Simply put, the 6-foot-6 Temple was all over Lofton like a cheap suit, deftly denying him the ball and smothering him on those rare occasions when the Vol superstar managed to get his hands on it. The talented Tiger just might be the finest perimeter defender in college hoops.
Tennessee no longer has Lofton but LSU still has Temple. That means the Vols' struggling wings are not likely to break out of their collective shooting slump this evening at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“He's a terrific defensive guard,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said of Temple. “He puts great pressure on the ball. He's a real physical, athletic kid.”
Making Temple even more difficult to score on is the fact he is surrounded by other good defenders. LSU plays a very aggressive brand of defense.
“They'll not only block shots,” Pearl noted. “When you penetrate they'll strip and rip. They have a number of guys that can make plays. They get offense out of their defense.”
Meanwhile, Tennessee can't even get offense out of its offense. The Vols' outside shooting has been lame in recent weeks.
Given Temple's brilliance as a perimeter defender and Tennessee's ongoing struggles with perimeter scoring, you'd figure the Vols might build their entire offense around inside players Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith. Pearl says that isn't possible, however.
“We have got to make some more perimeter shots,” he said. “We've got to get some more quality ones and we've got to make some more quality ones. There's just no question about it. We can't go inside to Tyler and Wayne for 40 minutes, and expect that they're going to be able to deliver with the lane closing down on them.”
Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and Tennessee's perimeter scoring woes are not merely a matter of the wings missing shots. The point guards aren't doing a very good job of getting open looks for the wings.
“The one area that we're just not getting any productivity from our offense is the penetrate-and-pitch,” Pearl said. “C.J. Watson was so good at that and Ramar Smith could go by you at any time to get those (wing) guys shots.
“Our breakdown guys aren't getting our shooters shots. Maybe Cameron (Tatum), Scotty (Hopson) and Renaldo (Woolridge) aren't doing as good a job of getting open but our playmaking guards – Bobby (Maze) and Josh (Tabb) and Tyler (Smith) and J.P. (Prince) – aren't getting the ball to the perimeter shooters where they're getting good-enough looks.
“If they did that it would help us offensively.”
With Garrett Temple defending the perimeter, the Vols will need all of the help they can get tonight.