UT's mental state OK

You'd figure a basketball team that has lost seven of its last 10 games and all six SEC road games would be questioning itself ... maybe even doubting itself.

But the Tennessee Vols aren't, according to head coach Buzz Peterson.

''No, they're not,'' he said. ''We played a little bit better on the road (in last Saturday's 71-60 loss at Georgia) and we had chances with six minutes to go. That should give them a little bit of confidence.''

That confidence will be tested tonight in Lexington, when the Vols visit No. 9 Kentucky for an 8 p.m. tipoff. The Big Orange is a heavy underdog but that doesn't seem to bother the Vols' coach.

''You never know,'' Peterson said. ''If you get on a roll, get a couple of wins, things can happen to you.''

Things have been happening to the Vols all season. Alas, most of them were bad things -- a preseason bout with mononucleosis that forced hot-shooting freshman Jordan Howell to redshirt ... homefloor losses to Kentucky, Louisville and Georgia Tech ... seven losses in eight road games, etc.

Through it all, though, Peterson continues to be optimistic rather than realistic. And he's trying to keep that optimism alive in his players.

''I told them, 'We've just got to keep improving,' '' he said. ''That's why we've got the (SEC) tournament. Maybe we can do something in the tournament. If we hang our heads, we're not going to do ANYTHING in the tournament.

''We've got two more road games and two more home games. It'd be nice to win 'em all but we need to win as much as we can to get ready for the tournament.''

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