The Tennessee men's basketball team didn't just weather the falling snow Friday afternoon, but also an intense, tiring practice drawn up by head coach Bruce Pearl.
The Vols will face the Florida Gators at home Sunday at 1 p.m. EST with television coverage provided by CBS.
This Florida team, like many of the past, includes some very talented guard play. Two Gators in particular will certainly be on the Tennessee radar.
"Walker and Boynton are really good," Coach Bruce Pearl said. "They can really shoot it. Walker can shoot a three really deep."
"Their guard play is definitely good for them," sophomore guard Scotty Hopson said. "We're going to try our best to shut them down and be efficient on defense. Also, get the ball inside to Wayne (Chism) and the other bigs to finish."
"You've got to contest him (Walker) from wherever he shoots it from," Pearl said. "Obviously, every time you do extend, it opens up for post, it opens up for dribble penetration. Their ball-screen offense is as good as anybody in the country."
Don't Rely on the Past
The Gators haven't won in Knoxville since February 12, 2005, when No. 24 Florida upended the Vols 84-73.
If that's not motivation enough for the Gators, this team is bringing a four-game winning streak into Knoxville, just four days after a Vanderbilt squad visited with a nine-game winning streak.
"It means they have confidence, it means they're playing well," Pearl said. "Florida is tired of hearing about Tennessee and how we've had the advantage on them. They're going to come in here hungry. Vanderbilt came in here very hungry and elevated their game."
"Florida will give us the same kind of energy, the same kind of effort and we'll be expecting that."
Time for a Change?
A pair of losses raises questions if a roster shakeup is in order, especially now that guards Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum have returned from suspension.
Pearl was hesitant to reveal any such ideas of moving around a rotation that won seven straight games shorthanded.
"There can be some adjustments in rotation," Pearl said. "We've got to remember that this group managed to win some games, and even though we've lost a couple, you can't get away from the fact that this group managed to beat some pretty good teams.
"It is what it is and this is the personnel package that we have, and it's good enough to win."
Is Chism OK?
The senior bounced back and collected 16 rebounds against the Commodores, while adding a modest eight points.
"He really practiced well today, really practiced hard," Pearl said. "He was very effective. I think he's fine."
The big man from Jackson, Tenn., is staying confident and focused on his game, shunning any worry or paranoia that surrounds re-injuring himself.
"You know there are a lot of things you can say about a kneecap, a lot of things you can say about an injury," Chism said. "I can't really tell you what's wrong with it, but I'm fighting through it and I'm playing the game that I love."
"I fight through a lot of injuries, so I just take this one, throw it in the back of the truck and keep rolling."
After dropping two conference games in a row, the veteran knows the importance of bouncing back, but also the opportunities available in what is still a long season.
"It's a big one, it's one we really need to take," Chism said. "We're just going to play our game against those guys and hopefully down the road some of the teams in the top spot lose a couple in a row and we can bounce back and be tied like we did several times last year."
"You get that big win, there's a lot of momentum that can carry over to another one."
"Definitely some pressure to end our losing streak," Hopson said. "We're going to come out and be efficient when the game's started and try to get this win."
Every competitive team's schedule is characterized by streaks with spotty losses.
So far this year the Volunteers have put together streaks of four, four and seven wins before posting their first consecutive losses since Feb. 18 and Feb. 21 of 2009, when Tennessee fell to Ole Miss and Kentucky on the road.
Undoubtedly most would have figured the Vols would eventually slip up and end their impressive winning streak that began with home wins over UNC-Charlotte and then number-one ranked Kansas.
However, many didn't expect it to happen in Athens of all places, against a Georgia team that Bruce Pearl had previously never lost to, followed by a dud against Vanderbilt, another team Pearl has had considerable success against.
After losing two straight, Hopson has the optimistic standpoint that maintaining win-streaks is much more difficult than rebounding from a losing streak.
"When you're playing and you're kind of ranked high, teams are always coming at you with your best and we got to keep up with their tempo," Hopson said. "We're going to try to get that win streak back and get this team going again."