Tennessee-Connecticut Preview

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is looking forward to returning to

the sideline, even if it is for only one game. He may not be so

anxious to watch Connecticut star Kemba Walker in person.

Pearl is allowed to coach the Volunteers on Saturday because

they are facing a team from outside the SEC, and he’ll look to lead

them to their fourth win in as many tries against a ranked opponent

this season when they visit the No. 8 Huskies.

Pearl received an eight-game suspension from conference play for

lying to NCAA investigators, and he has served half of that ban as

the Vols have gone 2-2 to open their SEC slate.

“I try to treat it like an injury,” Pearl said. “We’re a man

down, now we’ve got somebody back. We got healthy, and we’ll be

back down a man come next week.”

Pearl is only prohibited from being with the Vols (12-6) on game

days against an SEC opponent through Feb. 5, and he said he’s been

analyzing his team’s play and taking notes while watching the games

on TV.

“I’m as much a fan as any Vol fan at the end,” Pearl said. “The

pad and paper are long gone by the time the game’s over. I’ve long

since left my couch, and I’m up there screaming and cheering and

praying just like every other Vol fan.”

He’ll get the chance to do those things from the bench Saturday

while trying to figure out a way to contain Walker, who is second

in the nation with 25.5 points per game.

Walker struggled with his shooting against No. 7 Villanova on

Monday, going a season-worst 6 for 18 from the field, but he still

managed to score 24 points and hit a 10-foot floater with 2.5

seconds left that gave the Huskies (15-2) a 61-59 victory.

“It was one of those games somebody was going to win and as I

said to the kids in the huddle, ‘It might as well be us,'” coach

Jim Calhoun said. “Kemba made sure that we did win the game.”

The Vols know they likely need to slow Walker to have any chance

of winning, but they don’t want to forget about the rest of the


“Once you focus on Kemba the whole game, the other players go

off,” senior center Brian Williams said. “We’ve got a good game

plan going into the game, so we’ve just got to focus to the best of

our ability and play great defense.”

Tennessee’s past four games have all come down to the wire, and

it managed to post last-minute wins at home against Vanderbilt and

at Georgia in its last two.

Williams made a buzzer-beating shot off a rebound as he was

falling to the floor to give the Vols a 59-57 victory over the

Bulldogs on Tuesday night.

“We’ve had probably more close games this year than the last

three or four years combined because of the (slower) tempo of the

game and fewer possessions,” Pearl said. “Therefore each possession

becomes magnified.”

Tennessee also beat Villanova this season and has victories over

then-No. 3 Pittsburgh, which handed UConn its first loss, and

then-No. 21 Memphis in Pearl’s last game.

The Vols were the 11th-ranked team in the nation when they faced

the No. 20 Huskies in their only previous meeting, a 65-51 victory

for Tennessee in the second round of the 2000 NCAA tournament.