KNOXVILLE — The adjustment Tennessee senior guard Jordan Bowden was asked to make this basketball season is unique among the current Volunteers.
Largely viewed as a complementary player during the early stages of his collegiate career, the 6-foot-5, 193-pounder known for his jump shot was thrust into an unfamiliar role this year. He was expected to be a leader and a primary scorer for the Vols, who had four players move on to NBA opportunities from last season's 31-win team that reached the Sweet 16.
Bowden and Lamonte Turner were no longer only part of opponents' game plans — stopping them was the game plan. Opponents this season have stuck their best defenders on Turner, the team's best creator, and Bowden, the team's best shooter, then dared the rest of the Vols to beat them.
"You've got to be ready for that," Bowden said recently. "Lamonte and I are getting game-planned a lot, and it's not something we're used to coming from last year, so we've got to be ready for that and take advantage of the slip-ups."
Now, with Turner announcing after the Vols' most recent game that he has elected to have season-ending surgery to treat a lingering condition, all eyes will turn to Bowden, the team's leading scorer at 13.5 points per game.
The Vols (8-3), who host Wisconsin (6-4) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, will continue to work to put winning combinations on the floor and provide options in addition to Bowden, the lone active senior remaining on the roster.
What Tennessee lost in Turner was its most dangerous threat on offense, even with shoulder problems. What Bowden lost was the teammate best suited to deliver him the ball in scoring situations. Of Bowden's 51 baskets this season, 26 were assisted by Turner, who had 78 assists this season.
Junior forward John Fulkerson has six assists to Bowden this season; no other player has as many as two.
The onus will not be on Bowden to do more, though. He is who he is: A player whose jump shot makes him dangerous coming off curl screens because of his mid-range ability, which also opens up opportunities for passes to post players for easy layups if opposing defenses overcommit.
"We've asked a lot of Jordan," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Monday. "You think about it — that guy has had a terrific career. It's going to be more of what the other guys have to do."
For Tennessee to be successful on offense, alternative scoring options must emerge. A class of four freshmen — Davonte Gaines, Josiah-Jordan James, Olivier Nkamhoua and Drew Pember — has just one more game remaining before getting a first taste of Southeastern Conference play when LSU comes to visit on Jan. 4.
"I think the key will be our frontline guys will need to be more and more productive, which I think the last couple games they've done that," Barnes said. "Then you go back and look at our guard play. Josiah, I think, has settled in more. I think Davonte Gaines is starting to settle in more. I still think Olivier is a guy that is going to continue to make big jumps for us, and we need him to."
More than ever.