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March 22, 2019

Rick Barnes

Jordan Bone

Jordan Bowden

Columbus, Ohio

Tennessee - 77, Colgate - 70

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes and student-athletes Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden. Questions for the players.

Q. Jordan Bone, how were you able to keep your composure when they were making a bunch of shots and everybody in the arena was rooting for Cinderella? How were you able to not panic?
JORDAN BONE: I want to say first this was a really good team. They fought super hard. And we couldn't appreciate that honestly any more.

I feel like this team was prepared to come into this game. I feel like we understood going into the game that it was going to be tough, understanding that especially this time of the year is very important, it's very critical -- and towards when we understood that it was going to be a tight game.

We just wanted to put them in long possessions, make them guard a little longer and just execute what we do. We know we've been in tougher positions earlier this year. So the key thing is just never get rattled, understand how hard we worked to get to this point, so there's no reason to get rattled, but more importantly just executing our game plan.

Q. What made Jordan Burns so difficult to guard today?
JORDAN BOWDEN: He was hitting tough shots. We tried to limit his touches down to the end. And we had good defense on him -- Lamonté Turner was playing good, tight defense on him. He was just hitting tough shots. And that's what we tried to do.

Q. Do you think a game like this, instead of having just a blowout in the first game, could serve you well as the tournament progresses?
JORDAN BONE: Absolutely. Like I mentioned earlier, they put up a tough fight. This wasn't an easy game. We knew that it was going to be like that going into this game. I feel like they prepared us well for our upcoming game against Iowa.

So we just have to understand, going into the Iowa game, it's going to be another tough matchup. It's going to be very similar. And we have to execute our game plan.

Q. Coming down the stretch, nine of your last 10 opponents were NCAA Tournament teams. How much do you think that helped you guys prepare for the kind of competition you were going to see this month? Nine of the last 10 teams you played were NCAA Tournament teams. Just playing that kind of schedule at the end of the year, how do you think that's helped you guys?
JORDAN BOWDEN: It helped us a lot. We've been in tough battles the whole year. A team like Colgate, like Bone said, they prepared us for Iowa. And (indiscernible) just about us executing the game plan and doing what we do.

Q. Could you describe what the emotions are like when you're playing against Cinderella and everybody is rooting for them and against you?
JORDAN BONE: I feel like there wasn't much emotions. We were excited to play. I feel like on our end there was a lot of anxiety towards the beginning of the game. We were kind of just ready to play because we didn't like the way we ended the season and the championship game against Auburn.

So we were all just ready to go out there and compete. We were very anxious. I feel like the emotions, we've learned to put that to the side. We've learned in many tough games, exciting games, as you would say, it's more about if intensity over the emotion, intensity being just doing your job at a very high level. So I feel like there wasn't a lot of emotion, there was just a lot of anxiety towards the beginning of the game.

Q. What do you say, because those guys played their hearts out as you did, what do you say to those guys at the end of the game? This is the biggest game they'll ever play?
JORDAN BONE: Absolutely, man. Like I mentioned earlier, we just appreciate those guys for coming to fight. It wasn't an easy game. Just shaking their hands, I was just like great game, man, keep your head up. Way to fight. Way to fight.

Just a wonderful lesson, just to compete day in, day out. That's what this game is about, just competing and enjoying the game.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the 3 you hit, maybe four minutes left or so from the right wing, obviously they had been playing off for a while. What did that mean and what gives you the confidence to keep taking those?
JORDAN BONE: Well, the entire coaching staff does an amazing job to give us confidence to take those open shots. We've learned in tougher situations this year that we have to work our game plan, we have to play towards our strengths and when we do get the ball wide open we do have to shoot the ball with confidence.

So that's just a wonderful job by our coaches to give us the confidence to take those shots. And I shot it with confidence and it worked in our favor.

Q. Admiral had not been shooting well. He hits those 3s late. Grant, you weren't able to get him involved a lot, has the big block. What about those two guys and some of the plays they made late?
JORDAN BONE: With Admiral, he's been in many games this year where he's knocked down tough shots, big-time shots in a critical moment. And he did that today.

With Grant, I feel like it was kind of tough for him to get into the flow of the game earlier. I'm not really sure what it is. But he kind of found his way towards the second half, he started making the right plays, and we trust him to do that. So we put the ball in his hand and he made those right passes, made the right plays.

More than that, it's just trusting those guys because at the end of the day we're not the team that we are today without Admiral and Grant. So just understanding that we have to give those guys the ball because we trust them to make the plays, and they did that down the stretch.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH BARNES: I think a game like today is what makes the NCAA Tournament the NCAA Tournament. You get a group of guys from a league where -- I'm looking out at my good friend, John Feinstein, you did a book or writing a book about the Patriot League -- and he told me, what's great about that league is you've got a group of guys who just love to play basketball.

That's what it looked like today. They earned the right here. And what can you say about Jordan Burns? He was terrific. Looked like he had a magnet on that ball.

But I thought they played really hard. We were -- and what Jordan said, I said to the guys at halftime -- I thought we were anxious. I thought we were showing too much anxiety.

I think some of it goes to a year ago, we came in here -- and we talked to the team about it last night -- when we had that big lead against Wright State, I told the coaches when we started out the way we did, I said, this is not good because I thought our guys just thought it was going to be that way.

When they came back and got back in the game, they were daring us to shoot it early. I didn't think we worked hard enough in the game to put the ball inside. I didn't think Grant really fought for his positioning.

But I did think we were good defensively. And I don't want to take anything away from Colgate because I thought those guys played their hearts out. But to get through this tournament you're going to have games like this. And mentioned the crowd; we've been in big arenas. I don't think the noise of the crowd is going to bother us.

I do think that at the end of the game, we tried to get some movement back into where guys know where their shots are going to come from. Like the shot -- the play that Grant ran today at the end for Admiral's last 3 was the exact same play we ran at Florida to win the game down there.

And I thought the guys knew where they were going to be able to step in and shoot the ball and they did it with confidence. Again, you've got to love Colgate and what they do. And it was kind of what I thought they would do.

I told the guys last night, don't expect it to be easy. Even if we get up, which we did. And they fought back. We were really, some uncharacteristic things that we did with our body language and things that we haven't done all year. And that's where I know that there was some anxiety with our guys.

But we were able to get it done you never take a win in the NCAA for granted ever. The fact we got it done is we had to do -- we had to do that a couple different times this year -- and Jordan Bone said it, they stayed with it. They knew what they had to do and they did it.


Q. You touched on it already. You sat there yesterday and predicted the exact same thing, that they would pack it in dare you guys to settle. How frustrating was it to see them continue to jack up the 3s and not work it inside?
COACH BARNES: It's frustrating because we know what it's done to us in all five of our losses. But we don't mind taking them if it's in the flow of what we're doing. It's just when we settle and we did that too much, too early.

Q. Regarding Jordan Burns, what was most impressive about his performance tonight? Is there a moment that's going to stick with you?
COACH BARNES: He's better in person than on tape, I can tell you that. You knew he was the kind of guard that controls the ball very well. He goes right a lot, and as hard as you try to keep him from doing that, he still mixes it up.

He's got a quick release. We were switching on some ball screens and he took advantage of driving guys down the lane. And he's a good basketball player. He really is. But they have a good team.

The second half, I thought, one of their bigger players didn't get to play much because I think he had an eye infection or something somebody told me. That probably helped them in the long run because they could really spread you out then.

But they're really well-coached, well-coached team. I thought they played with great composure, great poise, and they fought. And, again, that's what makes this tournament what it is. And we were fortunate to get it done. But our guys got it done. And that's the bottom line.

Q. Any message to Jordan Burns after the game?
COACH BARNES: I told him he was terrific. I'd like to have him on our team tomorrow. I shouldn't say that -- that might be called -- I didn't say that, scratch that.

THE MODERATOR: He's the kind of player you'd like to have.

COACH BARNES: The kind of player. You've got to love a guy like that. And you've got to love, I think he's from Texas because one of his former coaches actually texted me today and -- a guy that worked for me at Texas -- and told me that you're getting ready to play against one of my favorite players and one of my favorite people.

I don't know him, but for a guy that sent me that, I think it speaks volumes because he wouldn't say that if it wasn't true. He was a star today, he really was. He's been good for them all year.

Q. Do you mind me asking who that coach is?
COACH BARNES: Chris -- I'm drawing a blank on the last name. I'll give it to you off my phone.

Q. Bryce Drew was fired today. Do you have any reaction to that?
COACH BARNES: Boy, it's tough, because you get to know these guys and you realize how hard a job it is. And I've said it all year long. He had put together a great recruiting class. A guy that he built the program around got hurt five games into the season. The other guy didn't get to play -- I think he missed most of the preseason. So right at the start of the year he had to rechange everything he probably spent all summer last summer doing.

But you hate to see it for someone that I respect as much as I respect Bryce. And after three years, it's tough. And there's a lot of things that happened to them this year that I think was out of his control, and in Darius Garland going down, because they were a different team. I think he was rookie of the week or player of the week the first couple weeks of the SEC season. And it's tough. This business, after three years, it's very tough.


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