Pearl says Vols 'quit'

No matter how bad a beating his team has taken, the typical college basketball coach mutters, "At least our guys didn't quit."

Tennessee's Bruce Pearl proved he is not the typical college coach by stating unequivocally that his team raised the white flag during Saturday's 77-58 loss at Kentucky. The 19-point margin matched the biggest deficit of Pearl's career at UT.

"Although Tyler Smith was one for 11 (from the field) and didn't play well, I didn't think he quit," Pearl said on his post-game show. "But I did think a number of our players quit."

The coach was just getting started, though. He continued to bash his team, which needed 8 minutes and 6 seconds to get its first point ... by which time Kentucky held a 13-0 lead.

"Tonight we played with no poise," Pearl said. "We had no focus and no purpose to start the game."

Even so, Tennessee got back in the game, trimming a 31-24 halftime deficit to four (33-29) early in the second half. Kentucky's Michael Porter hit two 3s, however, to spark a 15-4 spurt that widened the gap to 48-33. The lead peaked at 22 points (61-39) on a Jodie Meeks drive with 10:32 to go.

Just about the only positive development for the Big Orange was that the Vols put the clamps on Meeks, who hung 54 points on them Jan. 13 at Knoxville. The high-scoring guard managed 14 points Saturday but was 4 of 14 from the field, including 0 of 6 beyond the arc.

"Our point guards, Bobby Maze and Josh Tabb, did a terrific job defensively on Meeks," Pearl conceded, "but they helped me execute the offense very, very poorly."

Patrick Patterson hit 9 of 12 shots and scored 19 points to pace Kentucky, now 19-8 overall and 8-4 in SEC play. Darius Miller added 17, thanks to a perfect shooting performance – 6 of 6 from the field, 3 of 3 from 3 and 2 of 2 from the foul line. Miller also dished out 6 assists, two more than Tennessee's team total.

Kentucky native Scotty Hopson (Hopkinsville) scored 14 points and J.P. Prince 11 to pace the Vols, who slip to 16-10 overall and 7-5 in league play. The inside tandem of Wayne Chism (4 of 12 overall, 1 of 7 from 3) and Smith (1 of 11 overall, 0 of 4 from 3) was a combined 5 of 23 from the floor and a combined 1 of 11 from behind the arc.

Kentucky outshot Tennessee from the field (59.6 percent to 31.7), from 3 (41.2 percent to 16.7) and from the line (87.5 to 66.7). The Cats also dished out 23 assists, 19 more than the Vols.

Tennessee did manage to win the backboards, outrebounding UK 31-25 and beating the Cats 30-10 on second-chance points. That was small consolation on an otherwise dreary day, however.

"We certainly are embarrassed ... very, very disappointed," Pearl said. "I want to apologize to all of our fans for the way our basketball team played and the way I coached. I'm truly sorry.

"My teams have always played hard and unselfishly. Tonight we played neither hard nor unselfishly."

Recognizing the harshness of his comments, Pearl subsequently added: "I know these are hard things to say – embarrassment, quitting – but it's all about honoring the game."

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