Point of emphasis

One of Tennessee's most instrumental basketball players - a guy who scored 21 points in a game against Memphis last season - has posted just 22 points in his last seven games combined this season.

Dane Bradshaw was scoreless Saturday against Vanderbilt, marking the third time in the past seven outings the 6-4 senior has failed to register a point. During that seven-game stretch he has made just 5 of 37 field-goal tries (13.5 percent) and 3 of 16 (18.7 percent) from 3-point range.

Bradshaw is Tennessee's best player at breaking down a defense. He is an outstanding passer and a strong defender/rebounder for his size. The Vols don't need much offense from him ... but they probably need a little more than they've gotten lately.

"It IS concerning me," head coach Bruce Pearl concedes, adding that the Vols need more points from Bradshaw "to beat the best teams on our schedule."

Opponents are working hard to blanket Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, which is giving Bradshaw some room to maneuver.

"They're now guarding him a certain way and presenting him with more opportunities to be open," Pearl says. "I still think that's a good thing."

If Bradshaw can snap out of his offensive funk, the additional firepower could greatly enhance Tennessee's chances of finishing strongly and earning an NCAA Tournament bid. Even when he's ice cold, though, he contributes in other ways.

"He led us in assists (seven) and he played great defense," Pearl said of Bradshaw's performance in the Vandy game. "Even when he isn't a factor scoring, he's a factor."

Still, the coach believes a little more production from Bradshaw could make a big difference, noting: "I've said it for two years: 'Dane, this stuff works. It could work really well if you could make a couple of shots.'"

Perhaps Bradshaw will snap out of his scoring slump Tuesday night against Kentucky. Even if he doesn't, he is invaluable because of his ability to break down defenses with his uncanny vision and deft passing skills.

"Dane is our best break-down guy," JaJuan Smith said. "So, when he gets the ball, that's what you want him to do. He's a great playmaker."

If he could get back to being a decent scorer, though, Bradshaw might be the difference between a good UT season and a great one.

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