If a guard plays well ...

Many observers have been saying guards C.J. Watson and Chris Lofton must play exceptionally well for Tennessee's basketball team to win on a given night. The first 12 games suggest otherwise. As long as one of them plays well, the Vols seem to be OK.

In Game 5 vs. Appalachian State, for instance, Lofton sank just two of seven shots from 3-point range. But Watson covered for his pal with a 23-point, 5-assist, 3-steal effort that led the Vols to victory.

In Game 9 vs. Lipscomb, Lofton scored a season-low 6 points but Watson bailed him out by scoring 18. In the same game Watson registered a season-low 1 assist but Lofton bailed him out with a season-high 4 assists.

In Game 12 vs. Georgia, Lofton went the entire first half without scoring a point. Watson saved his bacon by contributing 14 points to a 40-36 halftime lead. When Georgia shifted its defensive emphasis to slow down Watson, Lofton gunned in 16 second-half points to spark an 89-76 triumph.

"I was trying to get Chris open but they (Georgia guards) were shading him and denying him," Watson recalled of Lofton's scoreless first half. "That was leaving me wide open driving for lay-ups and dishing to Major (Wingate) or Dane (Bradshaw). We tried to get Chris some wide-open looks in the second half and he knocked down some big shots."

Indeed he did. Once Lofton hit that first bucket, the light seemed to come on for him and he wound up six-for-eight after intermission.

"I saw it coming on," Watson said. "I knew he was going to hit three or four in a row, so I kept trying to feed him the ball."

Not surprisingly, the one outing in which both Lofton AND Watson struggled resulted in Tennessee's only loss to date. In Game 7 against Oklahoma State, they combined for just two first-half points as the Cowboys built a 42-26 halftime lead they eventually parlayed into an 89-73 victory.

Although Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson haven't played well each game, they have played smart each game. Watson's shot selection has been outstanding, which explains his 53.4 field goal percentage and his 47.7 mark on 3-pointers. And, as he proved by attempting just five field goals vs. Lipscomb and three first-half field goals vs. Georgia, Lofton won't force shots just to boost his scoring average.

A recent comment coach Bruce Pearl made concerning all of his players applies especially well to Lofton and Watson:

"They're not trying to do things they can't do, by and large."


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