Fan following

Convincing fans to show up in large numbers for Tennessee's home basketball games is one thing. But first-year Vol coach Bruce Pearl even has them showing up in bunches for the road games.

More than a thousand UT supporters attended Saturday's key SEC game with Georgia in Athens. Their enthusiasm and backing helped the Vols eke out an 83-78 win that, coupled with LSU's loss at Florida, puts Tennessee atop the SEC standings at 9-1. LSU is second at 8-2.

Afterward, Pearl expressed gratitude on his post-game radio show.

"Unbelievable," he said. "You talk about answering the call. We put out the call and the plea. The Big Orange Tipoff Club had buses. The Big Orange Nation, the students, had buses. People from Western Carolina, suburbs of Georgia, the Chattanooga area and Knoxville.

"Everybody came out and heeded the call. And the good thing was, I think they felt they were a huge part of this win. And they were, because Georgia is a good basketball team. They didn't go away when they were down 18."

Georgia trailed 62-44 midway through the second half, then rallied furiously to pull within two points (67-65) with 4:35 remaining. With UT's fans cheering them on, however, the Vols made a 10-5 spurt that reclaimed the momentum and ultimately sealed the victory.

"I don't think we win this game with about 1500 from the Big Orange Nation," Pearl said.

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