Tennessee volunteers Coach Rick Barnes was fired earlier today after Confronting the…

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — You could hear a pin drop in Tennessee’s locker room on Friday. There was no music or noise — nothing like what had filled it earlier in the day.


It was just disappointment. Rick Barnes told his team to “marinate in how you feel.”


“If you feel like this again, it’s over,” Barnes said. “I want you to not forget right now what you did. This time of year you want to give it your best.”


Tennessee basketball had just been upset, 73-56, by Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. The outright SEC regular-season champions had their conference tournament run ended — in one game — by No. 9 Mississippi State.


The feeling wasn’t a great one, but Barnes wanted them to wallow in it.


“It hurts because we’re one of the best teams in the nation. We just didn’t show what we could really do today,” forward Jonas Aidoo said. “… Everybody has a sick feeling in their stomach right now, so we just don’t want to have that feeling again.”


That feeling was a culmination of a poor 40 minutes in Bridgestone Arena for the Vols (24-8).


Tennessee came out flat, letting Mississippi State get out to an early 15-4 lead. The Vols hadn’t scored for almost six minutes, setting the tone for the day in Nashville.


Tennessee showed life at times, but then it went back into offensive droughts.


“We just didn’t play like ourselves this game,” Aidoo said. “We just got to come out and punch first.”


Tennessee wasn’t able to match the physicality that the Bulldogs brought to the quarterfinal matchup. It was similar to the first meeting between the two, where Tennessee struggled in Starkville.


The Vols were outscored 46-14 in the paint. Cameron Matthews, a 6-foot-7 forward, led the way for the Bulldogs with 18 points while going 7-of-7 from the field.


Tennessee knew that Mississippi State would bring physicality, it had seen that before. It was in the game plan, too, but it didn’t make a difference.


“I just think we weren’t the aggressors like we always are,” guard Dalton Knecht said. “We weren’t aggressive, we weren’t the aggressors and that’s what we’re really good at is setting the tone right from the jump. So just got to be more ready to set the tone.”


Tennessee has only suffered multiple losses in a row once, before its current streak.


The sluggish set of games couldn’t have hit at a worse time for Tennessee.


The Vols entered the SEC Tournament with a possible No. 1 seed on the line. That seems to be a far thought after Friday’s loss to Mississippi State.


A possible No. 2 is likely, though. For success in the NCAA Tournament, Tennessee will have to break the current skid it is on.


“We got one more game to figure it out,” Josiah-Jordan James said. “We got a week to figure it out within the next game and so, just sitting here remembering this feeling, how upset we are and knowing that wasn’t us, but you’re only as good as your last game. So we have a week to correct our and be better for the NCAA Tournament.”


The feeling the Vols felt in the locker room, a room filled with no noise or celebrations like the locker room next door, is the key to breaking the skid.


Barnes knows it, and so do the veterans on his team. It is a feeling they have become familiar with.


And now, it is a feeling they will try to avoid rolling into March.


“We just got to take it to heart and know if we go out there and do that again, it’s going to be the end of the season,” guard Zakai Zeigler said. “So we got to know what’s at cost.