Rather than falling into the trap of overlooking LSU, point guard Bobby Maze said that the Vols know any team can beat them.
Georgia's 78-63 drubbing of UT on January 23 was a fresh reminder.
"When we played Georgia, they hadn't won any games in the SEC," Maze said. "I think now the focus is greater than ever. Every game you play is for a championship."
Pearl's temper flared up early in practice during walk-throughs. He said he needed to push the team to step up.
"The biggest message of today was, ‘if we don't get better, we can't win,'" Pearl said. "I was angry. I was in them pretty good today."
Maze said he knew what Pearl was getting after.
"He just wanted us to know how important this game is," Maze said. "It's good that he's gets on us because if he's just laid back and he'd not said anything, how would we know we were doing something wrong?"
As always, the fifth-year coach preached defense and rebounding from the get-go in practice, though everyone in the rotation practiced full speed on both sides of the ball.
The Vols spent most of their time scrimmaging, with only 16 minutes of individual drills.
Near the end of practice, the pressure was also on for better free throw shooting. Each team member had to make at least one free throw. If he didn't, everyone had to run.
Pearl said that this is the time of year where freshman players tend to hit a "wall," where the first-year players feel the pressure of the long season on their bodies.
"I don't blame Kenny Hall if he's tired. What he had to do physically in order to play this year as far as the growth spurt, the weight gain," he said. "It's night and day from high school."
As for Skylar McBee, Pearl said the shooting guard was probably in better shape for college ball when he joined the Vols.