On the surface, Tennessee basketball doesn’t have a lot to be ashamed of. Sure, the Vols are ranked No. 6, but they lost to the No. 9 ranked Arizona Wildcats on the road by five. That’s not any real upset.
However, Rick Barnes still didn’t hide his ire in the postgame press conference. It was directed at Uros Plavsic and the officials. Barnes said he was “not real happy” with the free throw disparity.
“We were going inside as much as they were, and I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what to say other than I thought a couple plays at the end— it’s going to be tough for us to look at. I know when we get that on tape it’s going to be tough to look at them with our players.”
Arizona shot 27 free throws to just 10 for Tennessee basketball and drew nine more fouls than the Vols. Their two post players, Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, had 19 and 18 points on 11 and 10 field goal attempts respectively.
To Barnes’ point, though, Olivier Nkamhoua had 16 points on 12 field goals, and while Julian Phillips may have had his worst game with just two points, he took five shots inside. At one point, Barnes went off on the officials during a fast break in which two fouls were missed.
Down 71-67 with about 40 seconds left, Santiago Vescovi drove to the basket and was clearly fouled but received no call on a missed layup. Then Tyreke Key was fouled going for the loose ball, but that wasn’t called.
“Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Arizona because in games like this they’re hard fought, and I know those guys are trying to work hard, but that one play at the end where Santi went down the court and all three guys said they didn’t see it, that’s tough to take at that point in time,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve got great respect for those guys. I’ve been around them, but certainly there was a wide difference in free throws tonight.”
Officials weren’t the only target of Barnes after the game, though. Tennessee basketball center Uros Plavsic also received criticism for Barnes because of moments in and at the end of the game.
Plavsic, who had six points in 19 minutes despite starting, picked up a technical foul less than three minutes into the game by taunting after a missed shot. Arizona hit both free throws and then scored on the in-bound to go from trailing 10-7 to up 11-10.
Then, at the end of the game, Plavsic pushed Courtney Ramey after Ramey and Zakei Zeigler were jawing a bit. Zeigler had 21 points on the night. Barnes said he’s not happy with Plavsic’s antics.
“Honestly, I’m really tired of it because I think it hurts our team, he said. “We want him to be hard nosed, physical, but we don’t need the antics. He’s got to be more mature than that.”
This loss drops the Vols 9-2. Up next for them is a visit from the Austin Peay Governors this Wednesday, and then they begin SEC play after Christmas.