As Ramar's world turns

Tennessee faces the unenviable task of replacing the 21 points it could've expected from injured guard Chris Lofton tonight at Ole Miss. A few of those points should come from backups Jordan Howell (3.1 per game) and Josh Tabb (3.0).

The best bet to fill the scoring void in Lofton's absence, however, may be freshman Ramar Smith. The electrifying 6-2 point guard seems to be growing more comfortable and confident each time he takes the floor, and his statistics reflect it.

Starting with a 16-point effort Dec. 23 against Texas, Smith has reached double figures in eight consecutive games. Check out these numbers:

16 points, 9 assists 0 turnovers vs. Texas

13 points, 4 assists, 1 turnover vs. Tennessee Tech

11 points, 2 assists, 4 turnovers vs. East Tennessee State

13 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover vs. Mississippi State

17 points, 3 assists, 1 turnover vs. Vanderbilt

14 points, 3 assists, 1 turnover vs. Ohio State

19 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers vs. Auburn

10 points, 2 assists, 2 turnovers vs. South Carolina

During that eight-game stretch Smith shot 44.8 percent (39 of 87) from the floor, including 35.3 percent (6 of 17) from 3-point range. After some early struggles with the transition from shooting guard to point guard, he found a groove around Christmas time and has been in it ever since.

"It's like Ramar's in his own little world when he's out there playing," fellow freshman Wayne Chism says. "It's like ‘Don't nobody say nothing to Ramar. Ramar's going to play well.'"

A superior leaper, Smith scores with surprising ease over taller opponents and hits the backboards exceptionally well for a guard. He had 9 rebounds Jan. 13 against Ohio State and 8 last Saturday against South Carolina.

"Sometimes Ramar gets more rebounds than we (big men) do," the 6-9 Chism notes, shaking his head. "He just goes to the glass."

Minus Lofton, Tennessee will need Smith going to the glass for points, more so than rebounds, tonight in Oxford. Smith can't make up those 21 points all by himself but he should head up the committee. That makes the prospect of life without Lofton a bit more palatable.

"It's a lot easier with Ramar playing better and with great confidence," Pearl says. "He's such a great competitor. He's got a real strong will to win. I don't think he's afraid of anything, and that's really unusual for a freshman.

"He's going to wind up being the most consistent of our freshmen."

He might also wind up being the answer to the question: How will the Vols offset the loss of Lofton's 21 points?

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