Tennessee has plenty of reasons to feel sorry for itself.
A challenging schedule, key injuries, the incongruent nature of its head coach going on and off suspension, and a restless fan base with great expectations on the heels of five straight NCAA tournament appearances.
"The kids have gone through a lot,'' said Pearl, whose return from his eight-game SEC suspension was spoiled by a 73-61 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday night. "But I thought the guys in the (Wednesday) film session were very accountable, and they were alert.''
Tennessee (15-9, 5-4 SEC) knows that any shot it has at winning the SEC Eastern Division likely will be on the line at 6 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN) when it plays at No. 17 Florida (18-5, 7-2).
Pearl kept his players off the floor on Wednesday.
The Vols need to get their legs under them after arguably the most difficult stretch of three SEC games in six days since Pearl was hired some six years ago.
It was the fourth time in the Pearl era that UT has played three SEC games in six days, but only the second time that two of those games were on the road.
The other occasion was last season. The Vols handled LSU in Baton Rouge, 59-54, came home to beat the last-place team in the East, South Carolina, 79-53, and then lost at Vanderbilt 90-71.
"I think playing three games in six days was a factor when you consider it was a late game at Auburn that we got back from at 3:30 in the morning, and then the Alabama game went to overtime,'' Pearl said. "Then you take the bus to play an athletic Kentucky team at their place, where they haven't lost.
"But I'm still disappointed; we don't need to start looking for any excuses.''
Pearl said that leading scorers Tobias Harris (14.6 points per game) and Scotty Hopson (16.2 ppg.) will practice in preparation for the Gators despite being hobbled by recent ankle injuries.
"They will go, but we'll limit out how long they are out there,'' Pearl said. "Tomorrow (today) is a very important day of practice.''
Harris, who rolled his ankle in a 74-57 win at Ole Miss on Jan. 29, has not missed any playing time.
Hopson, injured in a Feb. 1 practice, missed two games before starting and playing 24 minutes at Kentucky.
Kentucky Wrap: The Wildcats out-rebounded the Vols 38-28 and outscored UT 21-10 in points off turnovers.
Pearl explained that center Josh Harrellson's 16 points for Kentucky were a byproduct of UT center Brian Williams playing help defense.
"Some of those guys were able to turn corners and get into the lane, and that really made a difference in Brian having to rotate over,'' Pearl said. "Harrellson was able to clean up on the backside.''
Kentucky shooting guard DeAndre Liggins, who scored a game-high 19 points, was one of the Wildcats penetrating.
"They took advantage of Scotty, because he was limited defensively,'' Pearl said.
The Good: Pearl said he was pleased with the offensive performances of Melvin Goins (16 points, five rebounds) and Josh Bone (13 points, 5-of-6 shooting), as well as UT's half-court defense.
"We played really good defense, numbers don't really show that in the sense they shot (44.9 percent),'' he said. "But you have 21 points off turnovers, most of those were fairly easy, open shots. When we got back and got in the half court, we guarded them pretty well.''
On The Bubble: According to ESPN.com's "Bubble Watch,'' the Vols' showdown in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday could prove pivotal come NCAA tournament selection time.
While Florida and Kentucky are listed as "locks," UT is in the category of "work left to do.''
The Vols are No. 24 in the RPI rankings and No. 2 in schedule strength, according to RealTimeRpi.com.
Pearl said it's too soon to panic.
"This league is going to grind you up if you let it,'' Pearl said. "Until this SEC season is in the books, it's too soon to pass judgment.''
Forbes Talk: UT assistant coach Steve Forbes said at the Big Orange Tipoff Club on Wednesday that the inability to rebound free-throw misses after the Vols rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit was a deciding factor in the outcome.
"They hadn't scored a basket in the last 5:51 of the first, and going into halftime down seven we thought we could play better,'' Forbes said. "We made the first basket of the second half, and a lot of times when you do that, you can see the other team get a little bit tight and see some doubt creeping across their face, and I could see that in Kentucky.
"Their crowd got a little quiet, and we were in pretty good shape,'' he said. "Then we couldn't get a rebound off a free throw . . . they beat our guys across the lane and got the ball, and I thought that took a lot of momentum from us.''
The Wildcats used a 13-0 run to sprint away from the Vols after Goins' shot to open the second half cut the lead to five points.