By LARRY VAUGHT
Maybe ESPN analyst Dan Dakich is not a Tyler Ulis fan, but Tennessee coach Rick Barnes — like other SEC coaches — certainly is.
“He is quick. I love what he does on the defensive end, too. He is a competitor. When you are five-foot-nine and getting done what he is getting done, I think you have to put big-time competitor in front of that. He is fearless,” Barnes said.
“He is really continuing to learn to play that point position. He is learning that when teams do different things defensively, what adjustments does that point guard have to make? He can shoot it deep. When you can shoot it deep and are that quick, you become very hard to guard.
“If you get out there too far, he has explosive speed to get by you. I think he is a terrific defender, but I think he is also a big-time competitor.”
Barnes also likes his own point guard, Kevin Punter. He’s taken 318 shots but is making 48 percent of them.
“He’s aggressive offensively. He gets shots. His team needs him to shoot the ball and he does. Does a great job of getting to the free throw line. He’s attacking at all times. He’s a handful,” Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said of Punter.
Barnes says it is phenomenal that Punter, much like Ulis, is so successful considering teams game plan to stop him.
“We’re trying to get him to shoot it more, but what we need is for him to get more production from his teammates to help him,” Barnes said sounding much like John Calipari about Ulis.
“We’re putting everything on him. I told the team, ‘we’re just crushing him. We’re asking him to do everything on the offensive end.’ When Armani (Moore) fouled out (at TCU Saturday), (Kevin) needed some help from some other people, and he didn’t get it.
“He’s not afraid. He’s such a great kid. He wants to win. He’s trying to do everything he can do. What we need is help from his teammates.”
A feeling Ulis can understand.