Pearl back in Rupp, likes Cats

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

A familiar face was seen in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night, one many Wildcat fans loved to hate.

A familiar face was seen in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night, one many Wildcat fans loved to hate.

Former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was sitting courtside, taking in the Florida-UK game.  Pearl, out of basketball after being fired last March, says the Cats are impressive in person.

"Watching Kentucky, it feels good being in the stands and not on the bench.  I don't know what Tennessee team I could bring in here to beat those guys," he said at halftime.

Pearl says John Calipari's team is clicking on all cylinders now.

"They shoot it very well," he said.  They've obviously got great inside stuff.  I like the offense that they're running.  I think they're running some different things than in the past, or they're running them better."

When Pearl took over at Tennessee in 2005, he boldly stated that the Vols would compete with Kentucky each year for the SEC title.  In 2010, the Big Orange knocked off No. 2 Kentucky in Knoxville, along the way to Tennessee's fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.  But Pearl's record against UK is 4-9.

Pearl and Calipari are no strangers, either.  They went head-to-head when Cal was at Memphis and that continued when Cal arrived at Kentucky.

"He gets great players, who come in with some selfishness, he gets them to buy in, gets them to play unselfishly and to play hard," Pearl said of Calipari.  "That's not easy and there might not be anybody in the country better that does it than him."

On this night, UK's talented freshman center, Anthony Davis, finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.

"He's special," Pearl said.  He changes the game with his presence on both the offensive end and the defensive end. 

"I like his tempo.  I like that he's patient.  He just doesn't ever get too terribly rattled and I think that will serve them well, especially when they get into more pressured situations down the road."

What type of team could give UK trouble?

"Maybe a team that could press, play 94 feet and make it ugly."

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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