Reduced roles

Freshman Ramar Smith produced a career high for points (15) and sophomore Ryan Childress produced a career high for rebounds (10) in Tennessee's 93-79 defeat of Western Kentucky Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

While those two unsung Vols played unexpectedly key roles, two other Vols played no roles at all. Tony Passley, a 6-5 sophomore wing, and Marques Johnson, a 6-5 freshman combo guard, did not leave the bench vs. the Hilltoppers.

Head coach Bruce Pearl said Passley's inactivity was easily explained. The Vols are getting great play from three other wings at the moment.

"Between JaJuan Smith and Josh Tabb and Chris (Lofton), I've got that down to a three-man rotation right now," Pearl said. "Tony's the tenth man on the team right now, and I'm only playing nine."

A transfer from Redlands Community College in Oklahoma, Passley played 14 minutes in the opener vs. Middle Tennessee, a career-high 16 minutes in Game 4 vs. Coppin State and 14 in Game 6 vs. North Carolina. His court time dwindled the past four games, however – getting 4 minutes against Louisiana-Lafayette, 6 against Murray State and 4 against Memphis prior to the WKU contest.

Despite the sudden loss of his role, Passley seems to be handling the situation well.

"Tony's attitude has been terrific," Pearl said. "Tony is ready when called upon but right now we've shortened the rotation by one and Tony is our tenth man."

Johnson played 18 minutes in Game 1, 15 in Game 2, 4 in Game 3 and 8 in Game 4. He has not left the bench in the six games since then, largely because junior Jordan Howell is playing well after overcoming a pre-season hand injury.

Stuck behind Howell and fellow freshman Ramar Smith in the point-guard competition, Johnson appears to be headed for a redshirt year. But Pearl's post-game comments Saturday suggest that may not be the case.

"He's been bothered by a few things," the coach said, "and it (redshirt year) is possible."


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