ESPN helped UT beat Tigers

Tennessee's basketball team seems to play its best with a chip on its shoulder. Likewise, head man Bruce Pearl seems to coach his best with a chip on his shoulder. Both got their chips courtesy of a national TV network this week.

In the days leading up Wednesday night's game between the unranked Vols and No. 16 Memphis, most of the national media attention was focused on John Calipari's talented Tigers. Whenever the Big Orange was mentioned, its 101-87 loss to North Carolina was invariably brought up.

That provided enough chips for Pearl's shoulder and all of his players, helping spur the Vols to a 76-58 defeat of the Tigers.

"One of the things that was a rallying point for us (was the way) ESPN talked about how we got blown out by North Carolina," Pearl noted. "Whether we did or didn't ... we outplayed 'em the second half."

That's a fact. Down 21 at the break, Tennessee outscored the Tar Heels 52-45 after intermission, turning a potential beat-down into a relatively respectable setback.

Pearl also was irked by the amount of air time ESPN's talking heads spent praising Memphis while promoting the ESPN2 telecast of the Tigers' game at Tennessee.

"All of the hype for this game was about Memphis," Pearl grumbled. "If you watched the Jimmy V Classic, not one time did they say one thing about Chris Lofton. Or Dane Bradshaw. Or OUR freshmen."

Tennessee led Memphis by 21 points at the half – the same margin UNC held on the Vols two weeks earlier. Tennessee's ultimate victory margin was 18 – four more than the Tar Heels' was against UT. Still, Pearl expects Tennessee to continue getting the short end of the stick in terms of national recognition.

"People have short memories," the Vol coach said, adding: "The only way that changes is we have to continue to win basketball games."


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