Tennessee's All-American wasn't a big problem for Temple on Friday night. All of its Smiths were.
UT All-American guard Chris Lofton made only one field goal on eight attempts and finished with 10 points, thanks to 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line. But JaJuan Smith, Ramar Smith and Tyler Smith combined for 38 points as the seventh-ranked Vols opened their basketball season with an 80-63 victory over Temple at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"We made a special point of saying, 'Let's really guard Lofton and not let him get any decent looks,' " Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I thought we did a pretty good job on him.
"If they were a one-man team, that would be great. But the Smith Brothers did a great job. You go down their lineup and they have four players in double figures, and Tyler Smith had nine points."
Dionte Christmas, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, deserved much of the credit for Lofton's sub-par performance.
"I tried to deny him the ball and disrupt him," Christmas said. "Every shot he took, make sure I had a hand in his face. I think he had one uncontested shot.
"But he doesn't force things. He lets the game come to him. He has Wayne Chism, and all those Smiths around him."
Although the Smiths aren't related, they came up with the Smith Brothers nickname in the off-season. The way they played Friday, it's going to stick.
JaJuan led the Smiths with 15 points and five steals; Ramar had 14 points; and Tyler had nine points, five assists and three steals.
More than once, the Smiths had the Owls outnumbered.
"There was one play at half-court when the ball was just going," JaJuan Smith said. "It was me and Ramar, and I think Tyler might have got in it.
"When I got up, I said, 'Ooh, I think we had 'em dizzy with all those Smiths around.' It's going to confuse folks."
Inbounds Menace: UT's full-court press was more confusing than the Smiths for Temple. And it started with the 6-9 Chism contesting every inbounds pass with a vengeance.
"They had a great defender (Chism) on the ball disrupting the ball," Christmas said. "He was very good. That was our major problem."
Ramar Smith could appreciate Temple's dilemma.
"He (Chism) has got so much energy," Smith said. "He gets his hands up with that great wingspan.
"He's got a great feel for the game. He knows the spots he needs to be in at all times. I think that's why our press is so deadly."
No Letup: Christmas was as impressed with UT's effort as its talent.
"With two minutes left in the game, they were still playing the same way," Christmas said. "They played hard on defense the whole game."
The Vols also impressed Dunphy.
"They've got a good team, and they know how to play," Dunphy said. "What I really like about their team is that those players all know their role."
Depth Charge: Lofton played a team-high 26 minutes as Pearl played 10 players a minimum of 10 minutes apiece.
Sophomore center Duke Crews (ankle injury) and sophomore J.P. Prince (transfer eligibility) did not play. Crews is probable for Wednesday's game with Arkansas-Monticello while Prince hopes to be healed from shoulder surgery by the time he becomes eligible (Dec. 15 vs. Western Kentucky).
Pearl has said he will play a 10-man rotation this season.
Different Stripes: UT honored former coach Ray Mears, who died last summer, by wearing candy-stripe warm-ups, which Mears' teams began wearing in the late 1960s.
"They're here to stay," UT coach Bruce Pearl said of the warm-ups. "I don't know what took us two years to do that."
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.