Prince is king ... of the road

If Tennessee played all of its conference basketball games on the road, J.P. Prince would be a serious contender for SEC Player of the Year.

The 6-8, 205-pound junior has played lights-out in opposing gyms this year, a trend UT coach Bruce Pearl hopes will continue when the Vols visit Ole Miss tonight at 7 Central.

"His road SEC numbers are huge," Pearl noted this week. "He's shooting 76 percent on the road in SEC play. He's 19 for 25."

Most players perform significantly better at home than on the road. For whatever reason, J.P. Prince is an exception to this rule. Check out these numbers:

- At Georgia: 3 of 4 field goals, 10 points, 1 assist, 1 block and 2 steals

- At Vanderbilt: 6 of 8 field goals, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block

- At Arkansas: 5 of 6 field goals, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal

- At Auburn: 5 of 7 field goals, 18 points, 7 assists, 1 block

Prince's cumulative stats for UT's four SEC road tests show him scoring 14.2 points per game, with 18 assists, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks.

"J.P. does play very well on the road," Pearl conceded. "He has experience, and I think he's a guy that handles adversity well. I think he concentrates more on the road and maybe there are fewer distractions. He probably prides himself on being a good player on the road. And he has a high basketball IQ."

After battling through early-season shoulder and ankle problems, Prince has hit his stride since conference play began. The Memphis native is hitting 65.5 percent from the field (36 of 55) in league action and ranks fourth among all SEC players in assists at 4.4 per game. He has been especially productive as a distributor lately, dishing out 34 assists in the last five games. That's an average of 6.8 per game.

In addition, Prince suddenly has emerged as a force on the backboards – spearing nine vs. Georgia and 10 vs. Vanderbilt the past two games. It's worth noting that these performances came immediately after Pearl chided him for a zero-rebound effort at Auburn.

"How about J.P. Prince with 19 rebounds last week, coming off zero rebounds at Auburn?" the coach said. "He really responded to what's required. You love to see that go on."

Deceptively quick, Prince loves to beat opponents downcourt for transition baskets. Sometimes, though, he is guilty of running the floor when he should be banging the boards. That's what happened at Auburn.

"Our first-shot good defense has been good for a while," Pearl noted, "but we need to continue to be mindful that we've got to stay in and rebound."

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