Lofton must keep firing

Somewhere on the trip from Knoxville to Baton Rouge Chris Lofton lost his shooting touch.

Tennessee's long-range bomber posted a career-low 2-point effort in Saturday night's 88-74 loss at LSU. He was 1 of 7 from the field and 0 of 5 from beyond the arc, failing to record a 3-point basket for only the second time in 44 games as a Vol.

Obviously, Tennessee needs for him to bounce back quickly since it has games against fifth-ranked Memphis (15-2) on Wednesday and second-ranked Florida (16-0) on Saturday).

Part of Lofton's problem against LSU was 6-foot-5 Garrett Temple, a long-armed freshman who generally kept him from getting good looks at the basket. That seemed to frustrate Lofton a bit.

"We put some stuff in; we called his number a bunch of times," Vol coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game radio show. "Length is a factor. It was a factor against Oklahoma State (when Lofton scored just 2 first-half points), and it was tonight. They put somebody really long (on Lofton) and somebody who could get a hand up."

After giving Temple's defensive work some credit, though, Pearl suggested Lofton could've been more aggressive.

"I thought there were some times when he was open, and he wouldn't pull the trigger," the coach said. "It's going to be hard to win when your best shooter has an off night like that, especially when you're playing on the road against a terrific team like this."

Long-range bombers tend to be a streaky bunch, and Chris Lofton was no exception last year as a freshman. He sank just 2 of 7 field goal tries vs. Stanford, 1 of 5 vs. UT-Chattanooga, 2 of 7 vs. Vanderbilt, 3 of 9 vs. Mississippi State, 1 of 5 vs. Auburn, 3 of 10 vs. LSU and 4 of 13 vs. Kentucky.

Of course, Lofton had a lot of great games last year, too. These enabled him to break the Southeastern Conference record for 3-pointers by a freshman (93) and break the school record for 3-pointers per game (3.00). He ranked No. 1 in the SEC and No. 4 nationally with a 46.5 shooting percentage beyond the arc.

Lofton's performances have been much more consistent this season. Prior to Saturday night he had made at least two 3-pointers in every game and had hit double figures in every game but one (6 points vs. Lipscomb).

Percentage-wise, his two worst shooting performances of the season (2 of 5 vs. Lipscomb, 1 of 7 vs. LSU) came in the two games in which he attempted the fewest shots.

There's probably a lesson there: When the shots aren't falling, keep shooting until they do.

This strategy worked awfully well in Game 12 against Georgia, when Lofton went 0 for 3 in a scoreless first half, then drained 6 of 8 en route to 16 second-half points.


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