Tobias Harris on UT's close win over UT Martin
Bruce Pearl on the College of Charleston
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl believes the Vols will "step up" for Friday's game with the College of Charleston.
"Because we know we have to step up against this team,'' Pearl said, referencing the Cougars (8-4). "This is a team we'll be excited about playing.''
UT tips off with the Cougars at 2 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: ESPN2).
Pearl concedes the Vols (9-3) hardly are a finished product as four new starters continue to grow into their roles.
Injuries, illnesses and travel delays also have forced UT to continue to shuffle the deck with hopes of finding a suitable rotation.
The Vols survived upset-minded UT Martin on Tuesday night with a 68-62 win.
The UT players said positives came out of the win despite what the surprisingly close margin might suggest.
"We closed it out pretty well and came together,'' Vols senior point guard Melvin Goins said following Thursday's practice. "They hit some good shots, and we missed some shots we normally make.
"But we didn't even watch film of that today; we just worked on Charleston.''
The Cougars were among the preseason favorites in the Southern Conference and feature the league's preseason player of the year in senior Andrew Goudelock.
Goudelock, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, ranks second in the nation with 3.6 made 3-pointers per game and is eighth in the country with a 23.5 points per game scoring average.
"Our guys have seen the film and saw how Charleston played North Carolina, Maryland and Clemson,'' Pearl said, referring to the Cougars' single-digit losses to the Atlantic Coast Conference schools. "Goudelock is a tremendous scorer and as good of a two-guard as we'll see this season.''
UT preseason All-SEC selection Scotty Hopson will assume many of the defensive responsibilities on Goudelock.
"It's human nature to be geeked up to face the best opponents,'' said Hopson, who played shutdown defense against Villanova's talented backcourt in a 78-68 win earlier this season. "We'll just have to make (Goudelock's) catches tougher and contest every shot.
"It's as much of a team effort as me.''
The College of Charleston, coached by Bobby Cremins, uses numerous ball screens in its offense.
"We struggled tremendously with our ball-screen defense against (UT) Martin,'' Pearl said. "It's something we'll need to do a better job with.''
The Vols defeated the Cougars 86-69 last season, but Pearl remembers the final score being somewhat deceptive.
"It was a fairly close game until they ran out of gas at the end,'' Pearl said. "This is another opponent that's going to be in the NCAA tournament.
"It's a very senior-laden team and a 'this is their year' kind of thing.''
About The Cougars: Three of the College of Charleston's four losses this season have come to ACC teams: Maryland (75-74), North Carolina (74-69) and Clemson (66-59). The Cougars' other loss was to Rhode Island (75-66).
The College of Charleston is ranked No. 15 in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, one spot ahead of the Virginia Commonwealth, which the Vols defeated 77-72 in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Nov. 24 in New York.
Greenville's Antwaine Wiggins starts on the wing for the College of Charleston and is averaging 6.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 29 minutes per game.
Wiggins missed last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during September workouts.
Wiggins led the Green Devils to a 32-3 record his senior year at Greenville High School (2007) and was a finalist for Tennessee's Class 3A Mr. Basketball award.