"There is not necessarily a better environment in college basketball than Thompson-Boling Arena — as good as any. We do not beat Kentucky — or Kansas — without 22,000 (fans) here. It just does not happen," Pearl said.
Kentucky guard John Wall sparked UK's comeback from a 54-35 deficit that tied the game 65-65. "Pressure does not get to us," Wall said. "With Kentucky across the chest, Cal coaching and the talent he brought in and we had back, there has been pressure from day one. If we had just started making shots, the game would have been different."
However, the Vols admitted the crowd did help them.
Tennesee did worry when Kentucky came charging back.
"I thought, ‘O Lord, not again.' We played too hard to lose. Fortunately we kept our composure and came away with the win," Tennessee guard Bobby Maze said. "We could not have done this without our fans. I will remember this game the rest of my life."
"Any great team can make a comeback and Kentucky is a great team even if we did beat them," Tennessee center Wayne Chism said. "I think the crowd was loud enough that it distracted Kentucky at times and we were able to stay focused and win over a great team."