Ramar-kable feat

He noticed the fuss but didn't understand it: He made a 3-point shot Wednesday night. So, what was the big deal?

"It's not like my percentage is through the roof," Tennessee sophomore Ramar Smith said after scoring a team-high 19 points in an 89-70 defeat of Auburn. "It's a shot I've got to be able to take and make, and I know I can make it. If they give it to me, I've just got to make it."

Still, this particular 3-pointer was significant for several reasons:

It was his first 3-point attempt since the Mississippi State game on Feb. 2.

It was his first 3-point basket since the Gonzaga game on Dec. 29.

It was a shot that may force future foes to view him as a perimeter threat and stop double-teaming Chris Lofton so much.

Still, Smith thought his 3-point basket was being blown way out of proportion.

"That's just not my strength," he said. "I try to stick to my strength and get my teammates involved."

Statistically, he wasn't getting his teammates involved Wednesday night. The Vols' first-team point guard did not record a single assist in 25 minutes of action. Still, he hit 6 of 7 shots from the floor and 6 of 7 from the foul line on his way to a season-high point total. Was zero assists a suitable trade-off?

"I thought it was a great game," he said. "I found teammates but they was getting fouled. They could've been assists but I just had a great game."

Smith hit a pedestrian 31.0 percent of his 3-point attempts as a freshman last season but entered Wednesday's game hitting just 22.2 percent (4 of 18) this season. He seemingly had given up on the shot, going 0-for-4 over the previous 12 games.

"All his life he was taking the ball to the basket, and that's been his game," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "So what does Ramar do? He goes to his strength. But I know it would make him better in ball-screen offense if he could take ‘em and make ‘em (from beyond the arc). And I believe he can."

Pearl bases that belief on what he saw last June and July.

"I saw him all summer long shoot that thing in the Pilot Rocky Top League," the coach said. "I saw him shoot it at Vanderbilt when the chips were down. And he made some against Ohio State."

Although he conceded that Smith is "not a great outside shooter," Pearl believes the 6-2 sophomore will connect from outside when the Vols need him to do so.

"Ramar's a competitor," the coach said. "I believe if the game's on the line he'll take it and make it."

Pearl has been encouraging Smith to attempt more 3-pointers in recent weeks. When the player failed to heed the advice, the coach changed his tactic.

"The other day he was out there working on his 3," Pearl recalled. "I said, ‘Why are you wasting your time working on a shot if you won't shoot it in a game?'

"After he made the one tonight, he winked at me."

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