Wasted weapon?

Tennessee is probably the best-conditioned basketball team in the SEC, and the Vols have used this weapon to outlast several foes this season.

"Our conditioning is so good that we want teams to run with us," senior forward Andre Patterson says. "The last seven or eight minutes of games they're fatigued and we're still fresh."

Tennessee's stamina won't matter in tonight's game with Vanderbilt, however, unless the Vols can set a fast enough tempo to wear down the Commodores, who prefer to operate at a snail's pace.

"If it's not going to be up-tempo, conditioning won't be a factor, so you won't be seeing either team run out of gas at the end," UT coach Bruce Pearl says. "So, we might have to find another way to win."

Fortunately, the Vol coach relishes this challenge.

"One of the fun things about going through a season is finding different ways to win," he notes. "We're going to have to do some different things against Vanderbilt that we haven't had to do against anybody else.

"Are we prepared to do them? That's the beauty of it: It's a new match-up. The more things you see, the more things you handle or the more things get exposed, you become a better team because of it."

Tennessee seems to mature as a team with each passing week. Pearl is pleased with the progress but he won't be satisfied until he's sure his program's turnaround is complete.

"It was my hope that this could be a team that would be remembered for a long time as the team that got it started," he says. "We're not there yet but it's getting closer to being that kind of team."

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