KNOXVILLE — The fact that top-ranked Tennessee has been able to win 13 consecutive men's basketball games is impressive.
Even more so because the Volunteers have won the past two without efficient performances from one of their best players.
Admiral Schofield, the team's second-leading scorer this season, has struggled in the recent wins over Alabama and Vanderbilt, shooting a combined 6-for-26 from the floor and 1-for-10 from 3-point range. The Vols (17-1) obviously have managed without his typical outputs but also are hoping — and expecting — that to change, perhaps starting in Saturday's 4 p.m. game against West Virginia (9-10) at Thompson-Boling Arena in a Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup.
The man with 70 double-digit scoring performances for the Vols and 16 this season couldn't buy a bucket against the Commodores. He finished 2-for-9 from the field for a season-low six points but did hit a key shot in the lane that rolled around the rim before dropping through the net and tying the score at 76, sending Wednesday's game into overtime, when Tennessee won 88-83.
"Admiral had maybe as bad of a night as he's had in a long time," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said that night. "He just never got going in any way, shape or form in the game."
Schofield entered last Saturday's Alabama game averaging 17.7 points per game this season on 53 percent shooting from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. He still ranks fifth in the Southeastern Conference at 16.7 points and leads the team with 37 3-pointers made.
But even as he has had his struggles, Schofield has found ways to affect the games. He did finish with 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Crimson Tide and had two tough shots go in late with the game on the line.
Against Vanderbilt, advanced stats suggest that Schofield was one of the best players on the floor. He was credited with six defensive stops — which estimates the total number of defensive possessions when the opposing team didn't score — which was second to Grant Williams. The two were tied in defensive rating, which is the points allowed by a player per 100 possessions.
But the Vols are ready to see again the player who had 30 points against then top-No. 1 Gonzaga, including the game-winning 3, in early December. The same one who followed up that performance with 29 points and 11 rebounds at Memphis six days later.
Because of that — plus the work he put in during the offseason — Schofield always expects his shots to fall. And eventually they will again.
"AD is an extremely hard worker," point guard Jordan Bone said Wednesday. "He just has to understand that every night isn't going to be his night. But he has to come ready to play every single game, no matter what the circumstances are.
"But he has to trust himself, his work ethic, that's he's going to be the player he can be."
Recruit James picked
Tennessee signee Josiah James was one of 24 players selected for the McDonald's All-American Game that will take place March 27 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
He's the eighth Vol to receive the honor but will be the first to play in the game since Tobias Harris in 2010. The others are Scottie Hopson (2008), Vincent Yarbrough (1998), Tony Harris (1997), Charles Hathaway (1996), Allan Houston (1989) and Doug Roth (1985).
The 6-foot-6, 200-pound James signed with the Vols in November and will wear No. 15 for the East team.