Feb. 11, 2006
Athens, Ga. (AP) - Riding the hottest streak of his career isn't Chris Lofton's idea of success.
"I don't want to be a streaky shooter," Lofton said after setting career highs with nine 3-pointers and 33 points to lead No. 11 Tennessee to an 83-78 victory over Georgia on Saturday.
Lofton was 9-of-12 from 3-point range, breaking Tennessee's record of 8 3s set by Allan Houston in 1989.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore had set career highs with 31 points and seven 3-pointers in a 75-67 win at Kentucky on Tuesday night. He leads the SEC with 3.5 3-pointers per game.
Asked if he had ever had such big games in the same week, Lofton - the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball at Mason County High - said "maybe in high school."
"I just get hot sometimes," he said. "I try to just stay hot."
Lofton was the difference as the Vols (18-3, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) won their seventh straight.
"He just won the game for them; he flat-out won the game for them," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said.
Lofton launched most of his 3s from the corner, many in transition but others over the hands of Georgia defenders.
"The guy is an incredible shooter," Felton said. "He's as good a contested shooter as I've ever seen."
With Florida's win over SEC West leader Louisiana State on Saturday, Tennessee has the best conference record.
The Bulldogs (14-9, 4-6), who trailed by 18 points midway through the second half, cut the lead to two points with 4:44 left.
Lofton's eighth 3-pointer pushed the lead to 71-65 with 3:14 left. He added another 3-pointer with 1:11 left for a 77-70 lead.
Levi Stukes had 20 points for Georgia, while Younes Idrissi added 14 and Sundiata Gaines 13.
Tennessee tries to overwhelm opponents with its constant pressing defense. It leads the SEC with a plus-7.20 turnover ratio, but Georgia's three-guard offense held up to the pressure most of the game.
Tennessee matched its season high with 23 turnovers, 10 more than Georgia.
"Georgia is pretty darn athletic," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "Their guards are terrific. When both teams are fresh, you have to give the advantage to Georgia. ... They were much quicker, much more athletic."
Even so, Tennessee took the lead by forcing Georgia to commit turnovers on five straight possessions in the first half. The Vols took advantage of the mistakes to score 12 straight points.
"At the beginning of the game it's tough to press them because they're fresh," Patterson said. "We wear teams out with defense."
Tennessee continued to pull away, taking a 62-44 lead midway through the second half.
Stukes, who scored 18 points in the second half, then led Georgia's rally. A layup by Mike Mercer with 4:44 left cut the Vols' lead to 67-65, but the Bulldogs could not pull even.
With 9:35 left in the first half, Georgia led 19-7 and had only one turnover, compared to nine for the Vols.
Tennessee's full-court pressure then finally began producing results as Georgia committed five straight turnovers, helping Lofton and the Vols storm back.
Lofton made 5 3-pointers in the first half, including three in the final 2 minutes, as the Vols had runs of 12-0 and 13-4 in taking a 38-29 halftime lead.
"We went a little soft," Felton said. "We started playing out of anxiety. We got a little panicky and fed their momentum."