"Everyone's mindset is good," senior wing Stanley Asumnu said this week. "Everyone's focus is to get a win. Coach says getting (victory) number 6 is going to be our toughest game but it's a great opportunity."
So, can the Vols actually win?
"Yes, sir," Asumnu said, sounding surprisingly genuine. "We've just got to win on the boards and play good, solid team defense. We'll do fine on the offensive end but we've got to win on defense and rebounding."
Tennessee hit the boards hard in practice all week, mindful that the Longhorns have averaged 12.7 rebounds per game more than their foes en route to an 8-1 record and No. 6 national ranking. If the undersized Vols are to be competitive, they must rebound far better than they did in their five previous games.
"The number 1 key is rebounding," Asumnu said. "If we can limit them to one shot the majority of the game, we have a great opportunity to win. Duke (which handed Texas its only loss) played good team defense and rebounded well. They limited Texas' opportunities on the offensive end.
"We've improved our rebounding. We know we have to win on the boards, so that's the area we're trying to improve most."
Being a competitive guy by nature, Pearl is pleased that his team is carrying a positive outlook into today's game (2 p.m. EST tip-off on ESPN).
"I think confidence is real important," Pearl said. "You've got to have a bit of a swagger to go to a place like Texas and feel you belong on the court with ‘em. They beat us by 25 (95-70) on a neutral court last year and we lost two starters off that team. But our guys are confident. I think they believe in themselves and what we do.
"We know we've got a challenge but we're ready."