In the past two games, however, Smith has been missing in action. Against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament he produced 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 0 steals. Then, in the NCAA Tournament opener against Winthrop, he contributed 1 rebound, 0 assists and 0 steals in 16 lackluster minutes.
Tennessee will need more from Smith if it is to win its second-round NCAA Tournament game today against Wichita State. Tip-off is set for 3:40 in Greensboro, N.C., with television coverage provided by CBS.
"I've got to get JaJuan Smith to do more than just shoot the basketball," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "I've got to get him going."
Pearl can only hope his chat with Smith proves as productive as the one he had with reserve forward Stanley Asumnu prior to Thursday's game with Winthrop.
"I talked to Stanley before the game because I knew he was going to have to play more," Pearl recalled.
Asumnu took the talk to heart and played one of his best games of the season. He scored just 2 points but corralled 7 rebounds, dished out 2 assists and made 2 steals in 22 productive minutes. Moreover, he limited Winthrop star Torrell Martin to 4 second-half points after Martin burned the Vols for 10 in the first half.
Tennessee also got a good day's work from backup point guard Jordan Howell. Pressed into service when C.J. Watson picked up his fourth foul with 16:05 left in the Winthrop game, Howell produced two points, one assist and – best of all – just one turnover in a season-high 14 minutes.
Given how thin UT's depth is, Pearl may need similar productivity from Asumnu and Howell today against Wichita State. Even that may not be enough, however, if JaJuan Smith remains as quiet as he has been the past two games.