It's wasn't hard to get the Tennessee men's basketball team's attention for tonight's game.
All they needed to see was the score last Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.: East Tennessee State 94, Arkansas 85.
The Buccaneers (4-3) put a three-game wining streak on the line against the 11th-ranked Vols (5-1) tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: SportSouth and MyVLT2, 7 p.m.)
"East Tennessee is a good team, and right now a better team than Arkansas,'' UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "You watch that tape, and their win wasn't a fluke. Some of the stuff they run is similar to what we do, and they do some of it better than us.''
The Vols have been off and running this season with the return of Pearl's "Controlled Chaos" press, which has led to high-flying dunks and transition breakaways.
But East Tennessee State is well-equipped to handle that style with depth and stellar guard play.
"They play better when they go fast, too,'' Pearl said. "I think we can run, but it could be difficult to press them.''
Justin Tubbs, a junior guard, scored 29 points in ETSU's 77-71 win over the College of Charleston last Wednesday and another 21 against Arkansas.
Junior forward Tommy Hubbard has posted double-doubles in five of the Bucs' past six games.
"Tubbs is special for them; he's a very physical transfer from Alabama,'' Pearl said. "Hubbard is a nightmare matchup; he does whatever they need.''
Senior guard Mike Smith, a preseason All-Atlantic Sun Conference pick, is back in the lineup after missing five of ETSU's first seven games.
"They attack pressure very well,'' Pearl said. "I told our guys they are the second-best team we'll have played next to Purdue.''
The Boilermakers dealt UT a dose of reality with a 73-72 triumph in the title game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands last Monday.
Pearl has pushed the Vols hard since the team arrived back from the trip, putting them through an intense three-hour Thanksgiving Day practice that exhausted them the day before their 86-69 victory over Charleston.
"We've continued to practice hard, and practice physically,'' Pearl said. "We've got to stop making unforced turnovers and start putting more value on our possessions.''
UT point guard Bobby Maze said the team is adjusting to Pearl's increased demands.
"We're sticking to what Coach (Pearl) wants us to do on offense, and we're getting better defensively,'' Maze said. "East Tennessee State beat Arkansas at Arkansas and that definitely got our attention.''
Just to make sure, Pearl reminded the Vols of ETSU's last visit to Thompson-Boling Arena two years ago.
"They were up six on us in the second half,'' Pearl said, referring to a 58-52 Bucs' lead with 15 minutes remaining. "They're going to come into our arena very confident they can beat us, just like they did last time.''
The Vols eventually prevailed, 93-88, but it's worth noting that both of East Tennessee State's victories in this series took place in Knoxville.