Scotty Hopson talks about elevating his game
He doesn't have to worry about Bruce Pearl as an adversary for two hours tonight. Still, Billy Donovan said his adversary/colleague is in his thoughts.
"I've got a good relationship with Bruce," Donovan said Monday on the eve of Florida's visit to Tennessee. "I feel bad, in a lot of ways, for the things he's going through personally.''
Pearl serves the second game of an eight-game SEC suspension tonight when Donovan's Gators meet the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena.
During five seasons in the SEC East, the two rivals have become friends. Last year, Donovan participated in Pearl's OUTLIVE cancer fundraising event the evening before the game in Knoxville.
"It's an unfortunate situation,'' Donovan said of Pearl's suspension that resulted from his lying to NCAA investigators last summer.
"I look at it from a different standpoint. We all make mistakes. We all do things we regret. Nobody's perfect and I'm not condoning any of his actions because I don't know what went on.
"But, you know what? He is a person, a human being. Forget the coaching, forget the sanctions. Him as a person, I hope he's able to find some peace in his heart with what happened and can move forward in his life.''
The suspension for half the SEC regular season levied by commissioner Mike Slive was unprecedented, and came in addition to penalties levied by UT.
The NCAA has yet to add its punishment.
"I'm not saying the penalties are too harsh, not harsh enough,'' said Donovan. "But when you're in coaching, I think you understand there are different pressures. People respond and handle things differently.
"At the core, I think Bruce is a good person. I don't think he's a bad guy.''
Pearl said Monday that watching the Vols lose to Arkansas from a hotel room was "harder than I ever dreamed'' it would be."
"Obviously,'' he added, "I've let the guys down. I'm responsible for the fact that I'm not there and can't help them over the course of a game.
"It's a helpless feeling.''
Auburn At Rupp: Auburn's first-year coach Tony Barbee can't imagine anything worse than trailing LSU 32-6 halftime at home.
But with the Tigers going into Rupp Arena tonight, it raises ugly possibilities.
"We set the game back about 50 years,'' Barbee said. "I've never seen anything like that.
"It is what it is. We are an offensively challenged team. We don't shoot the ball well. We don't have anybody we can post the ball to on a consistent basis and we don't have anybody talented enough to go make plays for us.''
Auburn rallied to lose by a respectable 65-59. Tonight Barbee faces his mentor and former boss at Memphis, John Calipari.
"There hasn't been another male figure outside my dad who's had the impact he's had on myself, personally and professionally,'' Barbee said.
Gamecocks Sweep: South Carolina dominated SEC weekly honors.
Sam Muldrow is the player of the week and Bruce Ellington the freshman of the week.
Georgia Tough Stuff: Calipari said Kentucky's loss at Georgia was dictated by the Bulldogs' physical play.
"We couldn't play through bumps,'' Calipari said. "We started throwing shots that have no chance of going in.''
Georgia moves on Wednesday to face another physical team, Vanderbilt, at Nashville.
Coach Mark Fox said star forward Trey Thompkins still isn't 100 percent back from his August foot injury.
"He's a lot closer,'' Fox said, "I'd say 90, 95 percent. And I think he gets better each week.''
Georgia and Thompkins play Tennessee next week.