Tyler time arrives

Tyler Smith is becoming really comfortable, which should make future Tennessee basketball opponents really uncomfortable.

The sensational sophomore had his best game to date as a Vol Wednesday night against Arkansas-Monticello. He hit 7 of 11 shots from the floor, exhibiting a great first step, nifty moves and some creative shot-making. He finished with a game-high 15 points, 3 blocked shots, 3 rebounds, an assist and a steal – all in just 18 minutes of action.

Most impressive of all, though, was how ridiculously easy he made it look.

"It just feels great to know where to be," he said. "I'm not feeling confused out there on the court as far as the play call or where coach wants me to be on D."

The key to his newfound comfort was the film room, not the practice floor.

"What helped me was a lot of film work," he said. "That's helping me learn the spots I'm supposed to be in."

Although Smith's offensive capabilities are mind-boggling, he can contribute just as signirficantly on defense. His 6-7 frame and long arms make it difficult for opponents to shoot the ball – or even pass the ball – over him. His startling quickness and jumping ability make him a horse on the backboards and a force as a shot-blocker.

"We've gotten better on defense," he said. "We're helping each other out and we're trusting each other. If one gets beat, we're going to have somebody back there to help him."

Tennessee limited Arkansas-Monticello to 25-percent shooting and forced 26 turnovers Wednesday night. Still, Tyler Smith isn't satisfied.

"We still can improve our defense some more, along with our free-throw shooting and rebounding," he said. "We've got to improve each day."

One thing is certain: The Vols improved themselves tremendously the day they agreed to accept Smith as a transfer from Iowa, where he averaged 14.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a freshman en route to third-team All-Big Ten recognition.

The addition of Smith and flashy 6-6 freshman Cameron Tatum gives Tennessee significantly more athleticism and speed than it had last year. It also gives the Vols a different look.

"I think we're a little more exciting," senior guard Jordan Howell said. "We've got a lot more athletes now. We've got a bunch of guys who can run the floor and go up and finish.

"It's fun for me, being a point guard, because I can just throw the ball up the court and watch them go to work."

Especially now that Tyler Smith is getting comfortable.

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