No place like home

Tennessee's basketball team lost back-to-back home games two years ago. With No. 16 Vanderbilt (16-1) and 2007 Final Four runnerup Ohio State (12-4) invading Thompson-Boling Arena this week, could another 0-2 homestand be in the offing?

Anything's possible ... but the odds are against it.

After dropping consecutive home games to Arkansas (73-69 on Feb. 25, 2006) and Kentucky (80-78 on March 1, 2006), Bruce Pearl's Vols have not lost at home since – sweeping 24 consecutive games.

Six of those two dozen victories came at the expense of ranked opponents, the most recent being an 85-83 nail-biter versus No. 16 Ole Miss last Wednesday. The previous five – all occurring during the 2006-07 season – were as follows:

76-58 over No. 16 Memphis

84-57 over No. 23 Vanderbilt

89-85 over No. 20 Kentucky

69-66 over No. 25 Alabama (2 OT)

86-76 over No. 5 Florida

You'd think that players who are 24-0 at Thompson-Boling over the past 22 months would have loads of confidence about playing at home. Pearl isn't so sure that's the case, however.

"I don't even think they know what the winning streak is," the head coach said. "I doubt they even have any clue, unless they read the paper or something like that.... It's never been mentioned."

Pearl said he has not made an issue of UT's home-court dominance except to note that the two teams who overcame it were similar in makeup.

"I know the teams we lost to here at home, Arkansas and Kentucky, were big, physical teams," the coach said. "I probably mentioned to our team that the last time we lost at home it was to big, physical teams. Ole Miss came in here – they were a big, physical team – and they about beat us.

"Vanderbilt's going to come in here with a big, physical team. So will Ohio State. Teams that are built like that give us trouble."

Bottom line: Pearl isn't counting on UT's 24-game home winning streak to provide any kind of boost when the Vols host Vanderbilt Thursday night at 7.

"Does the win streak give us confidence?" he said, mulling the question. "I don't think it does."

While Pearl is reluctant to say success begets success at home, he believes failure can beget failure on the road. In fact, he thinks that might have been a problem for Tennessee one year ago.

"Not winning on the road last year until later in the season ... could that have been a bit of a bug-a-boo? Maybe," he said. "We played so well at Vanderbilt and didn't win ... played so well at Ohio State and didn't win. Go in to halftime (leading) at Auburn and Ole Miss and don't win. Could that have maybe been creeping into our thinking ... hurt our confidence? I would say yes, that could've.

"But I don't know that winning whatever (number of games) we've won at home is necessarily going to help us beat Vanderbilt."


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