Supporting cast is contributing

It would be easy to surmise that Tennessee is a one-man basketball team after seeing Chris Lofton produce nearly half (34) of the Vols' points in their 76-58 Game 9 defeat of Memphis. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Although Lofton did much of the scoring, Tennessee got significant contributions from just about everyone on the roster ... as has been the case all season. Consider:

- Dane Bradshaw chipped in 11 points, 9 rebounds, a block, a steal and an assist.

- Freshman posts Duke Crews and Wayne Chism combined for 12 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, while holding Memphis' big man Joey Dorsey scoreless.

- Point guards Ramar Smith and Jordan Howell combined for 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and just 2 turnovers.

- With JaJuan Smith limited by foul trouble and a second-half wrist injury, Josh Tabb came off the bench to contribute 6 rebounds, 2 assists and some spectacular defensive work on the Memphis perimeter players.

While Lofton is the Vols' unquestioned star, the preseason All-American's supporting cast is just as responsible for Tennessee's 7-2 record.

Head coach Bruce Pearl noted that UT's success "wouldn't happen without the full cast of characters staying together and getting better, allowing a great player like Chris Lofton to win you a basketball game. You've seen that at Florida and some different places in our big wins. It takes everybody to step up and then just let your best player go out and win you the game."

So, why are the Vols getting so many contributions from so many different players? Simple. Because each player has a clearly defined role he is filling.

"At this point in the season it seems we have everyone understanding their roles better and better," Bradshaw said. "That's going to carry us a long way."

Because each player is content to contribute in his specific area of strength, the Vols are becoming a pretty versatile bunch. Crews and Chism are providing rebounding and toughness on the inside. Bradshaw is providing leadership and savvy. JaJuan Smith is providing electrifying quickness in transition offense and fullcourt defense. Howell and Ramar Smith are providing solid play at the point. Tabb is providing a defensive spark off the bench. Lofton, of course, is providing the points.

"The chemistry is phenomenal," Bradshaw said. "In most locker rooms if you have a guy go for 34, there might be one or two guys a little bit jealous. But everyone's so happy for Chris."

Tennessee's team chemistry is especially evident in the post, where Chism and Crews share playing time without complaint, even though each is clearly capable of starting.

As Bradshaw noted: "I wouldn't be surprised if Coach just started flip-flopping the lineup with them."

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