Game preview: UT vs. LSU
The Tennessee men's basketball team has turned the page on its 72-61 loss at Connecticut on Saturday.
"We had time to think about the loss on Sunday, and yeah, it hurt because it was a missed opportunity,'' Vols junior Cameron Tatum said after Monday's practice. "But it's time to move forward.
"The guys all understand we can still take the SEC.''
The march toward an East Division title for the Vols (12-7, 2-2 SEC) begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday against LSU (10-9, 2-2) in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"We've won two straight (SEC games) and we're still in last place,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "These next four games are must-win, have-to-win, however you want to put it.''
Vols coach Bruce Pearl, who will serve the final four games of his eight-game SEC suspension beginning with LSU, stopped short of calling the next four contests must-wins.
But Pearl agreed with Williams' assertion.
"We've got to win every game we're capable of winning, and then we've got to get a couple we maybe aren't expected to get,'' Pearl said. "That will put us in position to go to a sixth consecutive NCAA tournament, which is something that's never happened in the history of Tennessee (men's) basketball.''
The Vols play at Ole Miss on Saturday, at Auburn on Feb. 3 and finish their four-game stretch against SEC West teams with Alabama at home on Feb. 5.
Despite LSU's recent struggles - a loss at Kentucky, 82-44, on Jan. 15 and at home to Ole Miss, 78-51, last Saturday - the Tigers don't figure to be an easy matchup.
"It's the complete opposite of Tennessee basketball,'' Williams said. "They force it in to their bigs, they slow it down and they don't run at all.''
Pearl pointed out that each of UT's past three games against LSU over the past two years have been closely contested.
"Three times we've played (coach) Trent Johnson teams, and three times we played them in close games,'' Pearl said. "LSU, defensively, did about as good a job on us as anybody a year ago.
"They played 37 minutes of 2-3 zone in our last contest against them in the SEC tournament, and we struggled in that game as much as any.''
About Scotty: Pearl said a return to basics can help junior Scotty Hopson, who's coming off a five-turnover performance against UConn.
"Two hands on everything, two hands for rebounds, two hands for loose balls, and improve his ball-handling as he looks to attack the basket,'' Pearl said. "Have those turnovers become forced turnovers. We don't create a ton of possessions defensively, and therefor we have to value our possessions more.''
Pearl said he thinks Hopson will be fine mentally.
"I think Scotty is accountable; I think he understands the inconsistency,'' Pearl said. "The big thing is don't allow one play to factor into the next play, especially if it's going to be negative.''
Hot Bone: UT reserve wing Josh Bone has put together two of the better performances for the Vols the past two games.
Bone came through with a clutch basket late in the 59-57 win at Georgia last Tuesday while playing stellar defense. Against Uconn, Bone was 3-for-3 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 15 minutes.
"I feel like I can play with anybody,'' said Bone, who missed the first 11 games of the season with a fractured wrist. "The transition (coming back) was a little tough, as far as getting a feel for the game.
"But I feel like I've got my wind back, and that was the hardest thing.''