He has scored 20 or more points three times this season. Each time he played between 31 and 33 minutes. He has recorded six or more assists six times this season. Each time he played between 28 and 33 minutes.
Now look at his performances in games when he played the most:
He played a season-high 36 minutes against Vanderbilt and Alabama. In the former he went 3 of 11 from the floor. In the latter he went 4 of 12 from the floor with just 2 assists. In addition, the man he was guarding in the latter, Bama’s Ronald Steele, produced 22 points and 9 assists.
Former UT coach Buzz Peterson liked to joke that Watson’s stamina was so great that he had a “third lung.” Clearly, though, Watson is more effective – offensively and defensively – when he isn’t asked to play an iron-man role.
“I think C.J. has to play better defensively,” UT coach Bruce Pearl says. “Even if it means playing him a few less minutes, so he has the focus and energy to do that. The (tempo) we play it’s hard to play him 34 or 35 minutes. When he’s in there 32 we’re better off.”
So why doesn’t Pearl make sure Watson gets seven or eight minutes of rest each game? Simple. Backup point guard Jordan Howell has struggled a bit lately, recording 0 points, 1 assist and 3 turnovers in his last 23 minutes over a span of four games.
C.J. Watson played 35 of 40 minutes Wednesday night at Florida and played well for the most part. He was 6 of 11 from the field for 13 points. He grabbed 6 rebounds and committed 4 turnovers. Howell played the other five minutes at the point, finishing with zero points, zero assists and zero turnovers.
“Jordan can’t go in there and have unproductive minutes,” Pearl noted recently. “Jordan’s got to stay aggressive. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jordan but Jordan needs to have confidence in himself. That enables us to keep C.J. out of the game for longer periods, which will help him be effective.”