Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl says the success the Volunteers have enjoyed against defending national champion Florida in recent years has been sweet.
He also knows this success won't do the seventh-ranked Vols any good when they host the Gators on Tuesday.
Tennessee has won three of the four meetings with Florida during Pearl's tenure.
Pearl said Florida's opponents have had a tough time forcing the Gators to commit turnovers, something the Vols have thrived on. Tennessee's opponents commit an average 20 turnovers a game.
Pearl also noted the Gators' success on defense this season, especially because of their full-court press.
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH BRUCE PEARL Q&A
1. Does winning two big road games last week make it seem like the Vols gained ground on the entire SEC field?
A. “Those are separators when you can win on the road in any league. Certainly the Mississippi State win -- they are going to finish in the top three out west so that was a big one. And Tuscaloosa was really special because it’s just been such a tough place for Tennessee basketball to win. I was proud of my guys on the bench at Tuscaloosa. They knew that so many great Tennessee teams had gone there before them and not come away victorious.”
2. All of a sudden the Vols have out-rebounded their last three opponents, and without one player carrying the load. Talk about the team’s recent effort on the boards.
A. “The 10 guys playing double-digit minutes was very significant at Mississippi State. To see Josh Tabb back out there and not miss a beat, J.P. Prince having to play two positions when we got into such deep foul trouble and to have the rebound totals we had -- everybody was four, five or six. It was just very special and it did speak to the effort. And I think the last thing would be Duke Crews being back helps us on the boards as well. That’s what it took against Mississippi State, which is one of the best rebounding teams in the league.”
3. What does the Vols’ third straight Tuesday night appearance on ESPN, this time in front of a sellout crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena, say about the state of your program nationally?
A. “Tuesday night on ESPN is tremendous. People all over the country think “Super Tuesday” is on ESPN; they don’t realize it has something to do with the election. The fact that we are on ESPN both home and on the road says two things. On the road, they know it is going to be an entertaining game -- at Kentucky was and at Alabama was. And now against Florida at home, where we’ve had so many special nights, it’s an opportunity for our fans to show off their spirit and for ESPN to be in this building and see the improvements and gist of what we have going on here.”
4. Florida had almost a complete roster turnover, yet the Gators are right back in the thick of the SEC race. Some of the highlights of your brief UT career have come against Florida, but is this year’s game a turnabout from recent years with Florida now chasing Tennessee?
A. “Don’t feel sorry for Florida. They are a new team but they have a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans and a great coach. They are hard to guard because they will put four or five guys on the floor that can all shoot it, can all handle it. This is not a basketball team that turns it over, and as you know we like to turn people over. That’s going to be an aspect we won’t enjoy and we will have to find another way to beat them.”
5. Looking ahead to LSU on Saturday, this is a team that despite its record has shown sparks at times with near wins over Villanova and at Alabama.
A. “They are a very athletic team. Marcus Thornton is a shooting machine. (Anthony) Randolph is a McDonald’s All-American and a top, top kid. LSU always has great talent, but the league is so competitive and they have lost some close games. They are a young team and play extremely well in up-tempo situations. They are another big shot-blocking team and, as we saw at Mississippi State, that makes it very difficult for us to score around the basket. We look forward to going down to Baton Rouge and doing something we couldn’t do a couple of years ago.”