Pearl: No. 3 ranking won't beat Kentucky

JuJuan Smith: Throw Vols', Cats', records out the window

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The Tennessee men's basketball team has received its highest ranking in the history of the program, coming in at No. 3 in Monday's Associated Press poll.

But before anyone gets caught up in the hoopla - his players included - coach Bruce Pearl has a simple message: "It (the ranking) won't help us beat Kentucky.''

Tennessee (16-1 overall, 3-0 SEC) will put its 11-game win streak on the line at 9 o'clock tonight at Rupp Arena against the Wildcats (7-9, 1-2).

"It's a game where both teams will throw their records out the window and play hard,'' UT senior JaJuan Smith said.

"It's gonna be tough,'' Vols' senior Chris Lofton added.

Despite Kentucky's struggles - with a loss tonight the Wildcats will be off to their worst start in 80 years - Pearl sees a team on the brink of a turnaround.

"We're playing a Kentucky team that is improved and playing their best basketball,'' he said. "This is a much more confident Kentucky team than it was a few weeks ago. Their kids are playing to their strengths.''

The Wildcats opened SEC play with a 79-73 double-overtime win over Vanderbilt before falling on the road to SEC West Division leader Mississippi State (69-64) and at Florida in overtime (81-70).

Pearl sees past the results.

"They are believing in their coach and what they do and buying in,'' Pearl said.

Meanwhile, Pearl is believing in Lofton, who has a strong history against his home-state school, particularly in Rupp Arena where he has hit 12 of 19 (.632) of his 3-pointers and averaged 24 points in two games.

"I'd like to see Chris get open more,'' Pearl said. "It's something I've always been on Chris for. He'll be excited about playing there because he's won a state championship there and he's closer to home.''

Lofton was among the Vols getting extra shots Monday morning before the team watched film and boarded a bus for Lexington, where they held their walk-through.

Informed he needed five 3-pointers to set the SEC's career mark, Lofton smiled.

"Is that what it is?'' he said. "Well, I just want to win.''

So does Pearl, who sits 2-2 against Kentucky 2 1/2 years after taking over at Tennessee and proclaiming he wanted to make the series a rivalry once more.

"You have to become competitive with them before there can be a rivalry,'' said Pearl, who wears an orange sports coat in honor of the late Ray Mears in UT games against rivals Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

So how does a .500 record against the Wildcats sit with Pearl?

"We're competitive,'' Pearl said, pausing for a moment with a lips-pursed smile before continuing. "Nice try, though.''

Pearl made it clear his success against Kentucky is still a barometer of sorts.

"It is still Kentucky,'' he said. "Kentucky is it - and no slight on Vandy or Florida - and it will always be still Kentucky out of great respect for their program, fans and history.''

Keeping Tabb: Pearl said he can see situations where Josh Tabb plays, even though the sophomore has been out of the nine-man rotation since J.P. Prince became eligible in mid-Decemeber.

"Josh has done a wonderful job staying ready, and his attitude has been tremendous,'' Pearl said. "It's wonderful to hear from fans and other people … he's still being talked about.''

Ramarkable: Through three SEC games, Ramar Smith is the SEC's leading free-throw shooter in conference games, making 14 of 15.

"I guess it took me going 0-for-12 to start shooting about 1,000 a day,'' Smith said, referring to his bizarre performance in November against Prairie View A&M. "I shoot so many now, it's ridiculous.''

Wildcat Visited Vols: Wildcats freshman forward Patrick Patterson was one of the first players Pearl set his sights on after taking over at UT.

"He was one of the first people to visit Tennessee when I first got here, but when it came down to his top five, Tennessee was nowhere to be found,'' Pearl said. "Our program just wasn't there yet.

"I've been extremely impressed with him.''

Patterson ranks in the SEC's top 10 in scoring (16.6 points per game) and rebounding (8 per game).

Billy's Take: First-year Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie didn't have much to say about the Vols' rivalry and Pearl's respect for the Wildcats at SEC Media Days in October, and apparently still didn't when interviewed by the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday night.

When asked what he thought of Pearl wearing an orange jacket against Kentucky, Gillispie said he thought Pearl wore it every game and added, "That's good for Coach Pearl.''

Asked if he would wear an electric blue jacket, Gillispie sidestepped the question and repeated, "I think that's good for Coach Pearl. I think it's great.''

Gillespie said he's "excited'' about the rivalry.

"Rupp's by far the best place to play,'' he said. "The excitement, the electricity. I think there's a lot of hatred among the fans. That's the type of game that makes college athletics.''

Pearl pointed out Monday he wants Tennessee fans to know there are still tickets available for the game.

Some Respect: Kentucky senior Joe Crawford didn't mind paying the Vols some respect.

"Tennessee is much better than Florida,'' Crawford said. "They have four or five different guys who can start the offense for them.''

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Comments » 89

FLAVOLS writes:

That's right Bruce! Keep 'em FOCUSED! They haven't won anything yet.

volmattna writes:

we will be there in orange go vols!! lets make half of that place orange

peerlessvolfan writes:

Skin da cats!

ballewville6 writes:


b.skelton#207404 writes:

Win one at a time. Tuesday night is next.

EastTennVol writes:

Hope the Vols get a win against the Mild Cat's to keep the momentum going!

Ironcity writes:

ballewville don't let that hillbilly AirforceOne try to stop you from going to the game. There will be plenty of seats available outside. UK is yesterdays news!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

"It (the #3 ranking) won't help us beat Kentucky." Wow! Who doesn't love Bruce Pearl? Win or lose, it won't be coaching. Those guys will be focused and ready to play. Seems like now, if you want to beat UT, you're going to have to play your best game and that just doesn't happen very often. If you're a little off, you will lose, period. If there is a better coach out there, I don't know who it is. Guys like Coach K, Williams, Howland, Calipari, Knight, etc... are all doing well and certainly have more banners in their gyms than we do but I don't think anyone could have done any better with what BP inherited than he has. You would have to go back to Don Devoe to find a UT coach who got this much out of his players. Let's just hope we take Kentucky down another notch. They will be ready 'cause they need this win more than we do. Go Vols!!!

coach75 writes:

keep up the defense vols and keep playing hard. i would love to still be at number 3 or even higher when we meet up with number 1 memphis. all west tn radio shows are talking about ut-memphis because they know memphis has no one left on their schedule except for ut.

voll123 writes:

ballewville6, I wrote your number down on a truck-stop bathroom wall in Rutledge. Hope you get some calls about tickets!

CoverOrange writes:

Ramar, can you give a ride to Wayne on your way to the Pratt Pavalion? Well, I mean not literally give him your ride but show him where you practice FTs.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Just beat Kentucky. All will be well then. This one is scary.

vol4jesus writes:

Airforceofone we see that you are indeed a fan of the 'cats'. Now the stuff ewe typed makes more(maybe) sense understanding where your allegiance is at. We see you are back on the radar now that this game is on the horizon. Another poster mentioned the other day how you had mysteriously disappeared from posting. This being after many posters spanked you for your irresponsible post you had made. Tough game at Rupp as always. I believe VOLS win in a close one.However, a loss would not surprise me though. As stated, cats being healthy are buying into Gillespies plan whether he wears a 'Blue' coat or not. Thats ok for Bruce!

kyvol98 writes:

Bought my tickets through TicketMaster when they went on sale 1/16. Side court 3rd row in the upper.

ballewville6 writes:

airforce any one im willing to pay 100 for a good seat if up high or the price is to high theni just soon to watch this high def 46 inch tv with no noise

doctorvol#211700 writes:

hope gillespie sobers up enough to see Pearl in the orange blazer.

Chainsaw writes:

Lofton is something like 12/19 from 3 range at Rupp. I expect him to start feeling it at the opening tip and do nothing but fill it up all night long.

Crush the cats. Humiliate them. And then do it again when they visit TB.

That is all.

kyvol98 writes:

Nice article on Chris and coRUPPt Arena

THE_VOL writes:

One thing nobody is talking about (can't expect a KNS writer to THINK now can we..) In any event, that is Tennessee's "secret" weapon in this game - STEVE FORBES! Forbes worked with Gillespie at A&M before coming to TN last year. He knows EVERYTHING Gillespie does! That is a huge advantage for the Vols that should pay off handsomely this evening. I expect a really tight first half, maybe even 30 minutes, with the Vols pulling away late for a comfortable double digit WIN! Chism is a HUGE key tonight against Patterson as is Jordan/Ramar against Bradley. The Cats go as those two do. Contain them like we did Ogilvy and Foster and the W will be orange!!!!

todd#529269 writes:


King53 writes:

I hope we bury the cats in Rupp tonight. Billy G obviously has no respect for CBP and out program. Let's shove a woodshed beating down his throat so he will always remember his first encounter with the Big Orange!!!

tigervol9802 writes:

Billy G is just not wanting to get emotionally attached to the rivalry since there's a decent chance he won't be the coach there next year. Remember, he still doesn't have a signed contract. That plus a losing record can't bode to well in his favor. Wonder if they will offer to change the name of the school to University of Donovan to try to get him next year?

Phowell23 writes:

This will be a good game to get Lofton out of his slump. He made several 3's against OSU so maybe playing in front of his home crowd will get him going. If he gets on out guys..we may score over 100 on them.

inswhiz writes:

This one game tonight we better not take for granted. Ky is starting to catch on to Billy Gillespie philosophy and could be a very dangerous team as Vandy found out. Hopefully Tenn can stay focus and take the crowd out of the game early. GO VOLS!!

VenomousVol writes:

Throw the records out the window , this one will be a barn burner. UT has a little too much of everything and pulls it out in the end. Go Vols!

ctownvol writes:

I had a great thought... Mens and womens basketball NC and then football following up with a NC next year. Could anybody else live with holding all 3 titles at once and upping what Florida did last year?

GerryOP writes:

Interesting article:

Go Vols!

Kwitcherbellyachin writes:

Looks like KY is getting 4.5 on the line this morning with an over/under of 149. Bet I could make more $ on this one than in the stock market this morning. Heh.

invisiblekid writes:

"It (the ranking) won't help us beat Kentucky.''

"You have to become competitive with them before there can be a rivalry,''

Quotes like that are why you gotta love Pearl. He knows how to dig at his players and keep them motivated.

AlpharettaVol writes:

Keep being relentless out on the floor. Never take a possession off. Don't let them breathe. 3-2 against them in the BP era sounds pretty good right now.

johnlg00 writes:

Some random thoughts: 1) CBP, as usual, is right; our ranking won't win it, only a maximum effort up and down the roster; 2) Speaking of our ranking, I see that we are only 5th in the ESPN/Coaches poll; guess some earlier posters were right that we don't yet get the respect of the rest of the country; my take is that the media (AP poll) love CBP because he is colorful, outspoken, and successful; the coaches hate him for the same reason(;-D); 3) What a turnaround for R. Smith's free-throw shooting! Chism should indeed be taking notes; great work, Ramar!; 4) Gillespie, Stallings, Matta and Calipari are jealous jerks; CBP shows what a difference great coaching can make; CBP is the kind of coach who can "take your'n and beat his'n or take his'n and beat your'n"; that knowledge puts all other coaches on the spot, and they know it!

voll123 writes:

ballewville6, just a word of warning....if vol4jesus says you can have his seat for $100, he might not be talking basketball.

BigOrangeVol writes:

The Vegas line may be 4 1/2 but we'll take this one by 10. The double OT win agains VU many be the only SEC game UK wins this year. Their RPI is 172! The only games they will be favored in are USC and Bama with both of those being home games. Even at home they are less than 2 point favorites to win. Gillispie will be fired after the SEC Tourney.

Childress, Williams and T-Bird are going to have to step up and help Weezy stay out of foul trouble tonight for sure!!!

vol4life110986 writes:

I live in kentucky and have had to put up with stupid uk fans ever since I was born at fort sanders there in knoxville and I would love more than anything for the vols win by 20.. growing up my parents had season football tickets and that was plenty enough for me to bleed orange.. I am getting to go to the game for free because my boss has season uk tickets but u better bet ill be the one in all orange in the season ticket holder seats.. GO VOLS

bernardking writes:

AirForceOne says "Personallly, I like Pearl as a coach. I do not think his flamboyant style would mesh well with lots of other programs, but it is perfect for Tennessee."

Care to name the programs where his style might not mesh well????? Of course Kentucky, right? the flamboyant, athletic type doesn't suit you? we like the smart azz, alcoholic type...

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

UT fans: when you are watching the game tonight, dream that you are there yelling for the vols.

I don't much believe in magic or psychobabble, but it sure can't hurt....I wouldn't yell in your TV room, the old lady will have you hauled off (unless she's a vol, in which case you are a-okay!!!!)

bleed_orange writes:

I perdict it will be a very tough game on the inside. TN once again need to limit our KY 2nd and third shots off of rebounds. TN also need to keep up the good defense on 3-pointers. I believe we will turn KY over 16-20 times. The VOLS need to use our personal fouls wisely, because KY is a very good foul shooting team. Chris usually does well when we play KY. The Big Orange looked a little tired on Saturday. Will Duke play a couple of minutes tonight? GO VOLS!

bleed_orange writes:

I believe TN will win in a close one with our bench making the difference. GO VOLS!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Head in the game all the way, men. KY thinks we're ripe for the taking. Don't think so myself.

Nervouse already, probably have to knock out 20-25 games of Spider while wearing a trough from the office to the den. Get 'em Pearl.

jevolball7 writes:

I don't have a good feeling about this one. Don't know why. I'm afraid this will be a nail biter. Loud crowd,KY refs,tired team. I'll take a 1 point win right now!

vol1994 writes:

I am a little nervous as well jevolball7. We have so much talent on this team and our defense seems to be better, but I just question our shot selection at times. we also tend to play out of control sometimes instead of just pulling up and setting up the offense. But these guys are fun to watch and bruce lets them play!!

Hope I am wrong but this game may come down to fould shooting.. again, i hope I am wrong..

go vols!!

weedbreath writes:

Kentucky refs is right. What is the deal with all of these tic-e-tac fouls?

txsvol#372416 writes:

Halftime! 36-30, and we're looking good! Chris Lofton's three just before the buzzer was great! The utsport broadcast is lagging just less than a minute from the televised version. Does this happen all the time? Go Vols! SAVol

vol1994 writes:

Basketball is the one sport where officials can make a huge impact. UT will not be able to play their style of defense if the game continues to be called this way. Bruce Pearl just made a comment that he thought his guys were defending the post well but were being called for fouls.

Tyler has to play within himself and quit pressing so much. He is a great athlete but not under control forcing shots..

This game may go to the wire!

go vols!! Go Lofton!!

VOLS85 writes:

It looks as if Kentucky's fans are lacking excitement, especially considering they're playing their rival and their rival is much better than them...another indication that it is not just our fans that are "wine and cheesers" please relax on that one

FatherVol writes:

Looks like Lofton is coming out of his doldrums tonight. Did they say 14 points at halftime? That's what he's averaging, isn't it? The last three was a thing of beauty. How does a player foul when standing in front of an offensive player to whom a ball is thrown and then leaping high enough in position to make the defensive steal. They never did play a replay of that one. GO VOLS! PS. If anyone thinks the crowd is hostile at Rupp wait until they come to the Forum in Memphis.

txsvol#372416 writes:

AirForceOne, probably Pearl's niece. You know that at least the second is fake! Torso is too devoid of hair to be Bruce's! Go Vols! SAVol

dfreeman writes:

Prince is playing great!! He just needs to hit his charity stripes and he'll be the man!!

dfreeman writes:

We need someone to shut down Patterson! Of course it might help if the zebras would let us play some defense!!

dfreeman writes:

Foul on Chism??? Where was that??

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