Pearl's open date

While most college basketball teams are playing this weekend, the Tennessee Vols are enjoying an open date. Still, new head coach Bruce Pearl figures the time can be quite productive.

Pearl, a stickler for academic achievement, wants his players getting their studies in order. He also wants to give some Vols who haven't gotten a lot of playing time in the first four games – Jordan Howell, Damion Harris, plus the walk-ons – an extra long look on the practice floor.

"One of the things we need to do is get ready for final exams," Pearl said. "But on the basketball floor, we want to work with some players who aren't getting much opportunity now and see what they can offer us in future games. We want to sharpen those guys' skills. This is a good opportunity to develop some depth."

Tennessee opened the 2005-06 season with a 106-83 blowout of East Tennessee State. After coming from behind in the final minutes to trip Louisiana-Lafayette 83-76, the Vols trounced Eastern Kentucky 92-58. They played their first game away from home last Wednesday, rallying in the final 8 minutes to trip Murray State 64-53 in Nashville.

Now 4-0 for the first time since 2000-2001, the Vols return to action Tuesday, hosting Appalachian State at 7 p.m. Tennessee will not play again for 11 days, facing Texas Dec. 17 in Austin, then Oklahoma State Dec. 22 in the O'Reilly All-College Classic at Oklahoma City.

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