As ridiculous as he is and as easy as it is to make fun of him, I think its time for me to give Pearl a little credit. Interestingly enough, this is the first time since the 01-02 season that a single team has taken out both a #1 and #2 ranked school, and Tennessee has been able to accomplish it in a season that has been tumultuous to say the least. While beating UT always feels good, I think we can all agree that the lost could have been much worse or have occured at a more pivotal point in the season and that the Cats showed a lot of gusto down the stretch coming back from such a large defecit.
Pearl and Calipari both had typical coaches responses after the game, giving credit to one another and to the players on each team.
Quotes courtesy of the Cahattanoogan.com, to go along with Cal’s comments below.
Pearl on the win:“I felt a lot of emotion visiting with the team after the game. This is a great effort. This was an important win for our program because Kentucky is such a benchmark in the SEC. ”
Pearl on Kentucky:“Kentucky is good. They are really good. They played Thursday night. They traveled. I think fatigue played a factor tonight. I thought that Kentucky did a better job against the zone in the second half. They continued to drive and pound. They are awfully hard to cover off the bounce. There are lots of ways to score against a zone other than the 3-point shot, but the 3-point shot certainly does open things up more. They were 2-for-22 from 3-point range, and that is a big factor. ”
Pearl on the keys of the game:“To hold Kentucky – who is the No. 1 field-goal percentage shooting team in the league and one of the tops in the country – to 35 percent is how you win the game. And for us to get 28 defensive rebounds versus their 14 offensive rebounds, that is a ratio we can live with. They rebound the ball at a much higher rate than that. That was a huge factor.
Pearl on the home environment:
“I think our team and our program was on display today. There is not necessarily a better environment in college basketball than Thompson-Boling Arena — as good as any. We do not beat Kentucky – or Kansas – without 22,000 here. It just does not happen. It’s what makes this one of the best jobs in college basketball.
Calipari on the loss:
“It was a great learning experience for our team. I thought Tennessee played great to start the game. They outhustled us to every ball and then we kind of fought back. In the second half, there was a breakdown again when they got up (by 19 points), and then we do not quit. That is all I can ask of my team. To think about that, and have a chance to win on the road, I am stunned. We had a couple of breakdowns that just drove me crazy – stuff we had worked on.
Calipari on strategy changes from here on out:“One is the way we started where they came after us and we were not ready for it. The second thing was in an afternoon game, which we can be in during the NCAA Tournament, we need to get up and have a shoot around. I do not care if we play Thursday or not. I decided not to have a shoot around.
Cal on Tennessee:
“But I do not want to take away from Tennessee. When it went 65-65, I thought we were winning. There was no question in my mind we were winning this game. And you know what, they made a play, a ball squirted loose – they had a guy who just took it out of our hands on the baseline. That means they wanted it more than we did. You have got to give them credit.”
Wall and Cousins after the loss: