Skylar, Vols host WCU

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When you basically do just one thing you'd better do it reasonably well. Take Tennessee's Skylar McBee, for instance.

In his role as Designated Shooter for the Vol basketball team, the 6-foot-3 senior guard is entrusted with draining 3-pointers to discourage opponents from playing zone or collapsing man-to-man defenses. When he does his job well, Tennessee wins. The Vols are 15-2 when he scores 10 or more points.

When McBee misfires, however, Tennessee generally loses. He went 1 for 4 from 3 in a 62-45 loss to Oklahoma State, 2 for 7 in a 37-36 loss to Georgetown and 1 for 7 in a 44-38 loss to Virginia.

All 3-point shooters experience slumps but McBee found himself in a dandy earlier this month. Battling a sore elbow, he followed a 2-for-6 outing against Oakland, with the 2-for-7 showing versus Georgetown, the 1-for-7 performance against Virginia and an 0-for-2 effort against Wichita State. That four-game stretch saw him make just 5 of 22 treys, a frigid 22.7 success rate.

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"I hadn't been shooting it well," he conceded.

Fresh from attempting a season-low two 3-pointers against the Shockers, however, McBee launched a season-high 10 treys Tuesday night against Presbyterian. He drained four and finished with 12 points in the Vols' 78-62 victory. Asked if he was ordered to shoot more, McBee shook his head.

"No," he said. "Later in the season I'm going to have to hit shots for us. Shooting with confidence is the biggest thing. You've got to be able to shoot with confidence. That's what I did. Forty percent is not a bad percentage from 3, so I thought I shot pretty well."

McBee is hoping to shoot "pretty well" again tonight, when the Vols (6-3) host Western Carolina (4-7) in Thompson-Boling Arena. He isn't making any predictions, however.

"Sometimes they fall," he said, "and sometimes they don't."

Sometimes they fall in warmups, then don't fall in games.

"It's one of those things where you've got to come out in the game and see how it goes," he said. "It also depends a lot on who you're guarding on defense. If you're using a lot of energy trying to stop somebody on the defensive end, you're not going to get as many good looks on the offensive end."

Tennessee historically struggles with zone defenses, so the fact McBee hit 4 of 10 shots against Presbyterian's zone was encouraging.

"It was good to get some good looks and get some confidence back," he said. "I don't know what Western Carolina will do but, hopefully, if they come out in man I can shoot with that same confidence."

The Vols took a lot of flak after scoring 36 and 38 points in the back-to-back losses at Georgetown and Virginia but McBee says they never lost their confidence.

"It's just one of those things where you have to go on with your business," he said. "We know we can score. We've got the same personnel we had last year when we put up numbers."

So, what happened against Georgetown and Virginia?

"We had two teams that are very grind-it-out, low-possession teams and we didn't hit no shots," McBee said. "That's what's going to happen sometimes. Now we've come out of it but we've got to keep other people's (scoring) numbers down. If we do that we're always going to have a chance to win the ballgame."

After playing grind-it-out basketball against Georgetown and Virginia, the Vols seemed to be playing a quicker tempo in beating Wichita State and Presbyterian.

"We are," McBee said. "We hadn't done as much in transition early in the season, and those are buckets we have to get. We've really put an emphasis on that in practice."

McBee wasn't the only Vol hitting from behind the arc against Presbyterian. Jordan McRae hit 2 of 3 and D'montre Edwards 2 of 4. That makes life a lot simpler for Tennessee point guard Trae Golden.

"For me, it's a lot easier," Golden said. "I get in the lane, hit them and they can just shoot. It's kind of like target practice for them. When things like that happen, it's good because I don't have to score as much; we've got guys out there that are going to knock it down."

McRae and Edwards also can score off the dribble, however, whereas McBee is basically a one-trick pony. To date 127 of his 146 career field goals have come from 3-point range. When his long-range bombs are on target, though, Tennessee is tough to beat.

"That's my guy," Golden said. "That's where I get all my assists from. Every night I'm going to have five or more assists, and Skylar is a big part of that. When he's knocking down shots it opens up a whole dimension for our team.

"I love to drive to his side. You can't (as a defender) help off of him. If you do he's going to knock down shots, so that's something that's big for us."

GAME NOTES: Tennessee will be going for its 300th win at Thompson-Boling Arena tonight. The Vols are 4-0 at home this season and stand 299-104 all-time at the facility.... Golden, who scored 25 points against Wichita State and 16 against Presbyterian in his last two games, has been named to the watch list for the 2013 Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the NCAA's top point guard.... Senior center Kenny Hall, who missed the Presbyterian game with a pulled hamstring, practiced the past two days and is expected to see action tonight.... Western Carolina has played just two games all season on its home floor in Cullowhee, N.C. Tennessee leads the all-time series with the Catamounts 6-1... Western Carolina's top players are 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard Trey Sumler (15.7 points, 4.1 assists per game), 6-foot-8, 245-pound post Tawaski King (12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds per game) and 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard Tom Tankelwicz (11.6 points, 42.4 percent from 3).... Tonight's tipoff is set for 7 o'clock with TV coverage by Fox Sports Net.

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