Tennessee Paints Pittsburgh Orange With Overwhelming Upset Victory

Mark HancockContributor IIIDecember 11, 2010

Tennessee Head Coach Bruce Pearl
Tennessee Head Coach Bruce PearlJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Tennessee Volunteers scored one of their biggest men's basketball victories in school history today with a huge upset victory at Pittsburgh, beating the Panthers thoroughly to secure UT head coach Bruce Pearl's 450th all-time win.

The Big Orange led by double digits most of the day in overwhelming previously third-ranked Pitt.

Scotty Hopson led the Vols to victory with solid play all afternoon, scoring a career high 27 points.

His team was playing short-handed, with Renaldo Woolridge and Josh Bone both on the bench with injuries, and Marquette transfer Jeronne Maymon left behind in Knoxville until he is cleared by UT to play next week, after passing all his fall semester classes.

The beat-down that Tennessee put on Pittsburgh was thorough and dominating. Rarely have non-conference opponents ever won there. The Vols have now won five of the last seven games they have played against top five opponents, including recent victories over top-ranked Kansas and Memphis teams.

It doesn't seem to matter where Pearl takes his teams, at home or on the road, but his masterful coaching jobs are becoming legendary. He and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon are ranked in the top four among active college coaches in all-time winning percentage— along with Roy Williams and Mark Few—but there was no doubt who the better coach and the better team was today. It was an all Orange day.

ESPN commentators Sean McDonough and Jay Bilas raved all afternoon about the tenacious Volunteer defense, about their hustling offense and about how they overcame questionable fouls and numerous mistakes to have a huge margin for error in not only upsetting the Big East's top team on the road, but doing so in convincing fashion.

The outcome of the game was never in doubt from start to finish. Tennessee led by as much as 21 points, and had a double digit lead for the vast majority of the game.

The Vols are 7-0 for the first time in the Pearl Era at UT. Expect them to move way up the ladder from their current spot at No. 11 nationally. Don't be surprised if they vault into the top five soon.

The SEC-Big East Invitational, which Tennessee and Pittsburgh were playing, wound up 3-1 in favor of the SEC. The Big Orange has now beaten the top two teams in the Big East—Pitt and Villanova.

The Volunteers' size and quickness surprised the Panthers, who were out-rebounded, despite having a tough, physical front line. UT served notice that their appearance in last year's NCAA Elite Eight—for the first time in school history—was no fluke, and that they are fully capable of a repeat performance. 

Moreover, with all of the controversy and uncertainty swirling around the Vol program, and with Pearl's eight-game conference suspension upcoming next month, his team proved they have the resolve to make sure that nothing will prevent them from their goal of showing they are an SEC Championship team. Certainly, they proved their lofty ranking is well-earned on the court.