JaJuan's jinxed

Tennessee's JaJuan Smith is one of the quickest and most athletic players in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt tends to be one of the slowest and least athletic teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Given this set of facts, you'd expect that JaJuan Smith would have some of his best games against the Commodores. Instead, he tends to have his WORST games against them.

Consider:

As a freshman reserve in 2005, Smith scored a combined 3 points in two meetings. His cumulative stats for the two games also show him 1 of 6 from the field (1 of 5 from 3-point range) with zero assists, a foul and 2 turnovers.

As a sophomore starter in 2006 he made just 2 of 7 shots (all 3-pointers) in the game at Knoxville, finishing with 10 points. In the rematch at Nashville he sank 1 of 8 from the floor (1 of 7 from beyond the arc), totaling 3 points, 3 assists, a turnover and a foul.

Incredibly, Smith gave perhaps his worst performance to date in the 2007 meeting at Nashville. Sinking just 2 of 11 shots (2 of 8 from 3), he finished with 6 points, 3 fouls, 2 turnovers and just 1 assist.

For those keeping score at home, Smith's career totals for five games against the Commodores show just 22 points, with more fouls (6) and turnovers (5) than assists (4). He has made just 6 of 32 field-goal attempts, including 6 of 27 beyond the arc.

Bottom line: JaJuan Smith is averaging 4.4 points per game vs. Vandy, while shooting 18.7 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from 3-point range.

With the Commodores (16-7 overall, 6-3 SEC) visiting Thompson-Boling Arena for a 1 p.m. Saturday tipoff against the Vols (16-8, 4-5), the question naturally arises: Why does Smith play so poorly against the cross-state rival?

"Man, that's a good question," he said, shaking his head. "That's something I'm going to try to change Saturday. Personally, I ain't played good against Vandy since I've been in Orange and White. That's something I'm going to try and overcome."

With Chris Lofton still hampered by a tender ankle, Smith needs to come through to give the Vols some perimeter scoring. In fact, he may need to match his career point total vs. Vanderbilt (22) in this game for the Big Orange to prevail.

Saturday's game is crucial for all of the Vols, not just Smith. Since the Commodores won the earlier meeting in Nashville, Tennessee desperately needs to win the rematch in case the NCAA Selection Committee elects to give only one of the teams a bid to The Dance.

"This is a real big game, to try to split with Vandy," Smith conceded. "They've beaten some of the top teams in the SEC, so to split with ‘em would be huge for us."


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