Pearl 'T' lifts Tennessee

If you're going to get called for a foul, you might as well get your money's worth. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl got his money's worth in Wednesday night's 80-73 defeat of Arkansas.

When a series of close calls went against the Vols, helping Arkansas to trim an 11-point deficit to four with 14:34 to go, Pearl removed and launched his jacket, then launched into a tirade that earned him a technical foul. The tantrum cost the Vols one point; it may have cost the Razorbacks the game.

After Rotnei Clarke trimmed the deficit to 51-48 by making one of the two technical foul shots, Tennessee got some calls and some energy that produced a tide-turning 10-0 run.

Steven Pearl opened the surge with a layup. After Melvin Goins hit an 8-footer from the lane, Pearl took a charge from Michael Washington. A foul call against Arkansas's Courtney Fortson led to a pair of Cameron Tatum free throws as the lead swelled to 57-48. Following a foul call against the Hogs' Glenn Bryant, Tatum was at it again, hitting a layup for a 59-48 lead. A collision between the 5-11 Fortson and UT's 6-10 Brian Williams resulted in an Arkansas turnover that J.P. Prince turned into a dunk and a 61-48 lead with 11:26 remaining.

Counting a double technical foul on UT's Kenny Hall and Arkansas's Jemal Farmer, the Hogs suffered four foul calls and one critical no-call during the 3 minutes and 8 seconds following the technical foul on Tennessee's coach. Whether some were "makeup calls" is open to debate but this is not: The Razorbacks never recovered, drawing no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Scotty Hopson led the Vols with 15 points. Wayne Chism added 14. Prince, Bobby Maze and Tatum chipped in 12 each as the Vols improved to 22-7 overall and 10-5 in SEC play.

Fortson scored 21 and Washington 13 to pace Arkansas, which slips to 14-16 and 7-8.

The Vols out-shot the Hogs 54.5 to 40.3 percent from the field and 35.3 to 28.6 from 3 but 17 Tennessee turnovers helped Arkansas stick around.

Asked about the tide-turning technical, Pearl suggested his frustration was aimed more toward his players than the officials.

"There were four fouls on Arkansas in the first half, and we started off the second half with something very similar," the coach said. "We just weren't aggressive. We weren't taking the ball to contact (at the rim). There was too much standing around. I didn't think we were playing with the energy and passion I was hoping we would play with."

The technical foul changed that. The Vols picked up the pace considerably - at least for the next 3 minutes and 8 seconds - and built a cushion that would last the rest of the game.

"We may have picked up our energy," Pearl conceded, "but I shouldn't have to jump-start 'em like that."

Maybe not, but the technical clearly provided a jump-start for the Vols and their Senior Night crowd of 20,139.

"When Coach got the technical foul, that was as loud as I ever heard the fans for consecutive plays on defense," Maze said. "They was into it, chanting things (Refs, you s--k!) I didn't know they knew."

In retrospect, Pearl's technical foul was the turning point in the game.

"We was playing soft for a while," Chism said. "Coach actually had to beg for a couple of fouls. When he begged and we got 'em, we started making our run."

Maze agreed that Pearl's outburst spurred the game-winning rally.

"When I saw him take his jacket off, I knew at that moment that he was getting a technical foul," Maze said. "That fired us up. We got in the huddle and said, 'Hey, our coach has got a technical foul for us. He's fighting for us. We've got to fight for him and for ourselves.

"Any time your coach sticks up for you like that, you've got to back him up. That's what I felt we did, and we was able to come away with the win."


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