"I should've called timeout with five seconds left once I saw them not in their spots," he admitted during his Monday news conference. "But I went ahead and let them play, hoping that Melvin (Goins) would receive the ball-screen and get to the rim."
Florida's Erving Walker scored on a drive to give the Gators a 61-60 lead with 14.7 seconds left, Pearl said he never considered calling timeout to set up the Vols' final play, noting: "Fifteen seconds left to go in the game is plenty of time to not even have to think about calling a time right then."
The coach wanted Tennessee to attack the basket while the hosts were still setting their defense. There was a problem, however.
"Nobody was in the right positions," he noted.
The play broke down from the beginning. The inbounds pass was supposed to go to point guard Goins, the Vols' fastest player. Instead, it went to Cameron Tatum, who was supposed to sprint for the basket but inexplicably chose to linger in backcourt.
"Our 3 man did not run the floor. Cameron did not run the floor," Pearl said. "He's in position to get the ball. Under no circumstances should he be in position to get the ball on the inbounds pass."
But he was and he did.
By the time Tatum took a few dribbles and passed the ball to Goins, the play had broken down and Florida had set its defense.
Even after wasting six seconds in this manner, Pearl still felt that Tennessee could produce a game-winning basket if the players would carry out their assignments. They didn't.
"Just go to the spot you go to all the time," Pearl said. "Just go to where you always go. Then, from there, there's two things we can do. But we didn't go to our spots."
Basically, all five Vols on the floor made mistakes on the final possession. As a result, Goins would up firing an errant 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Although he admits in retrospect that he should've called a timeout, Pearl figures the resulting shot would have been similar to the one Goins took.
"The shot I would've got coming out of a timeout with three or four seconds left probably would not have been a whole lot better than the shot we got," he said. "But in transition, I expect a lot better shot than the shot we got."
Unfortunately for the Vols, they never got into their transition offense. And, seeing this, Pearl elected to let them ad-lib rather than stop play.
"I certainly coulda' shoulda' called timeout when I saw that our spacing wasn't right to run the fast break and take a look at what I think would've been a really good opportunity to win the game," he said. "But we didn't get it done."