The situation came to a head in last Saturday's 69-63 home-floor loss to Georgia. Hopson (32) and Harris (18) combined for 50 of Tennessee's points, while the supporting cast mustered a mere 13.
"We need those guys to contribute and play well," Harris said afterward. "It was just one night that we didn't get a lot of stuff contributed by those other guys but I trust 'em and we trust 'em as a team. Those are prime-time players."
Maybe so, but the Vols not named Hopson and Harris haven't produced in prime-time much of the time.
"If you look at our shooting percentages, the guys that are shooting the best are the guys that are shooting the most," head coach Bruce Pearl said earlier this week. "Yet, we need more offense from some of those other guys."
The problem is, those "other guys" aren't making shots. It's obviously counter-productive to take shots away from Hopson, who is hitting 45.8 percent from the field, and Harris, who is hitting 44.2 percent, to get more looks for Cameron Tatum (39.9 percent), Melvin Goins (36.6 percent), Josh Bone (38.9), Trey Golden (31.9) and Skylar McBee (30.0 percent).
"Not only are they shooting fewer shots, they're not shooting as good a percentage as Scotty or Tobias," Pearl noted. "We need for them to continue to look for their shot - to be aggressive - but they've got to own up to the responsibility of making some shots."
The fact Hopson and Harris are accounting for 41.9 percent of Tennessee's points is not an insurmountable problem. Some of the greatest teams in Vol history relied heavily on a 1-2 scoring punch.
- Bernard King (661) and Ernie Grunfeld (453) combined for 1114 points in 1974-75, accounting for 49.5 percent of Tennessee's 2251 total points. That team went 18-8.
- King (629) and Grunfeld (683) combined for 1312 points in 1975-76, accounting for 59.2 percent of Tennessee's 2216 total points. That team went 21-6.
- King (672) and Grunfeld (638) combined for 1310 points in 1976-77, accounting for 54.6 percent of Tennessee's 2399 total points. That team went 22-6.
- Even with Lofton battling cancer, he (559) and Smith (519) combined for 1078 points in 2007-08, accounting for 36.6 percent of Tennessee's 2946 total points. That team went 31-5, posting the best record in program history.
Ultimately, relying on a 1-2 punch is fine so long as you have a Plan B in case the 1-2 punch fails to connect.
The King/Grunfeld Vols had an excellent Plan B in Mike Jackson. He averaged 13.3 points per game in 1974-75, 16.7 points in 1975-76 and 15.4 points in 1976-77. If King and/or Grunfeld struggled, Jackson was quite capable of picking up the slack.
The Lofton/Smith Vols had a Plan B, too. In 2006-07 it was Ramar Smith, who averaged 10.7 points per game. In 2007-08 it was Tyler Smith, who averaged 13.6 points per game. When Lofton and/or JaJuan Smith couldn't find the range, Tennessee usually got enough production from Ramar Smith or Tyler Smith to prevail.
Finding a third scoring option has not been so easy for the 2010-11 Vols. Tatum has had several big games - 21 points vs. Florida, 17 vs. Villanova, 16 vs. Alabama, 14 vs. Belmont and Pittsburgh - but he has been wildly inconsistent over the past six weeks, especially on the road. He was scoreless at Arkansas and at Georgia, with 2 points at Vanderbilt, 3 points at Kentucky, 3 vs. Georgia, 6 at Florida and 6 at UConn.
Goins has been up and down, as well. Over the past eight games he has had two very productive outings - 16 points at Kentucky and 15 at Vanderbilt - along with six not-so-productive outings - 0 vs. Alabama, 3 vs. Georgia, 3 at Auburn, 5 at Ole Miss, 5 vs. South Carolina and 7 at Florida.
That leaves Pearl in a bit of a dilemma: He wants balanced scoring but the guys around Hopson and Harris are struggling to make shots.
"We've got several guys that are better suited to shooting the jump shot than taking the ball to the basket," Pearl said. "To keep them involved you've got to encourage them to take a shot. But if they're not knocking 'em down and it's early in the clock, it's leading to transition and other inside opportunities (for the opponent)."
Basically, the head man wants the supporting cast to take more good shots and fewer early shots. That's no simple task, however.
"They're good shots when they go in," Pearl deadpanned. "They're early shots or rushed shots when they don't."