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February 26, 2008
Vols must refocus on Vanderbilt
HEAD-TO-HEAD BREAKDOWN: Who has the edge?
Don't misunderstand. It's a remarkable accomplishment, and Pearl would love to revel in it. There simply isn't time.
The newly minted No. 1 Vols (25-2 overall, 11-1 in the SEC), who beat then-No. 1 Memphis 66-62 on Saturday, take on rival Vanderbilt (23-4, 8-4) at 8 p.m. CT Tuesday on ESPN. The Commodores have won six in a row and they're 17-0 at home this season.
"We're not concerned with our ranking, other than it makes the prize even bigger for Vanderbilt," Pearl said. "It's an opportunity to beat the No. 1 team in the country, and that's an opportunity that's just not extended to you very often."
Pearl dangled the same carrot in front of his team a few days ago.
"It was a big factor for us in our preparation for Memphis," Pearl said. "We had an air of everything to gain and nothing to lose."
The Vols whipped the Commodores 80-60 in Knoxville on Jan. 17, though Pearl said the game was closer than the score indicated. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings disagrees.
"They out-physicaled us, out-aggressed us, outplayed us. Nothing more, nothing less to be said about that," Stallings said. "We were beaten to every loose ball, every rebound, beaten through every screen. They out-everythinged us. The good news is hopefully it can only get better."
The Commodores can look to recent history and hope for a repeat performance. They delivered an 83-70 jolt to No. 1 Florida last season at venerable Memorial Gym, snapping the Gators' 17-game winning streak.
"Last year, we played maybe our best game of the season against Florida when they came in here," Stallings said. "And it will take a performance of equal proportions for us to win this game."
Here's a closer look at the Vols-Commodores matchup:
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.