The Tennessee head coach will be serving the seventh and next to last game of suspension in a punishment handed down by the SEC after Pearl was caught violating NCAA recruiting rules. Assistant Tony Jones will direct the team vs. the Tigers.
With or without Pearl this season the Vols have been one of the top teams in the league. Tennessee is 4-2 in SEC games and 14-7 overall while Auburn is 1-6 in the conference and 8-13 overall.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee said he was glad to see the "hard work" his team has put into improving pay off with the victory at South Carolina. "In any sport that is based on wins and losses, wins will always validate what you do especially when you have a young team," Barbee said. "For them to get a win, that validates what we've been working on."
Barbee said that picking up a win on Thursday night, in a game that will be televised on ESPN2, will be a challenge. "Tennessee is a very tough and very talented squad who seems to have hit its stride over the last five games," he said.
"At least on paper and we have watched them on film, they are as big as any team that I have seen in college basketball over the last few years in regard to their bigs being very tall and very physical. It is going to present another challenge because of how talented they are.
"They are as big a college basketball team that I have seen in a long time coupled with how talented they are, Barbee added. "They can score it from the inside. They can score it from the outside. They have guys who can break you down off the dribble. They cause your defense problems.
"We are going to have to continue to do what we have done all year long through our conference slate so far by hopefully keeping teams off balance. We are changing up defenses and looking to attacking them different ways defensively and offensively."
Scott Hopson, a 6-7, 200 junior guard, is UT's top scorer with an average of 16.5 points per game. However, he is injured and is not expected to play.
Sophomore guard Earnest Ross continues to lead Auburn in scoring at 12 points and in rebounding with 7.1 per game.
Despite playing with borrowed shoes after leaving his in Auburn on Saturday, sophomore center Rob Chubb scored 18 points in the win at South Carolina, which was a career-high. Sophomore point guard Josh Wallace added a career-high 17 points and junior Kenny Gabriel contributed 13 rebounds, which tied his collegiate best.