Happy days are here again

There was a time when guys relegated to the Tennessee basketball team's bench were more inclined to pout than cheer. Thankfully, those days – and those players – are gone.

A perfect illustration of the changed attitude occurred in the second half of Wednesday night's SEC home opener against Georgia. When the Vols spurted to a 64-55 lead their reserves were going so wild – leaping off the bench, waving towels, screaming, etc. – that one official ordered coach Bruce Pearl to make them sit down and calm down.

Over-exuberant reserves … isn't that a nice problem to have?

Clearly, Tennessee's morale is sky high – among starters and backups alike. The Vols appear to be having an awful lot of fun this season.

"Definitely," junior forward Dane Bradshaw said. "Winning is the main thing."

But not the ONLY thing. Whereas the Vols tended to struggle after a loss in years past, they bounced back quickly from their only setback of 2005-06.

"Even after the Oklahoma State loss we weren't as down as we usually are," Bradshaw noted. "We were upset that we lost and really felt we should've won. At the same time, it's more fun losing this year."

That's because the Vols believe in their coach, believe in their system and believe in themselves. It's going to take more than a few setbacks to shake those beliefs. Like Big Orange fans, the players are enjoying basketball again.

"It's a lot more fun," senior point guard C.J. Watson said. "The pace is the way I like to play, the crowds are great, and we have the athletes and the shooters to do what Coach Pearl wants us to do."

Heading into tonight's game at LSU, the Vols also have an 11-1 record, an energized fan base and – last but not least – a bunch of rowdy reserves.

After a lengthy absence, the excitement is back in Tennessee basketball.


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