"I think historical success is good," Pearl said before qualifying that sometimes one team succeeds against another "because systems match up favorably against other systems.
"But you've still got to make adjustments on personnel," the Vol coach added. "Our personnel is a lot different this time than it was the last couple of times we've gone against them. That's going to affect how we play."
That's entirely possible. Pearl's previous Vol teams preferred a fast pace, whereas Vanderbilt's previous teams favored a deliberate pace. The roles may be reversed tonight, however. The Commodores are averaging 82.8 points per game in SEC play to the Vols' 69.5, so a quick tempo might favor the Commodores.
"Vanderbilt is an excellent transition team," Pearl said. "They get it down the floor, they space it, they spread it, they shoot it. They can put three guys on the floor that you've got to cover from outside. You've got to be there early on four or five of their kids, which opens the lane up for (6-11 post A.J.) Ogilvy."
Whereas Vandy is in an offensive flow, Tennessee is in an offensive funk. After scoring 81 points in the SEC opener vs. Auburn, the Vols needed an overtime to score 71 vs. Ole Miss. They followed with 63 points each against Alabama and Georgia.
Pearl can live with offensive struggles unless they detract from the team's defensive intensity - as was the case in last Saturday's loss at Georgia.
"We allowed our struggles at the offensive end to affect our defense a little bit," the coach noted. "Georgia did a nice job but we could've hung in there defensively. Georgia shot 65 percent and had 10 offensive rebounds (in the first half). You're not going to win many games when the opponent's doing that."
Pearl admits that Tennessee's defensive lapse against the Dawgs shocked him.
"We had four or five really good defensive outings, then took a step back against Georgia," he said. "Our transition defense was really poor.... We did not have great urgency in transition. We had some real coverage breakdowns. That led to Georgia's outstanding shooting percentage.
"We created an identity for ourselves (as hardnosed defenders), then we lost a little bit of that identity."
Given the way Vanderbilt is scoring, Tennessee had better rediscover its identity by 7 o'clock tonight.
NOTES: Both teams are 15-3 overall but No. 21 Vanderbilt is 4-0 in SEC play, whereas No. 14 Tennessee is 3-1.... Tonight will mark the 2009-10 debut of Pearl's orange blazer. The UT coach wears it only when the Vols are playing Vandy or Kentucky.... Jeffery Taylor, 6-7, 210-pound Vandy forward, leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and leads the SEC in field goal percentage (66.7) for league play only. Ogilvy averages 13.9 points per game and 6-3 guard Jermaine Beal 13.1. Ogilvy leads the team in rebounds (6.2 per game), while Beal leads in assists (3.2 per game). Vandy's other starters are 6-3 Brad Tinsley (6.9 points per game) and 6-7 Andre Walker (6.1 ppg).... Tennessee is a perfect 10-0 at home this year but Vandy is an impressive 7-2 in true road games.... The Vols recorded a season-best 15 steals in winning last year's game at Thompson-Boling 69-50.... Tonight's outing will be televised by ESPNU.