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March 7, 2007

Dane Bradshaw

Chris Lofton

Bruce Pearl

JaJuan Smith


BRUCE PEARL: We're excited to be here. They call it March Madness, and yet there's a lot of basketball teams that are done playing. High school basketball, it's already state tournament time, and you know, certainly there are a lot of conference tournaments already been played. So it's great to be working in March. I like to work, I like to compete, and we'd like to stay for a few days. It's not something that Tennessee's managed to do over the last several years, and that's our goal.
THE MODERATOR: Dane, your thoughts headed into the tournament, please?
DANE BRADSHAW: Just look for a lot of high competition out there. You have so many motivating factors going into the tournament. We're trying to stay here longer than we have in the past. Some teams are playing for their tournament lives. Some have to win the whole thing to get in. You almost throw all of that out the window because every team's going to be in here with some type of motivating factor. But just look for an all out battle on the court. Whatever team gives the best will win.
THE MODERATOR: Same for Chris?
CHRIS LOFTON: I think we're all ready to play this tournament. This is what you live for. This is the tournament in the Georgia Dome. Like Dane said, everybody's going to play their hearts out for the next four days, and the best team will win.
JAJUAN SMITH: I'm ready to get this thing started. Go to bed and wake up, I can't wait till 9:45 tomorrow.

Q. Chris, last year you get two points at LSU, this year they hold you to eight, is this the toughest team the way they play you?
CHRIS LOFTON: I guess you can say that. They play a great defense. They have great defensive players. They always make it tough for me.

Q. Yeah, Bruce, Glen Davis was out here a little earlier and he was talking about his performance in Knoxville. It almost sounds as though he didn't assert himself. Is he that type of player that can just go off? And how much can you do to stop a player that size and talent when he's on his game?
BRUCE PEARL: He's certainly can go wherever he wants to go on the floor. He's extremely talented. He was Player of the Year last year. He's healthy now, and there's no question that a great deal of what LSU does offensively runs through trying to get him the ball. And we'll do the best we can as a team to defend the post.
I would agree that it would be very, very difficult for us to come anywhere close to duplicating as far as his production. He's going to be more productive than five points. But we've just got to hope that we can contain him and not let him go off.

Q. Bruce, I know you've spoken to this several times, but one more time since we're here in Atlanta, the importance of JaJuan Smith as a compliment to Chris, and just what he means to you?
BRUCE PEARL: We started talking for the first time on Monday a little about the fact that there were going to be some individual awards coming out. Everything is all about from the start of practice, actually from the start of the games we talk about the team. In the offseason we talk about individuals a great deal. So it's not unusual for us to talk about individuals, and I think JaJuan Smith along with, just off the top of my head, a guy like Tasmin Mitchell or Joe Crawford, it's a very difficult to separate who were All SEC from who were not All SEC, but JaJuan Smith doesn't make it.
You know, JaJuan Smith might be our most valuable player. He probably is. Chris Lofton is our most outstanding player, and is the Most Outstanding Player in the league according to the Associated Press. But JaJuan does an awful lot for this basketball team, both on and off the court, his leadership. He's done as good a job as anybody reaching out to the young players, and helping bring them along. Defensively, he's one of the best defensive guards in the country. And his athleticism shows up as second in the league in steals. He's our second leading rebounder in SEC play. About half a dozen guys are bigger than him.
The biggest thing I appreciate JaJuan for is his patience, his scoring is up, but unlike a lot of times when a player's scoring is up, their percentages are down. JaJuan's percentages are also up. And that just makes them an extremely productive and very, very valuable.

Q. JaJuan, if you will, talk about being left off those All SEC teams and if that serves as a motivating factor going into tomorrow night's game for you?
JAJUAN SMITH: It was a goal for me coming into this year, trying to make a name for myself. It's just one of those things that I didn't accomplish. So I'm using it as motivation to my team. My teammates are going to stick up for me. They still support me real good. So we're just going to try to make some noise.

Q. Dane, earlier Coach Brady said their game plan was to focus on Lofton and that Smith guy, and if you score 30, so be it.
DANE BRADSHAW: Craig Pinkerton warned me of some type of comment, I wasn't sure what it was.
I'm just going to leave it alone, because I don't want too much bad blood with LSU. My uncle was an outstanding football player at LSU, my mother graduated. I'll just leave it at that and try to play as best I can tomorrow. And I'm still going to try to get Chris and JaJuan the ball. I'm not going to go out there and try to prove myself as some type of scorer just because of that quote. But at the same time, it would be nice if I could score above my average. But I'm not going to let that take away from the game plan.

Q. Coach Pearl, forgive me if you've already been asked, but given Tennessee's lack of success in this tournament, how much of a motivating thing is that for you guys?
BRUCE PEARL: It's a great motivator for us. We're trying to make Tennessee basketball relevant again, and bring some credibility. And the only way you do that is how you play in March.
I mean, nobody knows. We as a family of players and coaches, we'll appreciate what kind of a season we had. But nobody else remembers who does anything except in March. And we didn't do much in March last year. Obviously Tennessee's got the worst record of any team in this conference since the format changed in 1992. We're very aware of that. The fact that Tennessee's never played on Saturday is something that we're aware of. Just because you want to, doesn't mean you can make it happen. We've got to get through an LSU team that has returned everybody but two players that went to the Final Four a year ago. They were picked to win the West, and they've been preparing for this tournament for a few weeks. They're certainly as talented as anybody in our conference. So that's going to be a tough match-up for us.
Then we have Ole Miss, and they've already beaten us one time, and that would be the two teams we have to beat to make history.

Q. JaJuan, I know Chris feels probably a lot of pressure to score for Tennessee, and he knows people are going to be trying to stop him. You're averaging 15 points a game this year. What kind of pressure do you feel, if any, to score and get your points, just to put the points on the board?
JAJUAN SMITH: I don't think it's a big deal about the points. I think I've got to do a lot of little things. Cause turnovers, rebound. Try to drive, drive, dish and all those little things. I think it's the little things for me, not my scoring average.

Q. Just to follow up with Chris about Temple, specifically. He is 6'5", the length, and he was talking about getting up into you. The last time you played him, your ankle was still bad. Do you think you'll bring a little more in your ability to drive than you were last time in Knoxville?
CHRIS LOFTON: I hope so. I'm going to go out there and just try to play hard and do whatever I can to help my team win, whether it's drive to the hole, shoot it or find an open man. I'm just out trying to do whatever I can to help my team win.

Q. Hey, Chris, this is another one for you: Are you about where you hoped you would be health-wise going into the postseason, you know, two or three weeks ago when you sort of looked forward to see where you thought you'd be? Is this where you thought you'd be health-wise?
CHRIS LOFTON: I think so. It's gotten a lot better since January. It continues to get better every day. So no excuses now though. It's tournament time, so I got to play regardless.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much.

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