With Tennessee's roller-coaster season of wins and losses and March Madness looming in the near future, the Vols must find a way to win the tight games.
As Mississippi State makes its way to Volunteer country, UT fans wonder if Tennessee will make use of its home court and win on Saturday. Avid Vols fan and junior in electrical engineering, Jonathan Edwards, said his faith in UT basketball is beginning to dwindle and skepticism is beginning to creep in.
"I've come to expect little from Tennessee," Edwards said. "When I think we have momentum, we lose to teams that shouldn't be able to keep up with our speed, skill and athleticism."
The cynicism expressed is only an inkling of the feelings of Vols fans. Since coach Bruce Pearl's suspension ended, the Vols have earned more losses than wins against SEC teams, which has left Vol faithful with little solid ground to stand on.
"I would say beating Vanderbilt gave us momentum," Edwards said. "Whether or not we use it on Saturday is beyond me. No one can predict Tennessee sports."
+This view seems to rise and fall with the same roller coaster the team has ridden on this year.
"You either have it or you don't," Pearl said. "I told the team if you have more, it's time. This is it. We're going to have a hard time beating teams on strength. I need more from pretty much everybody down the line."
Six home losses this season haven't helped morale, but with players like junior Scotty Hopson and freshman Tobias Harris, hope always exists. Take Hopson and Harris and add in players like Melvin Goins, Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum, and the Vols have a lineup that can play with any team in the country. Or lose to average mid-major schools.
Tatum especially has stepped up as a leader to the younger players and is focused on winning. His view on how to play the game is a focus on whatever it takes to win.
"Just doing whatever it takes to try and get a W, really," Tatum said. "That's my mindset. I don't really like to look at scoring points as a main focus, but sometimes it has to be. So I just try to take whatever the defense gives me. If I can drive to the basket and have a lane, then I'm going to take it. If it collapses, then I'm going to kick it out to a wide-open shooter or spoon-feed it. So just doing whatever it takes to win, whether it's making an assist or scoring a bucket or fighting for offensive rebounds, things like that."
Tennessee will host Mississippi State on Saturday in Thompson-Boling Arena, but the name of the game is to come out with a win. If the Vols can keep up the momentum from their game on Tuesday, Vol fans will ride with them to the top.