'Forty minutes'

He changed point guards 35 games into the 2007-08 season, so it isn't surprising that Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl had no qualms about changing motivational slogans.

When the Vols squandered a 17-point halftime lead and lost by a point to Ohio State last March in Sweet 16 play at the AlamoDome in San Antonio, Pearl & Company adopted the slogan "Remember the Alamo."

Even before the 2007-08 season began, however, that rallying cry was scrapped.

"The Alamo thing was fine," Pearl said, "but forget about the Alamo when our defense was what it was – fouling and not rebounding. We sent Ohio State to the foul line 29 times in the second half."

Being generally a positive guy, Pearl wanted a slogan that was not built around a negative outcome.

"Too much was made of us blowing a 17-point lead and not enough credit was given to Ohio State," Pearl said. "And not enough credit was given to Tennessee for playing 20 minutes of the best basketball we played all year on the biggest stage.

"We made 11 3s in the first half, 16 in the game. It was all we could do to beat two of the first picks in the NBA Draft (No. 1 overall Greg Oden and No. 4 overall Mike Conley). I don't think we got enough credit for what we did last year ... too much blame for what we didn't do."

Although it was never officially recognized as such, the players' next motivational slogan was "Making history." They made history as the quickest Vol team to 20 wins (Game 22). They made history as the first Vol team to achieve a No. 1 ranking. They made history as the first Vol team in 41 years to win an outright SEC title. They made history as the first Vol team ever to win 30 games.

With a win against Louisville Thursday night in the NCAA Sweet 16 at Charlotte Bobcat Arena, Tennessee can make history again ... as the first Vol team ever to reach the Elite Eight.

That should be worthy of its own slogan, right?

"The message is 'Forty minutes,'" Pearl said, sharing his latest catch phrase. "We were 40 minutes away from winning at Coleman Coliseum (in Tuscaloosa), where we had lost 17 out of 18. We were 40 minutes away at Florida from winning an SEC Championship. We were 40 minutes away from being No. 1 at Memphis.

"Now we're 40 minutes away from going somewhere Tennessee's never been – the Elite Eight."

The Vols will need 40 QUALITY minutes if they are to beat a Louisville team that is coming off a 78-48 blowout of Oklahoma in the NCAA East Region quarterfinals. Pearl thinks the Vols' only chance to win is by playing as well as they did against Ohio State in last year's Sweet 16.

"We'd better play that well against Louisville or we'll have the same result," the coach said. "They're that good. They're playing that well. They put a couple of games together in Birmingham, where they put it together offensively and defensively."

While the Cardinals were earning their Sweet 16 berth with a 30-point blowout, the Vols were earning theirs with a heart-stopping overtime defeat of Butler.

"We didn't play our best basketball in Birmingham," Pearl conceded. "We played really well Sunday but we'll have to play better to advance."

Specifically, they'll have to play better for "forty minutes."


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