"I think you could see JaJuan's experience," Pearl said. "You could see JaJuan's ability to make plays off the ball. You could see his strength and athleticism improving. JaJuan is a smart player, a great athlete who is able to make it look easy."
The other starting wing, preseason All-American Chris Lofton, performed more as a set-up man than a go-to guy on Tuesday. The sharp-shooting junior attempted just four shots but finished with 10 points, a game-high 5 assists and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes. Best known as a long-range bomber, he is working on taking the ball to the hoop more this season.
"He drove, got to the foul line a little bit," Pearl noted. "He also passed up a bunch of shots. I think Chris was glad to get the other guys a lot of minutes once the game was in hand."
One wing who took advantage of his minutes was transfer Anthony Passley. The 6-5 sophomore hit 8 of 9 shots, finishing second on the team in points (17) and rebounds (5). He also contributed 2 assists and a blocked shot in 21 imposing minutes.
"Tony Passley was very productive," Pearl said. "You could see what Tony can do around the basket and he shot the 3 with confidence (1 of 1). I thought they all played well."
The "they" includes freshman wing Josh Tabb. Although he went 0 of 3 from the floor, the 6-4 rookie registered 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in 21 solid minutes.
Passley and Tabb are among six newcomers who are significantly upgrading Tennessee's talent, athleticism and depth this year. Smith thinks that's going to give the Vols a much quicker transition offense and a much stickier fullcourt defense.
"Last year we had seven guys. Now we've got 11 to 12 guys that can play," he said. "You can give it all you've got for 15 minutes, then the man coming in right behind you can pick up where you left off.
"We just need our 12 guys to be better than the opponent's six or seven guys."