Pearl: "Ole Miss looks terrific"

The following are comments Monday from Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl on the SEC's weekly teleconference.

Pearl: We're excited about the opportunity to get started in conference play. Ole Miss looks terrific. Andy's done a wonderful job with that basketball team. Once again, preseason not picked very high. But they're playing at a really high level. They've had some great wins so far, and they've played a very good schedule. I like their balance. One of the reasons they've had early success is Chris Warren. He is a spectacular guard, one of the best freshmen guards that I've seen in college basketball.

Q: Talk about Dwayne Curtis of Ole Miss.

Pearl: Dwayne dominated us last year. Our game at Ole Miss they scored 55 points in the second half and shot 59 percent (83-69 Ole Miss win in Oxford). Dwayne is a load and a smart player. He's one of the better guys scoring on angles. You just can't get around him. He uses his body extremely well to move you out. He's a good ball-screener because of his size and position. Those (big) guys have great hands and great positioning, and they finish everything. We haven't seen much of Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins, both great freshmen. The rest of the guys that we've seen have all gotten better. I can understand why they're undefeated.

Q: What are your thoughts on the impression that seems to be held nationally that the league is down?

Pearl: I agree with (Kentucky head coach) Billy Gillispie when he talks about people are going to look at Kentucky and Florida, and how they're doing is the perception of how we're doing. It's like Duke and North Carolina in the ACC. I think the fact that Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are the undefeated teams in the country give that perception. I just think the league is more wide open than it's ever been. Tennessee is a highly-ranked team. We're not a physically dominant team and not that household name. Same thing for Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, teams with the best records right now heading in (to conference games). I just think it makes for one of the more competitive races in a while.

Q: Talk about Chris Lofton's season.

Pearl: A little off this season. And teams are doing a better job of identifying him. I think it's the responsibility, too, of playing on a team with a little bit more talent, a little bit more balance. For a couple of years, a bad shot by Chris Lofton was a good shot for Tennessee. Now a bad shot by Chris is a bad shot, because we have a few more offensive weapons, a few more offensive options. And the last thing is Chris Lofton has spent his entire life trying to prove you wrong in that whole psychological makeup. And he's done that. Now he's trying to prove he's an All-American. Chris Lofton has never said he's an All-American. He didn't ask for it. I think if you ask him he'd prefer not to even have the title. He'd rather go back to just proving you wrong.

Q: Is he pressing a little bit?

Pearl: I don't think it's pressing, I just think that with all the combinations I gave you, pressing wouldn't be one of them.

Q: Talk about the tempo of the upcoming game with Ole Miss and how that will be a factor.

Pearl: You watch and prepare for an opponent and you see them do some of the things you like to do, like they press a little bit and change defenses, they really get into the fast break, they do a wonderful job in their transition game, their ball-screen game is extremely effective. I think the tempo will be up, because they like to run and so do we. I don't think it's going to be crazy fast, but I think it's going to be fast. Ole Miss was one of the more physical games we played last year. This year they are the leading rebounding team in the conference and one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, and we're one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league. We'll have to keep them off the boards to have a chance.

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