'Steady' standout

Some colorful adjectives have been used to describe Tennessee basketball player JaJuan Smith – explosive, energetic, flashy and flamboyant on offense ... quick-handed, pesky and disruptive on defense.

One word no one ever used to describe JaJuan Smith was "steady." Heck, he was the poster child for inconsistency throughout the first 2½ years of his college career. Since teammate Chris Lofton suffered a severe ankle injury Jan. 20 against South Carolina, however, Smith has evolved into ... well, a steady performer.

The 6-2 guard from nearby Cleveland has averaged 19 points per game in the seven outings since Lofton was hurt, leading the team in scoring five times. More importantly, he has played within himself – shooting 50 percent (46 of 92) from the field and committing just 11 turnovers.

"Since Chris got hurt JaJuan has been tremendously consistent," head coach Bruce Pearl noted after Saturday's 84-57 blowout of Vanderbilt.

With Lofton healthy enough to contribute 16 points, Tennessee didn't need as much offense from Smith on Saturday as it had in the previous six games. He handled the change in roles beautifully, hitting 4 of 8 shots en route to an 11-point, 8-rebound, 4-assist performance.

"He was patient," Pearl said. "He only takes eight shots but he makes four of them, including 3 for 5 from 3. And he plays great defense.

"Again, he's being patient. He doesn't complain about not getting more looks. He's becoming a better and better leader for us."


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