C.J. says UT 'must win'

C.J. Watson is a man of few words, so he doesn't waste them. And Tennessee's senior point guard certainly didn't mince words when asked how important it is for the Vols – losers in three of their past four games – to stop the bleeding by beating Vanderbilt Saturday in Nashville.

"I think it's a must-win game for us," he said. "We want to go to the SEC Tournament with a win and with a lot of confidence."

Since clinching the SEC East title by beating Florida Feb. 22 at Gainesville, the Vols have lost to Arkansas and Kentucky on their home floor. Did they lose their mental edge after wrapping up the division title?

"I think so," Watson candidly admitted. "It kind of got to us a little bit. We've still got to play our kind of basketball, play with a lot of energy and play the pace we want to play."

Tennessee did a pretty good job of that in the first 20 minutes of Wednesday's game with Kentucky, building a seven-point halftime lead. The Vols inexplicably came out flat to start the second half, however, and the Wildcats grabbed the momentum.

"We just came out a little sluggish, not really with a lot of energy like we were supposed to," Watson recalled. "We've got to come out the second half with a lot more energy and aggression, play tougher defense."

The Vols' energy level has slipped a bit since the big win at Gainesville. The gas tank isn't running on empty but it's a little low. For a team that beats foes with hustle, moreso than talent, generating more energy is crucial.

"We've got to do it every game, especially this next game because it (Nashville) is a tough place to play," Watson said. "We've got to dig deep and find some more gas."

Senior forward Andre Patterson believes the Vols will find the energy they need in time for Saturday's big game against Vanderbilt.

"It's a must-win to protect our seeding," he said, "but we're still a confident team. We know what we can do and we'll take care of business on Saturday."

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