Dynamic Duo

The good news: Tennessee's backcourt of Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson combined for 53 points in last Thursday's exhibition opener. The bad news: They'll need to be that productive in virtually every game if the Vols are to be competitive in the rugged SEC.

Lofton (26) and Watson (27) produced nearly two-thirds of UT's points in an 86-78 defeat against Southern Indiana. The rest of the team combined to score 33. Lofton (7 of 11) and Watson (6 of 15) combined to sink 13 of 26 floor shots, a solid 50 percent. The rest of the team combined to sink 10 of 35, a paltry 28.6 percent.

Clearly, this dynamic duo is the key to any hopes Tennessee has of improving on last season's 14-17 record. They worked well together last year but they seem to be working even better in tandem this year.

"I think we're a lot better," Watson said. "I know where Chris wants the ball and what he wants to do. He knows where I want it. We kind of read each other, tell each other things during timeouts and stuff like that."

After operating a deliberate Buzz Peterson attack the past three years, Watson struggled at times with Pearl's up-tempo offense vs. USI. The senior point guard committed seven turnovers, including five in the first half.

"I had a lot of turnovers," he conceded, "and I know that hurt us."

Asked if the quicker tempo caused the mistakes, Watson shook his head.

"I don't think so," he said. "I think it's not really being used to where everybody's going to be on the court, all of the spreading and everything. It'll take care of itself once we get used to it."

Tennessee's offensive struggles nearly proved costly. The Vols trailed 65-60 late in the game. Then Watson went to work, scoring 13 of UT's final 26 points in a come-from-behind win.

"I tried to be more aggressive," he explained. "I knew I could do a lot more to help my team. I was kind of nervous and kind of scared because I didn't want to lose an exhibition game. Losing an exhibition game would've looked pretty bad."

The Vols kept from losing by sinking 32 of 37 free throws. Lofton (8 of 9) and Watson (12 of 12) combined to drain 20 of 21 between them.

We got the right guys to the line," Pearl said. "If you get Watson and Lofton to the line 21 times, you've put the ball in the guys' hands who can make plays."

It's a safe bet the ball will be in Watson's and Lofton's hands a lot this year. They're a dynamic duo and UT's best hope for a winning season.

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