Vols host C-N on Friday

It would be completely understandable if Bruce Pearl wasn't entirely on top of his game this week.

Just three days removed from an automobile accident that claimed the life of one of his son's best friends, the first-year Tennessee basketball coach has had to get his team ready for Friday night's exhibition clash against Carson-Newman.

"It's a tremendous tragedy," Pearl said of the accident that involved four students from local high schools West and Bearden. "Earlier in the evening, some of the guys that were in that car were at my house celebrating my daughter's birthday."

It is believed that alcohol was involved in the crash that occurred early Tuesday morning, but Pearl said none of the victims were drinking at his house.

"We've got rules in our house, and they know there's no drinking," he said. "Ironically, I came back at noon the next day to film a commercial with state troopers about drinking and driving.

"I told my players, like I tell my children, good things don't happen when you're out that late."

Regardless, the Vols must pull it together to play the Division-II Eagles in Friday's 7 p.m. contest at Thompson-Boling Arena, UT's final exhibition tune-up before East Tennessee State visits for the season opener next week.

"They (Carson-Newman) do some things that East Tennessee State does, but they don't have Tim Smith," Pearl said of ETSU's standout guard. "That'll certainly help us."

The Eagles have just one starter back from a team that finished 12-16 a year ago playing in the South Atlantic Conference, and two of their five starters didn't even see the floor last season.

But despite the lack of experience Carson-Newman brings, the Volunteers have worries of their own after playing poorly in last Thursday's 86-78 comeback victory over Southern Indiana.

"There's areas that we need to improve in, but for the most part we played hard," said senior forward Stanley Asumnu, who scored 10 points in the win. "We never gave up.

"At one point (in the second half) we were down five, but we came back and closed the game out. It was a great opportunity to show that we can close out games."

Closing out a Division-II school is one thing, but closing out a Southeastern Conference opponent come February or March is an entirely different matter.

"This team has got to get better," said Pearl, in his first season at Tennessee after leading Wisconsin-Milwaukee to a Sweet 16 appearance a year ago. "We've got a long way to go.

"We're playing hard, but that will only take us so far."

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