Lofton's lights-out

Chris Lofton's adjustment to Tennessee's new offensive system didn't take long. The hot-shooting 6-2 sophomore from Maysville, Ky,, flashed midseason form in Thursday night's exhibition opener against Southern Indiana.

Lofton hit from the wings and hit from the corners. He bombed from long-range and scored on shifty drives. He took shots off the dribble and off screens. He scored when he had open looks and he scored when he appeared to be forcing shots.

Lofton finished 7 of 11 from the field (4 of 8 from 3-point range) and 8 of 9 from the foul line – totaling 26 points in the Vols' 86-78 victory.

"Lofton was terrific," Bruce Pearl said.

That didn't surprise the first-year Tennessee coach, however. He's grown accustomed to seeing Lofton bury jump shots.

"Every time we scrimmage, every time we play, every time we keep score, Lofton goes off. EVERY time," Pearl said. "In practice he sort of fits in. But when the lights come on Lofton steps up."

Still, the low-key Lofton was typically modest when asked about his 2005 debut.

"I didn't play to the best of my abilities, I don't think," he said. "We didn't play that good as a team, and that was frustrating for me. We didn't execute well. Coach said I was too high accepting the ball out on the perimeter. But it was our first exhibition, so hopefully we'll grow and learn from this."

Lofton had 15 points by intermission. He got to 21 by nailing two 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half. Then he went 10 minutes without scoring, during which time Tennessee saw a 49-39 lead become a 65-60 deficit.

"I was a non-factor," he said.

That changed in the final minutes, however. He scored on a dazzling drive, was fouled and hit the free throw, giving Tennessee a 71-68 lead with 6:04 to play. Moments later, he drained a clutch 18-footer that padded the lead to 77-70 with 3:13 remaining.

Making Lofton's performance all the more impressive was the fact he got many of his points on his own. The Vols ran very few set plays designed for him.

"We've only got a couple of looks in for him," Pearl deadpanned. "We might have to put a few more in. He's quite a player … QUITE a player."

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