Head Coach Rod Barnes Discusses The Kentucky Game

Feb. 6, 2003

Listen to Reb Talk With Rod Barnes (Thursday, 6-7 p.m.)

(On Kentucky)
What a great home to have after being on the road two games and then after Saturday going on the road for another two. That (scheduling) computer worked right this time (Laughter).

Kentucky is a good basketball team, and you have to give head coach Tubby Smith a lot of credit to have his kids playing the way they are this season. They play extremely hard and they play together. It's a great opportunity for us. It's going to be a tough, hard-nosed game. We have played well, but we are going to have to play better. It's going to be a challenge for us.

(On the Ole Miss reputation)
We have a reputation of playing hard on the defensive end, and that's what people think about us. Obviously, we're going to play defense and we're going to guard you.

(When did the reputation start?)
It started when (former head) Coach (Rob) Evans came to Ole Miss. It was his philosophy to play all man-to-man and no zone. We defend in the half-court set and make the opponent work for everything. Basically, we've continued to build on that. We like to pressure the ball on the defensive end and get in the passing lanes, and sometimes, we get criticized for doing that. I don't think anyone in our league would say we play dirty or that we give unsportsmanlike fouls.

We're not going to walk on the floor and allow opponents to pass the ball around and do what they want to do. We don't have big shot blockers on this team, so we have to find other ways to defend. We try to force opponents away from the basket because we don't have big guys down low that can block a lot of shots.

(Talk about Kentucky's defense)
It's as good as it's been. They have a blue-collar group. They have guys that will get down and defend you. They are not relying on their offense as they have in the past. This year, they are relying on their defense to fuel their offense. They have some tough kids. Chuck Hayes is a tough kid. Erik Daniels is one of the better defenders in the league because he anticipates well in addition to his speed, quickness and athleticism. Cliff Hawkins may be the best defensive point guard in the league. They have guys that like to play defense and have taken on Coach Smith's philosophy and character. He gets after people, and his team has taken on that same mentality. This Kentucky team has pulled together, and the players have done a really great job. Keith Bogans is the leader of the team, and he has matured a lot. Kentucky is a defensive-minded team.

(How difficult to get big scorers in high school to play tough defense?)
It's tough because when you are used to scoring a lot in high school, and then you come to college and the coach says, 'You are going to defend if you're going to play,' that's difficult. It's difficult for kids to come to in and understand the intensity it takes to play at this level. Then, you tell the kids they have to defend before they can score. That's pretty hard for them to accept. In high school, these players have been asked to score a lot of points, and when you score, people are excited about your play. When you get to college, you're asked to defend like many teams in our league do, then that is hard for the kids.

(How do you get the players to play tough defense?)
You demand it. You tell the players this is the way we're going to play. If you continue to stress defense in your program, then as new players come in, they'll buy into it. Our players tell guys looking at coming here that if you don't play defense, then don't come here. That's OK with me because if they don't want to play defense, then I don't want them here. That may be why our recruiting classes aren't rated high, but that's OK. We have a philosophy and a trademark, and we'll live and die by it.

(On the tough stretch of games)
Again, I need to check that scheduling computer to see if it works (Laughter). As I said a couple of weeks ago, you have to take them as they come. When you start looking down the schedule, you get scared. After we get out of this stretch (playing 4-of-5 on the road), you have to continue to take the game in front of you. Some of us stressed early in the SEC season that 10-6 would win the West. Many thought that was crazy then, but now there are those believing that 9-7 could win the West. I'm not sure that if you're 8-8 that you may not tie for the West title. As I told our players, someone has to win it and we still have a chance.

 

 

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