JaJuan 'guns' UT to victory

Like "The Gun" Tennessee uses for shooting practice, JaJuan Smith's stroke wasn't working quite right in recent weeks. Now that the gun is fixed, though, Smith's stroke appears to be fixed, as well.

The junior guard hit 9 of 16 shots – five of 10 from 3-point range – en route to a career-high 23 points as Tennessee gunned down Tennessee Tech 101-77 Thursday night before an animated crowd of 19,001 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Like a baseball pitching machine, The Gun throws balls to a player, enabling him to unload rapid-fire jump shots. It also features a net the player must shoot over. Smith finds the contraption extremely helpful … when it's working.

"I shoot the ball flat," Smith said. "There's a net that makes me put an arc on my shot. It's a mind thing to me. Once I shoot on The Gun, I think I get a lot of confidence."

When The Gun began to malfunction, Smith began to misfire. A visit with head coach Bruce Pearl quickly got the situation resolved.

"When it was down, I was telling Coach we needed to get The Gun fixed," Smith said. "He told the managers to get a new Gun. Now I'm in the gym shooting more, and I think it's giving me a lot of confidence."

That confidence was evident almost from the opening tip. Smith drained a 3-pointer from the right corner a mere 11 seconds into the action. Tech took advantage of some sloppy Tennessee defense, however, to build a 29-26 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. Then the Vols went on a spectacular 19-0 run that produced a 45-29 lead.

Asked what happened during the explosion, Pearl replied: "We finally got a few stops."

The 19-0 run featured 7 points by Chris Lofton, a 3-pointer each by Smith and Josh Tabb, two free throws and a basket by Ryan Childress, plus a basket and three nifty assists by Dane Bradshaw. In other words, everybody got into the act.

"We're real dangerous when we get on runs like that," Smith said. "We're hard to handle because it can be anybody's night. We've got a lot of threats, from the inside to the outside."

The Golden Eagles closed to 48-38, but Smith answered with a one-man rampage. He drove for a basket at the 1:51 mark, then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and scored on another dive. Seconds later he took a long outlet pass from Bradshaw and scored again at the 1:17 mark – giving him six points in a span of 34 seconds and boosting the lead to 54-38.

The Vols were never threatened again. They built the lead to 31 points (101-70) on a thunderous dunk by Ramar Smith, then Pearl cleared the bench.

Lofton chipped in 14 points and Ramar Smith 13 as Tennessee won its seventh game in a row and improved to 11-2. Ryan Childress came off the bench to post his first career double-double – 13 points and 11 rebounds in 18 quality minutes. Duke Crews also had a double-double – 10 points, 10 rebounds – while Bradshaw contributed 7 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists.

Belton Rivers scored 20 to pace Tech (5-7) but hit just 5 of 19 shots. Backcourt mate Anthony Fisher chipped in 16 points but made just 4 of 13 shots.

Tennessee returns to action Saturday night, hosting East Tennessee State at 8.

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