Jan. 10, 2010
BY DREW EDWARDS
KNOXVILLE -- As the last of Tennessee's players filed into the locker room Sunday evening, Bruce Pearl asked a question.
In a voice robbed of its usual volume by 40 minutes of basketball against top-ranked and previously unbeaten Kansas, Pearl informed his team that no Tennessee had ever beaten a No. 1 team in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"You're making history, that's what you're doing," Pearl said. "You're making history and you're making your own history. I'm obviously very, very proud of you."
Then he asked a question, even if he already knew the answer.
"Is it worth it to make the sacrifices you'll have to make to experience that?" Pearl said softly.
From their seats in front of their lockers, his players responded with a collective and quick yes. But Pearl's team had already answered with the way it played in a 76-68 victory.
"Look around the room and you look at the way guys have hung in the there," Pearl said.
The off-balance, last-ditch 3-pointer Skylar McBee hit with 36 seconds left as the shot clock nearly expired.
"That was a playground shot," center Wayne Chism said, drawing major laughs.
The inspired play of point guard Bobby Maze, who ran the Vols' offense on one end of the floor and made life tough for Kansas' All-American point guard Sherron Collins on the other.
"Who was the best point guard on the floor tonight?" Pearl said. "Bobby Maze!" came the response.
Then Pearl pointed to Kenny Hall and Renaldo Woolridge in the corner of the locker room, two players who averaged a combined 16 minutes a game before stepping into major roles following the suspension of four players.
"You look at how those two suckers right there stayed ready, stayed focused," Pearl said.
"How about Pearl taking a charge?" Bruce Pearl barked.
A 3-pointer from walk-on Josh Bone during a more than two-minute stretch in the second when Tennessee played three walk-ons and a true freshman.
"Big time!" Hall shouted.
And Scotty Hopson, who led the Vols with 17 points and whose baseline drive and dunk reenergized the crowd with 3:31 remaining.
Was it worth it? Is it worth it?
"It started with practice," said Maze, walking back to the locker room after postgame interviews. "It started with guys coming in and getting shots. It started with 5:30 in the morning, being out there in the cold, when it was cold outside and you were hungry. But you had to be there. You had to run 25 hills and Coach Pearl was at the top, yelling, `Run faster, run faster.'
"Is it worth it? Yes, it's worth it. We just beat the No. 1 team in the country. It's the greatest win of my career, of my life."
McBee, who finished with six points, stood in the stands and chuckled about his 3-pointer after downplaying its significance in comparison to what his teammates did all afternoon.
"That's one of the best horse shots that I do," McBee grinned.
But was it worth it? Is it worth it?
"That's what you do it for," McBee said. "That's the whole reason you're doing it in the first place, for memories like this and moments like this that a lot of people don't get to experience in their lifetime."