Pearl has new respect for Dawgs

Bruce Pearl thinks he was wrong in his pre-season assessment of Georgia.

After practice Thursday evening, Pearl gave the Bulldogs credit for the way they have defied expectations this season.

"If you want to learn how to get a ball posted up inside in a variety of ways, watch Georgia," Pearl said. "They get the ball inside very well. They lead the SEC right now in offensive rebounding.

"I was wrong earlier in the season when I didn't think they were an NCAA tournament team. They were picked to finish last. I don't think they will."

Thursday's practice was the first for the Vols since their 63-56 SEC road win at unranked Alabama and their first of two before they play in Athens. The Bulldogs have never beaten UT under Pearl.

Sophomore Renaldo Woolridge said that Pearl's main concern Thursday was the team's work ethic.

"We're still trying to learn to pick up and keep our energy up," he said. "I think Coach sees our progress but he also expects a lot out of us."

UT devoted no time to Alabama in its film session, instead practicing for over two hours and 30 minutes to clean up any mistakes from that game.

Though Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum were back in their full routine, neither played any minutes Tuesday and Pearl said earlier in the week that the nine-man rotation will still be in place.

That means that not only do the Vols have to learn to play longer but they need to play differently.

"We have to kind of pace ourselves. We don't have as much depth as we did before," Woolridge said. "I think we're getting in shape to the point of we're all running more but we can't be that team anymore that's just fast, up-tempo as subs like hockey."

While the Vols spent the first 30 minutes and some extra time at the end of practice going over plays at half speed, Pearl also wanted to emphasize defense and to continue to develop freshman stand out Kenny Hall.

Against the Crimson Tide, Hall had a double-double in rebounds and in points in his 26 minutes.

Pearl said that the competitive drive he sees in Hall has been an area of growth for the post-player all season long.

"I think it was in him but I think being here has brought it out," he said. "I don't think in high school he came out with that same attitude and that same edge.

"He's the least surprised of anybody about what he's doing."

Hall, who went to high school in Georgia, said he's just looking forward to seeing and competing against old friends.

"This is a real big game for me," he said. "A lot of people from the neighborhood called me and said they were going to be watching."

EDITOR'S NOTE: David Wells is a new addition to the InsideTennessee.com crew. He's a student at UT who does a fine job covering sports for The Daily Beacon. This is the first of many articles he'll be writing for InsideTennessee.com.

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