Cuonzo Martin and Bruce Pearl don't have much in common in terms of their basketball coaching styles on the court, but both the former and current Tennessee coach are alike in their appreciation for the Vols' big home crowds.
"Absolutely, our crowd has really made a difference and gotten us over the hump,'' Martin said Monday. "It really helps push the guys, and I think it's a major reason we've been successful at home.''
The Vols are 10-3 in Thompson-Boling Arena this season with marquee wins over nationally ranked and recent NCAA tournament champions Florida and Connecticut.
Tennessee (11-12, 3-5 SEC), which has won eight of its last nine home games, is averaging 17,378 per home date, which through last weekend's games ranked fifth in the nation.
UT finished in the top five nationally in attendance each of Pearl's six seasons coaching the Vols after ranking 20th in the nation in attendance in 2005 under former coach Buzz Peterson (12,225).
"What separates the great basketball programs from the good ones is a home-court advantage, and our program has received tremendous passion and support from the fan base,'' Pearl said Monday. "It's great to see this year's team playing so hard and so solidly defensively, and I think our fans appreciate that.''
The Vols have four remaining home games starting with Wednesday against South Carolina, followed by Arkansas on Feb. 15, Ole Miss on Feb. 22 and Vanderbilt on March 3.
Kentucky leads the nation in home attendance with 23,541 per game through last weekend, followed by Syracuse (21,931), Louisville (21,291), North Carolina (19,794), UT (17,378), and Wisconsin is sixth (17,171).
Memphis ranks second in the state with 16,650 per home game.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32