Dec. 23, 2010
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH Bruce Pearl:
"That was a great basketball game. I think our fans would prefer the margin to be greater. I don't know how much stress there is around the holidays, but I know we're adding to it. You had two very good teams that played really hard and made a lot of good plays. Both teams deserved to win. That's not one that I feel great about because I'm a big fan of Belmont's basketball program and their coach, and I know what that win could've meant for their program. They certainly have played us as well as anybody at the mid-major level, and I'll do everything I can to try not to schedule them again. You had to enjoy that. You had to enjoy some of that execution. Obviously, a great drama.
"For us, some questions get answered. Obviously, Scotty (Hopson) did great down the stretch. We forced the ball to him and told him to get to the rim or get fouled, and he did. Tobias Harris and Scotty were 16-for-19 from the foul line. They took the ball to the basket. They fouled us a lot because they couldn't keep us in front. And those two guys stepped up to the free throw line.
"Cameron Tatum has a pretty sore rib cage. He tried to go and couldn't go. So as you know, we've had issues backing up the three (position) all year. So at the end we don't have any three.
"Jordan McRae did a nice job, particularly in that he didn't get exposed too much defensively. He had three blocks. Without him, we may not win.
"Steven Pearl is not a three man. Newsflash. His better position is the four. But you know what, he had to play the three tonight in the second half and without him we don't win. He played the three against Pittsburgh and guarded Gilbert Brown. He played out of position. But sometimes that's what it's all about. It's what you've got to do.
"We've got a lot of work to do. Obviously, this hasn't been a very good stretch for us. But a less talented team or a team with a little less character and toughness doesn't win this game tonight.
"I took a long time (in the locker room). Believe me; that was not a happy locker room from the standpoint of, I want them to come back here ready. I want them to go home and let their families see more of a man, serve rather than be served, and enjoy a couple of days off. But get ready to come back and make a decision. Do you want to act like the team that's picked to finish fourth in the (SEC) East? Because teams that get picked to finish fourth in the East don't go to the NCAA Tournament. They don't. Or do you want to try to do something about it? I said after the Pittsburgh win, we're very capable of finishing fourth in the East or worse. I've been doing this a long time.
"Our great challenge is closing out close games, particularly in the offensive end. Who do you go to? Scotty answered that question that he is certainly capable. His turnovers bother me, and the fact that he gets stripped. He gets fouled a lot."
BELMONT HEAD COACH RICK BYRD:
"It is four times we have been up here the last several years and in all of them we had a chance to win. Tonight was the best one, obviously. The kid made a good play. I didn't scheme very well defensively in the last possession. They had more luck driving on us. They sealed our help inside and we couldn't get there.
"But I was proud of our team. If you had told me we were going to be 8-for-35 from 3-point-range - I hope what that says is we can play an SEC team on the road and have a chance to win shooting the ball horribly. In the first half, out of the 22 (3-point attempts), 18 were looks I would have taken when they shot it. We are better than that.
On Hopson's scoring Tennessee's final nine points...
"That is good for him, and good for their team. He has been good both times against us this year. He is hard for us to guard; he is hard for a lot of people to guard. He made a big play.
On their early second-half rally...
"It was good to see. There certainly wasn't any hollering and screaming going on. We were 3-for-22 (from 3-point-range) and were six possessions of 2-pointers away from being tied. We were in the game and we proved it. They are long and are a good defensive team against any level of college basketball. They just made it hard for us to get shots, to their credit."