A growing Tabb

Coach Bruce Pearl said Tennessee must replace Chris Lofton's points "by committee" while the junior guard is sidelined with an ankle injury. So far, the guy heading up that committee is an unheralded freshman.

Josh Tabb scored 11 points – eight above his season's average – Wednesday night at Ole Miss. He hit 4 of 8 shots from the floor, including 3 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also contributed 5 rebounds, an assist and a steal in 25 quality minutes off the bench.

If all of the Vols had played as well, Tennessee would've left Oxford with a victory, instead of an 83-69 loss.

"Josh did really well," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "He obviously stepped up. Josh is at a guard spot, and the fact he played that well kept us in position to win the basketball game.

"Would I like to think he can do that every night? Yes. Do I expect him to? No, because he hasn't had that kind of scoring since the Middle Tennessee State game."

So, why did Tabb, known primarily as a defensive specialist, suddenly emerge as a scoring threat? Just following orders, he says.

"Coach told us all that everybody had to step it up a notch," he said. "With Chris out, we're losing 20 or 30 points per game, so I look to score a little bit more now that he's out."

Being both a freshman AND a reserve, Tabb understands that he is not one of Tennessee's top offensive options. When the opportunity to score arises, however, he doesn't hesitate to pull the trigger.

"It's kind hard for me as a freshman to pick and choose my spots, when I should or should not shoot," he said. "But Wednesday night I let the game come to me. My shot was open, I took it and knocked it down."

Knowing he needs to score more now that Lofton is sidelined, Tabb has devoted extra time to his offensive game this week.

"I really appreciate his focus," Pearl said. "He's been here getting a lot of extra shots. He's shooting better balls from the foul line."

The biggest change for Tabb, however, is his playing time. He played a season-high 28 minutes in Game 19 vs. South Carolina and came back with 25 in Game 20 at Ole Miss.

"He got more minutes against South Carolina; he got more minutes against Ole Miss," Pearl said. "He's certainly getting more comfortable with his rotations."

With Lofton out, Tabb is no longer just a defensive stopper. He's being asked to make a much greater contribution now.

"It is a different role for me," the 6-4 freshman said. "Hopefully, when Chris comes back I can keep it up and give our team a little extra boost and help us put more points on the board.

"We're still missing Chris, as you can tell, but we hope we can get better while he's out."

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