''On the road, I think we're playing with a little more confidence,'' head coach Buzz Peterson said.
Although the decifit has decreased in almost every road game the Vols have played, the bottom line is this: Unless they can win Wednesday night at No. 9 Kentucky (19-4) or March 3 at Vanderbilt (17-6), they'll finish conference play O for the road.
Peterson had some success on the road prior to this season. His 2001-02 team went 2-6 in SEC road games and his 2002-03 team broke even at 4-4. This year, however, the have lost by double-digits every time out.
Tennessee played 33 good minutes last Saturday at Georgia -- trailing 51-50 with 6:50 remaining -- only to come unglued. The Vols' next four possessions produced three turnovers and an air ball. Whether UT's players choked or merely lost their poise is open to debate. This much is certain, though: While the Vols self-destructed, the Dawgs made a 10-1 run to go up 61-51 and seal the deal.
Tennessee finished that game with 19 turnovers. If the Vols have a similar number Wednesday night, they could get hammered.
''I'd like for us to be more careful with the ball,'' Peterson said. ''I really felt like our defense played well enough to win Saturday (at Georgia). I really liked the things I saw, but we can't have 19 turnovers on the road -- with four or five at crucial times -- and win on the road.... Hopefully, we can go up there and take better care of the basketball than we did Saturday at Athens.''
Winning in Lexington will be tougher than winning in Athens, however. Kentucky plays tenacious defense, especially on its home floor. The Vols won't get many open looks, so they'd better hit the ones they get.
Ever the optimist, Peterson said: ''If we can just hold together and hit some of the shots we missed Saturday, you never know when you can come up with a win.''