hard and not worry about the opponent or how you played in the past. It's got to be on to the next one, and I think that's our mentality every day. Just trying to get better in practice, and I think if you do that things for the most part are going to fall your way."
(On team feeling good/too good)
"We definitely can't get over confident. We got LSU coming in, and so this game is over with. We enjoy it the rest of the day, then it's on to thinking about LSU tomorrow. We just have to approach LSU like we have everybody else and I think we'll be fine."
"I think it's great. It's a confidence booster when we play that good against a high caliber team like Kentucky. I think it shows you can do it against anybody, and so we're going to approach the next opponent with the same mindset and hopefully take that confidence into the next game and try pulling off something."
(On his shooting tonight)
"Yeah, it's just trying to be aggressive and they were falling. The main thing is when I'm hitting shots, it's going to help everybody else with spacing and it's going to be harder for them to double Jarnell (Stokes). I think just doing what I can do to help us win."
(On not letting up)
"I think it was a little bit of both, but I think we did a good job of executing. Even when they did score a couple times in a row, then we'd get a couple stops and score too. I think we did a good job of keeping our foot on the gas pedal."
TENNESSEE JUNIOR GUARD Jordan McRae
(On expecting big when going in)
"I mean of course you think to win. We were all saying if we could just blow them out, and you know it happened."
(On difference in play today)
"It's just showing our team is growing. We had some lapses when we turned the ball over two or three times in a row or took a fast shot, and it's easy because we got back on track. We just had to keep reminding everybody to calm down, even though we're up, don't get too involved with the crowd and just keep playing calm."
(On difference with Noel not playing)
"I mean just knowing he's there, even if he doesn't block your shot, he can change it. Will Cauley-Stein, he's not a shot blocker like Noel was and doesn't have the timing that he has. It was easier to go to the basket without having him there."
(On shooting perfect from three)
"I knew at the end of the game. I thought for sure D'Montre (Edwards) was going to pull one."
(On what win means in the series)
"I mean anytime you go in and play a rival team like that and put the hammer to them, it feels good. Kentucky the past couple years beat us every year, but it feels really god to go in and get a nice win."
(On physicality of game)
"When its two rival teams playing that's how it's going to be, tough and it gets like that when you're losing kind of bad. It gets like that sometimes."
(On play of Trae Golden)
"Yeah we were just telling him we felt he had a miss-match the whole game. We were telling him to lead the team, keep going strong to the basket, and that's what he was doing for us.
(On team feeling good vs. too good)
"No. At halftime we said we could always be up like this and lose by ten. We kept reminding ourselves they were down a lot to LSU this year and came back to win. LSU can come in here Tuesday and beat us by 20, so we have to stay humble."
TENNESSEE SOPHOMORE FORWARD Jarnell Stokes
(On difference between this game versus the game at Kentucky)
"Of course when you are at home you are going to play better. We pretty much expected to win but when guys can make shots like that it is that much harder to beat them. I feel like that is one thing we have been lacking this year, guys making shots. We made shots and a lot of stops which caused transition baskets which is something we have also been lacking this year."
(On feeling of being able to attack the basket more without Nerlens Noel)
"Noel is probably the best shot blocker in the NCAA right now. So of course without him they are going to struggle a little on the defense end, but we kept bringing it. We kept bringing the ball to the basket and attacking. I think that worked out well for us."
(On being able to envision such a victory)
"I wouldn't say that I envisioned it. I expected to win because that is how we always go into every game. You never expect to win like that over such a good team. I think it helped that Nole wasn't playing but when we make shots and blocks like that we are hard to beat in the SEC."
(On rushing the fans instead of the fans rushing the court)
"It is definitely a good feeling. When you struggle throughout the season then you appreciate things like that being able to celebrate like that after a win."
(On Trae Golden's influence)
"Whenever your point guard is playing good it just makes everyone better. If Trae played like that every game then we should win every game. I think that Trae has sort of struggled this year. I am glad to see that he looks rejuvenated right now."
(On wanting to see more of the smaller line-up to give more room in the back court)
"It is coach's decision. I like it but I also like Kenny Hall in there to help with rebounds, plays well on the defensive end. I think just the match ups we have had the last two games are what caused us to go with the smaller line-up."
(On the end of the double-double streak)
"I will take a 30 point win over a double-double streak any day."
(On going up against big players like Willie Cauley-Stein)
"He is a talented player with a lot of potential. They have him listed as 7 foot but it seems he is 7-3. He is a pretty good player. I just felt like I had to get my body into him. I just wanted to come out and rebound better. I think I did that today."
KENTUCKY HEAD COACH JOHN CALIPARI
(On assistant coach John Robic being ejected)
"They (the officials) got the call wrong. John was disappointed about it. I don't think that he said enough to get tossed, but they did it."
(On the post-Nerlens Noel part of the season)
"This was a hard game to begin with. We are still trying to learn how we are going to play offensively and what we are going to do defensively. Today, we came into an inspired team. I told the guys after, I've had teams come up here (to Tennessee) and get smoked like this before. I've had a couple teams come up here and get smoked like this. The difference is that the good teams look at it and learn from it.
"This is sports and sometimes it happens. They deserved to beat us by 50 points, today. They played harder, they played rougher and they executed better. They were stronger with the ball. We just had passive guys who did not want to make plays. We gave up four offensive rebounds in the first two minutes - you aren't going to win. We have to go back to the drawing board. I'm going to have to figure out what we are going to do offensively, and we'll go from here. I'll burn the tape from this one. I won't watch it. I had to sit through it, so I'm not going to sit through it again."
(On seeing this coming)
"I did. They (the players) were awful in practice. This week was our worst in four years. It was because guys were a little anxious and tired out. You are worried that `I have to step up and I don't know if I have that. I told them that if we don't take charges in this half, we are running 20s before practice and then we are running them after practice on Monday. Then they came out and took charges. Guess what, we don't have a shot blocker, so we have to take charges. We talked about it.
"We have a couple of guys who are not real coachable. You tell them over and over and over again what you want to do, and they do their own thing. When they realize that if we don't do this all together, that we are going to have more of these (losses) it will change. I have to do my thing on what we are going to do offensively and defensively, but we (the coaches) can't go out there and play for them. We can't go out there and battle for them. We can't want it more than they do. That aside, if you watch practice, you thought `uh oh.'
"This team (Tennessee) hadn't beaten us in awhile, kind of like Florida. Now, this was their chance to get that wounded animal. They rode the car over us a couple of times--over and back, over and back. The way that we played, and the way that they played, even if we had Nerlens (Noel) we would have gotten beat--big. We had two or three guys in this game who couldn't play--they just couldn't get open. We'll get back. I've done this 20-something years and I've had this happen. The question is: Will they respond coming back. The only way that you can respond is to change. We have to realize that the things that we are doing aren't right."