Penny Hardaway hopes to keep Vols rivalry going, but Rick Barnes noncommittal

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Penny Hardaway doesn't want the Memphis-Tennessee rivalry to end, although Rick Barnes refuses to make any guarantees about its future.

Following No. 13 Memphis' come-from-behind, 51-47 win over No. 19 Tennessee on Saturday -- the Vols' 25% clip from the field was the worst of the Barnes era -- Hardaway apologized for his biting comments after last year's loss and conveyed his support for renewing a series that could end after next year's matchup in Nashville.

"I would love to keep it going," said Hardaway, who ended a 31-game home winning streak for Tennessee.

After last year's loss to Tennessee, Hardaway accused Tennessee players of approaching his players with "fists balled" and called Barnes "low class" for complaining about flopping in the Vols' 102-92 win. He also said, "I'm not a dude who likes to mess around about anything," a comment directed at Barnes.

Tennessee's fans made their feelings toward Hardaway known and he said after the game it was the most he has been booed since returning to Orlando as a visiting player after spending his first six seasons with the Magic. And he understands their ire after his comments last season.

"When I read those statements today, it kind of made me cringe a little bit," he said. "... So I kind of understood what was going to happen, because I felt like it got misunderstood, but then when I read it, it wasn't a good look, and (Barnes) and I talked about it a little bit at half court, and, you know, that will never happen again."

After Saturday's win, Hardaway apologized for his comments and implied he hopes they're not the reason the series might end after next year.

"It just kind of got out of hand last year," said Hardaway, who was flanked by two police officers before, during and after Saturday's game. "I've always had respect for Coach Barnes. It just kind of got out of hand last year after it was over. And I can take credit for my part. But this rivalry needs to stay, not because we won today but because it's just a great rivalry. So many people that live in Memphis that went to (Tennessee) that I know. Family that went to (Tennessee). ... There's ties both ways. Even though it kind of got out of hand last year, I think it should continue."

Barnes has not offered any promises. He and former Memphis coach Tubby Smith, who are close friends, agreed to a three-year series in 2018 after the two teams had not faced one another since 2013.

Barnes said scheduling could impact his decision about extending the rivalry beyond next season.

"You gotta have flexibility in your schedule," Barnes said. "I'm not saying we will or we won't (extend the series). I've got respect for Memphis. I know all about the history of Memphis basketball. I know a lot about Penny Hardaway. ... We're always going to do what we think is right for us."

The two teams have played one another 27 times since the 1969-70 season. Tennessee has a 15-12 advantage in the rivalry between a pair of schools that are 381 miles apart and compete in different time zones.