"I'm still the guy who does the dirty work,'' said Pearl, the rising senior and son of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. "Diving for loose balls, taking charges, bumping and bruising with the big guys.''
And yes, taking abuse from fans - home and away - who will always see him as the coach's son.
"There are always going to be people telling me I'm not good enough,'' Pearl said. "It motivates me. But at the same time, there are some who like and appreciate the things I do.''
Pearl had two steals and two rebounds in the final 3 1/2 minutes of Thursday consolation game, but it wasn't enough for Ray's ESG (3-4).
First Tennessee (4-3) scored a 126-120 win behind 47 points from Lincoln Memorial University's D'Mario Curry. Former UT guards Bobby Maze had 33 and Jon Higgins added 19.
Bruce Pearl was in attendance to see former UT star Chris Lofton score 43 points in the loss and incoming freshman Trae Golden score 13.
Bruce Pearl's purpose at the game, however, was to be there in support of his son.
"Steven's doing the things I envisioned with his toughness,'' Bruce Pearl said. "He's already a defensive stopper, but he's also got the ability to take the ball to the basket and create. I'd like to see him add a jump shot.''
Steven Pearl said his shooting practice begins at the free throw line.
"Obviously, I've been a terrible free throw shooter,'' Pearl said. "This year I'll shoot 75 percent. Write that down, because if I don't, I won't be out there anyway.''
Bruce Pearl agreed with that assessment.
"He probably won't play much if he's not shooting his free throws,'' Bruce Pearl said. "But he's worked to get the respect of his teammates, then coaches, and now more people in the stands are understanding what he can do.''
Lofton said he's been impressed with Steven Pearl's effort from the onset, and now, his physique.
"Steven came in and was one of the hardest workers in the weight room when he played scout team, he competed like he was supposed to beat the starters,'' Lofton said. "He's obviously gotten a lot stronger and come a long way.''
Steven Pearl's style might not sell tickets, but as UT proved in its Elite Eight run, defense still wins.