Despite being outplayed in consecutive second halves, the No. 2-seeded Tennessee basketball team has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Vols will take on third-seeded Purdue on Thursday night in Louisville. Tennessee had not advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2014, prior to this trip.
“The fact is you don’t take any of it for granted,” Barnes said. “You don’t. It’s hard to get there. It’s hard to advance, so when you do get there, you want to take advantage of it.”
Last time these two teams met, Tennessee came away with a 78-75 overtime win in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Grant Williams led the Vols with 22 points all coming after halftime in that game. Lamonte Turner sent the game to overtime with a 3-pointer as time ran down.
“I don’t think that it was any question that it was around that time and in that tournament, in general, was when our guys thought that we can do this, and we can play with these teams because of the respect you have for a program like Purdue,” Barnes said.
The Boilermakers are not the same team as a year ago.
Losing big-man Isaac Haas and sharp-shooter Dakota Mathias to graduation, Purdue has asked for even more from junior guard Carsen Edwards. Pouring in 42 points in the Boilermakers’ round of 32 win, Edwards will look to continue that trend on Thursday.
Making 9.9 3-pointers per game — up from 9.5 a year ago — Purdue has a tendency to fill it up from beyond the arc.
“I think they are a little more perimeter-oriented than they were a year ago,” Barnes said. “They are still going to try to have their inside game. He (Edwards) has been phenomenal … you’re going to have to defend because you have a guy that can go for 40 or 50 points on you, and we have to put a lot of pressure on him.”
Barnes said Turner will likely be tasked with guarding Edwards, at least to start. Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden and Yves Pons could get reps guarding Purdue’s dynamic guard as well.
“He (Turner) is arguably the most competitive person on our team,” Barnes said. “I’ve said it before he even started doing it that he could be one of the best defensive players in the country. He really enjoys it and knows that he can do it.”
On Monday, it was announced that Barnes won the Henry Iba National Coach of the Year Award by the United States Basketball Writers Association.
“To have this individual award, they really are team awards,” Barnes said. “You never know how many more years you’re going to coach or do this or do that, even though I don’t see myself not coaching. It’s a great honor — it really is, but I think it’s an honor for all of us.”
Tennessee and Purdue are set to tip off at 7:29 p.m. ET on Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be televised on TBS, as the Vols try to advance to just the second Elite Eight in school history.