KNOXVILLE -- The Tennessee men's basketball Volunteers went to sleep in the wee hours of Wednesday feeling good about their road win over Vanderbilt.
They woke up a few hours later back in the negative spotlight, though, following the details of the NCAA's Notice of Allegations through the media.
Not that some of UT's players even took notice.
"I didn't watch ESPN," center Brian Williams said after practice Thursday. "I really don't even know what's going on. The coaches do the best of their ability to keep it keep it away from us.
"We're student-athletes, and that's we're worried about, being students and then getting it done on the court. We're not worried about that, and I don't think it's going to affect this year's team. Some people can say it affected us somewhat this year, but I don't think it did in any way."
The Vols have denied all season long that the NCAA cloud hanging over the program for its violations have had any impact on the team's play. Yet guard Scotty Hopson, UT's leading scorer, believes what the Vols do on their court can shape perception off it.
"The [Vanderbilt] win obviously relieves some pressure from what's going on outside the court," he said. "It always does, so everything's a lot better when we're winning.
"At the same time guys are not even trying to worry about what's going on outside, because there's so much going on on the floor. We're battling so hard, just trying to get wins and do the right things out here on the court."
UT coach Bruce Pearl asked before his brief meeting with the media following Thursday's workout that all questions be focused on his team and Mississippi State, UT's opponent Saturday.
And while the situation with the NCAA isn't going away, Pearl and his team are certainly more focused on trying to build some momentum off Tuesday's win and head into the all-important month of March with a head of steam.
"We've just got continue to do what we can do to keep the focus off Coach and the coaching staff, and that's winning games," Williams said.
Said guard Josh Bone: "It's not a distraction. It's been going on all through the season, so we're over it. We just want to play basketball. Nothing different."
Pearl said he'll continue to look at different lineups and rotations for the best fit after playing 11 guys Tuesday, including Jeronne Maymon and Trae Golden.
Maymon, a 6-foot-7, 258-pound forward who had played in just three previous SEC games, scored two points on four shots in nine minutes. Pearl said Maymon's good work on the scout team and positive attitude earned him an opportunity.
"I just felt like getting him out there might help the chemistry," he said, "that some of the other guys might enjoy playing with him, giving us another tough guy and maybe another dimension."
Golden returned to his role as Melvin Goins' backup at point guard after a two-game absence in favor of Skylar McBee. Golden had three assists in 10 minutes, and McBee didn't play.
"It was important to send Trae a message that the way he was playing prior to him losing his opportunity wasn't satisfactory," Pearl said. "He needed to do a better job defensively, he needed to be more accountable and play with more energy.
"Having to sit out the [two] games, that hurt. I think he realized that you've got to take advantage of the opportunity when the opportunity presents itself."
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