Bomb-astic backcourt

With preseason All-American Chris Lofton on one wing and preseason All-SEC pick JaJuan Smith on the other, Tennessee may boast the finest pair of 3-point shooters in college basketball.

Lofton (1 of 5) and Smith (2 of 7) uncharacteristically struggled from beyond the arc in Monday's exhibition game with Lincoln Memorial University but it didn't matter. Point guard Ramar Smith picked up some of the slack, nailing two of three treys and scoring 16 points as the Vols rolled 124-61. Counting a 1-for-1 performance in the opening exhibition, Ramar was 3 of 4 from 3-point range during the preseason.

Lofton shot 41.9 percent from 3 last year and JaJuan Smith 36.8. If Ramar Smith can add a few percentage points to last season's 31.0 mark, Tennessee's perimeter game could be awesome. Imagine the dilemma an opposing team will face if the Vols have THREE guys hitting from beyond the arc on the same night ...

"I think it opens up a lot," Ramar Smith said, grinning softly. "It opens up the drive, the backside rebounds. When we're shooting like that, we've got a great chance of winning."

Ramar averaged 23 points per game as a senior shooting guard in high school but was much more of a set-up man than a scorer as a Vol freshman last season.

"When you play point guard, there's so much stuff you've got to do," he explained. "I feel like I've still got it (scoring ability) but that ain't what I'm concerned about."

Ramar struggled a bit in the Vols' opening exhibition, finishing with more turnovers (4) than assists (3). Perhaps the adjustment to new teammates Tyler Smith, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams was a contributing factor.

Ramar shook his head at the suggestion, noting: "When they first came in we clicked. We know the kind of players Coach (Bruce Pearl) recruits. He recruited some great guys. They came right in and fit."

If there ever was an adjustment period, it apparently ended Monday night. Coming off the bench in relief of senior Jordan Howell, Ramar dished out 8 assists with zero turnovers in exhibition No. 2.

"I thought Ramar played better coming off the bench," Pearl said, grinning smugly. "Eight assists and no turnovers was terrific.

Ramar said there was a simple explanation for his improved play.

"I really took care of the ball and distributed more," he said.

Tennessee scored 106 points in its first exhibition game, then tacked on 124 more in the second. The Vols look to be ready for Friday's regular-season opener against Temple (7:30 tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena). Asked where the team progressed most from Game 1 to Game 2, Ramar answered without hesitation.

"We ran a lot more. Our big men were getting the ball out to us. Everybody was pushing the ball. With the 3s and 2s running the lane, we got the ball down the court faster.

"On the defensive end, everybody stepped up and made plays. That's what we do."


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