More intense than Pearl?

Bruce Pearl has said and done some outrageous things during his two-plus seasons as Tennessee's head basketball coach. He outdid himself this week, however, by suggesting that he may not be the most animated coach on the floor when the Vols visit UT-Chattanooga tonight.

"Their coach, John Shulman, does a terrific job," Pearl said. "He coaches with a great deal of passion. I think he's even more intense than I am on the sidelines, from watching his tapes."

This will be Tennessee's first visit to UT-C since Don DeVoe's Vols showed up to help launch "The Round House" on Dec. 1, 1982. Now Pearl's Vols are going back to celebrate the building's 25-year anniversary. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with television coverage provided by ESPNU.

Tennessee won the previous meeting 55-49, and the rematch could be just as competitive.

They'll throw everything but the kitchen sink at us," Pearl said. "They're extremely multiple defensively."

Vol guard JaJuan Smith, who grew up just 26 miles from Chattanooga, says the Moccasins are excited about playing their big brothers to the north.

"JaJuan Smith comes from down that way," Pearl said, "and he tells me their guys have been pretty focused on this game since they found out Tennessee was going to come down to Chattanooga. We'll have our hands full."

Many coaches avoid scheduling in-state opponents, figuring it's a no-win situation. Pearl does not subscribe to this theory.

"We have a lot to gain … a road win," he said. "The NCAA Selection Committee looks very favorably at teams that will go on the road. We're going to Chattanooga, we're going to Xavier, we're going to Nashville, we've been to New York, we're going to Seattle, we're going to Memphis, in addition to the SEC road schedule we're going to play."

The Moccasins may lack a big-time reputation but they have some big-time players. Stephen McDowell, a transfer from South Carolina, averages 18.3 points per game. Nicchaeus Dokes, a 6-7, 235-pounder, averages 14.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

According to Pearl, the Mocs won 21 games in 2002-03, 19 in 2003-04, 19 in 2004-05, 20 in 2005-06 and 15 last year.

"They're a really good team," the Vol coach said. "They led Indiana 50-46 at halftime. They lost to South Alabama (which pushed Vanderbilt to two overtimes before losing). And the other loss was to Southern Illinois, which is a top-25 team."

Basketball is a game of matchups, and UT-C matches up reasonably well with the Vols. Like Tennessee, the Mocs have a deep bench and an upbeat style that wears down opponents.

"They play 10 guys," Pearl said. "McDowell, who transferred from South Carolina, shoots the ball in transition like JaJuan Smith and Chris Lofton. And their offensive strength – transition – is our defensive weakness right now."

Tennessee and UT-C have played just once since that 1982 game at The Round House. The Moccasins slipped out of Thompson-Boling Arena with a 69-68 defeat of Tennessee on Dec. 5, 2004. Seniors Lofton, Smith and Jordan Howell were freshmen on that Vol squad. Still, revenge is not a major motive.

"I don't think that game has any bearing on this contest," Pearl said. "We already know they're good enough to beat us."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories