JaJuan's jinxed

It's a good thing for JaJuan Smith that Tennessee's basketball team faces Vanderbilt just two times per season. Inexplicably, the junior guard seems to save his worst performances for the Commodores.

Because of its stringent academic standards, Vandy generally fields teams that are a little less athletic than most of their SEC rivals. As a result, you'd figure JaJuan Smith's explosive quickness and eye-popping agility would enable him to have some of his best outings against the Commodores.

That hasn't been the case, though. Instead, he tends to have his weakest outings against Vanderbilt. He can't blame the unusual layout at Memorial Gym, either. Smith struggles just as mightily against Vandy when the games are played at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Consider:

As a freshman in 2004-05, Smith played OK in his first appearance against the Commodores, going 1 of 2 from the field – both 3-pointers – and finishing with 3 points in a five-minute relief stint. In the rematch at Nashville, however, he went 0 of 4 from the field – 0 of 3 from 3-point range – and produced more fouls (2) and turnovers (1) than points (0) in 12 minutes of reserve action.

As a sophomore starter in 2005-06, he went 2 of 7 – all 3-point attempts – in the game at Knoxville. He made 4 of 6 from the foul line and finished with 10 points, zero assists, zero rebounds and a turnover in 27 forgettable minutes. In the late-season rematch at Nashville he went 1 of 8 from the floor – 1 of 7 from 3-point range – and finished with 3 points, 3 assists, a foul and a turnover in 31 unproductive minutes.

Given his history against the Commodores, Smith may have been looking for redemption in Wednesday night's game at Nashville. He didn't find it, though. This time he went 2 of 11 from the floor (2 of 8 from beyond the arc), finishing with a season-low 6 points, 3 fouls, 2 turnovers and 1 assist in 24 humbling minutes.

In five career games against Vandy Smith's stat line shows 22 points, 6 fouls, 5 turnovers and 4 assists. He is averaging just 4.4 points against the Commodores and is shooting 18.7 percent (6 of 32) from the field and 22.2 percent (6 of 27) from beyond the arc.

The poor performance Wednesday night was especially perplexing. Smith was just two weeks removed from scoring a career-high 23 points in back-to-back games against Tennessee Tech and ETSU. On this night, however, he got off to a slow start and never overcame it.

Perhaps Smith was pressing, trying too hard to make up for his previous poor showings against the Commodores. Regardless, Vol coach Bruce Pearl was disappointed with the junior's uneven performance in the 82-81 loss.

"JaJuan got in foul trouble," Pearl noted on his post-game radio show. "I'm concerned about the way JaJuan played tonight. I didn't think JaJuan competed when things didn't go well. He didn't toughen up, and I think he's capable of it.

"We expect a great deal from JaJuan. Hopefully, he can get that turned around."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories