Bruce Pearl will need gem for first 7-0 start

No. 3 Pittsburgh has home, more

Pearl talks Vols defense

Tennessee heads to Pittsburgh today looking for what could be the first 7-0 season start in Bruce Pearl's six-year tenure with the Vols.

The Vols are scheduled to practice this afternoon at the Consol Energy Center where the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins play their home games.

No. 11 UT (6-0) tips off against the No. 3 Panthers (10-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN).

The Vols are 6-7 under Pearl against teams ranked in the top five, but only one of those victories came in an opponents' city (Memphis).

"What does our record against the top five say? First, the fact this is our 14th game against a top-five team is an indicator of what we're doing with the program,'' Pearl said. "The SEC needed a team to volunteer to play at Pitt without a return game, and we took the challenge.

"It's what Tennessee does with scheduling; it's what Pat Summitt does with the Lady Vols, and our football program has played a top schedule for years.''

The last time Tennessee started a season with seven consecutive wins was 2000, when former coach Jerry Green led a top 10-ranked team to a 9-0 start. Green, however, didn't play a top-five ranked team during his four-year coaching tenure at UT.

And none of the wins during the 9-0 start in 2000 came on the road against a ranked opponent.

"Pitt is the deepest team we've ever faced, and it's also one of the most experienced teams in the country with about 85 percent back from last year,'' Pearl said. "Fatigue will not be a factor for them, so it does change what we do.''

Pearl most always plays a deeper bench than opponents, and his hallmark of uptempo play has led to UT wearing down opponents.

The Panthers are a different animal to the extent that Pearl scheduled unprecedented double sessions of practice on Thursday.

"This is a balance between respect and fear,'' Pearl said. "The quality of Pitt's play will challenge us, but we've got to make sure our players aren't fearful of the quality of our opponent and location.''

Fourth-year junior Cam Tatum said there's only one way for Tennessee to approach the game.

"You go in there with your hard hat on,'' Tatum said. "It's the type of matchup you have to look forward to, knowing it's a game that will help you down the road as well as see where the team is at.''

Senior post Brian Williams, who has been on hand for 11 of the Vols' 13 games against top five teams, said he has a good idea of what to expect.

"Growing up I watched Pitt basketball, and it has always been a tough team with a lot of inner-city kids who are tough and strong,'' Williams said. "They will come into this game looking to destroy us, and we can't prove anything until we beat a team like Pitt.''

While the Vols are looking to make history in the Pearl Era, the Panthers' undefeated start represents business as usual.

Pitt is the winningest team in the Big East over the past nine years and has started the season 10-0 for the seventh time in the past eight years.

Woolridge Out: Junior wing Renaldo Woolridge injured his right ankle Thursday morning when he fell down some steps on his way to practice.

Woolridge, who's averaging 11.2 minutes per game backing up Tatum, has been evaluated with a sprain.

Maymon Watch: The Vols are expected to add sophomore transfer Jeronne Maymon to the rotation behind starter Tobias Harris at power forward.

Maymon is still waiting for his final grade to be posted on UT's official website, but it's considered a technicality. Maymon has received notice he passed all five classes he took in the fall semester.

Maymon's addition has led to senior Steven Pearl moving from power forward to the wing, where he will replace the injured Woolridge.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mgrif32 and at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/

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Comments » 20

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say even better....a little voodoo. lol
Bones never lie.

rdrgtr writes:

This could be CBP biggest out of conference win outside Memphis 2 years ago. The stage is set and the nation will be watching. Pearl lives for these settings. Let's get this one...

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Well to me the Kansas win was huge but yeh this ones more important now!lol We need to let them come to us and be set up on D, I think. Waitin' and ready and protecting the lanes better than even against 'Nova. HOwever on offense I hope we go at them hard and fast in the lanes. Foul 'em out!! T At least get our best to the foul line. Harris, Hopson, Tatum!!!
To win we need to work harder than any game we've played. I don't think we'll get as much perimeter pressure but it should be harder to drive to the basket. Our passes need to be sharp though just because they need to get better. If we can hit our 3's maybe it will open up the lanes some for us! I don't know though 'cause they're experienced. I watched Pitt a couple of times last year on tv and if I remember correctly they'd cause mistakes and go the full floor for easy baskets. I don't remember who they played though and didn't watch their entire games.
Regardless I'd like to see us cut out some of those perimeter turnovers.

BigBadVol writes:

If TN plays to their potential they can beat anyone. This team is extremely athletic and long which creates all types of problems for opponents. (God what I would do for Chris Lofton right now) What we need is the consistent outside shot to contend. Go Vols!

vol_4_fan writes:

Looking for the same effort that they have played in the half court defence & strong rebounding. With that said we need to make some three's with-in the offence and stay patient. It is nice to see the Vols in the big games. It is going to be a physical game. Go Vols!

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

If TN plays to their potential they can beat anyone. This team is extremely athletic and long which creates all types of problems for opponents. (God what I would do for Chris Lofton right now) What we need is the consistent outside shot to contend. Go Vols!

Agree we sure could use consistent outside shooting. But we don't have it so far, and I don't see that we are going to get it anytime soon.

Until and unless we develop more offense, defense and rebounding are the keys.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

in response to unleashedslimsmokey:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agree; best to have that game routine in place.

It's why in a way I wished they would have had a charity scrimmage or something just to simulate a game day.

Heck, if nothing else, invite vol fans and student to a practice and tell them to BOO to simulate a hostile crowd.

VolsToTheWall writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

If TN plays to their potential they can beat anyone. This team is extremely athletic and long which creates all types of problems for opponents. (God what I would do for Chris Lofton right now) What we need is the consistent outside shot to contend. Go Vols!

this is the most all around talented team Pearls had so far, assuming scotty learns how to dribble at some point in the season

Greyfeathers writes:

Lyin' Bruce will pull them through. Lyin Bruce can walk on water!!!

fundamentals83 writes:

Glad Woolridge is out. We need productive minutes and he doesn't usually provide them.

dcap8424 writes:

in response to Greyfeathers:

Lyin' Bruce will pull them through. Lyin Bruce can walk on water!!!

I'd rather be a liar than lazy. And no he can't walk on water, but I have seen him fly.

nicknack1 writes:

" off to PITT to change some things...be back shortly"-Brian Williams

RunningWithTheVols writes:

in response to fundamentals83:

Glad Woolridge is out. We need productive minutes and he doesn't usually provide them.

I wonder if Woolridge is setting up to transfer? PT is only going to go down further and this game is after the semester so maybe it would cost him a year of eligibility?

Spraining an ankle on his way to practice?

martinvol34 writes:

in response to fundamentals83:

Glad Woolridge is out. We need productive minutes and he doesn't usually provide them.

Did the guy really fall down the steps on the way to practice? That's just not even funny! LOL.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

C'mon why the hate? Woolridge Is either terrible or ok so far...but...ok well I guess I answered my own question.

tulelakevol writes:

Should be a good game. I can't wait for tipoff.

igetmycornfromajar writes:

Game in the 60s--we are still deeper than PITT. Vols 63-61--MVP of the game is Fields--10 pts 10 rbs and 4 GOOD fouls.

pvtoe writes:

in response to Greyfeathers:

Lyin' Bruce will pull them through. Lyin Bruce can walk on water!!!

Go cheer for the Commode Doors or the Gators!!!
Jealousy abounds.

Einstein writes:

So when we beat No. 1 Kansas last year, we played them in Knoxville?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to MrPearl:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pearl...not you but the man and coach, obviously looks for these games. If he has to play them away then he will. They are better learning games and also measure where we are as a team when we play good teams at their place. I doubt it's any thing more...but I could be wrong...it's possible...

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