Who needs open looks?

All that time Bruce Pearl spends designing plays to get open looks for Chris Lofton may be wasted. Lofton seems to shoot better with a hand in his face than he does with an open look.

The sharp-shooting sophomore admits that might be the case, noting that he feels he is more effective working for his own shot than getting shots off the pass.

"I think so," he said. "Off the bounce is more creating, and I like creating for myself, making some room and creating some space."

In addition, Lofton regularly shoots better in the second half of games than in the first. In Saturday's game with South Carolina, for instance, he was 1 of 6 in the first half, 6 of 9 in the second half. Pearl says the 6-2 gunner shoots better when he's tired than when he's fresh.

Lofton thinks that idea may have merit. The longer he stayed on the floor against Carolina, the better he seemed to shoot.

"I might have," he conceded, grinning sheepishly. "I got a little winded out there. I've just got to try to get in better shape and be ready."

After making 1 of 5 first-half shots earlier this season at LSU, Lofton went into a shell. He attempted just two second-half shots, missing both. He scored a career-low 2 points that evening and, not coincidentally, the Vols lost by 14. Teammates worried he might go into a shell again after Saturday's poor first half against Carolina, so they encouraged him to keep firing.

"That's what people was telling me in the locker room," he said. "I listened to ‘em and kept shooting. They finally started going down for me."

Lofton often produces points in spurts, and that certainly was the case against Carolina. He scored back-to-back buckets on a drive and a 17-footer as Vols surged ahead 53-44. When the Gamecocks closed to 55-52, he drained back-to-back 3-pointers, widening the gap to 61-52.

"I think that put a little dagger in ‘em, hitting those 3s," he said, grinning softly.

Asked about his knack for making buckets in bunches, Lofton replied: "I guess it's adrenaline. When I knock one down, the next time I'm going to try and look for my shot again, try to hit it if I'm open. That's what I did."

Lofton attempted a shot from nearly 30 feet against Florida and made one from roughly the same distance against South Carolina. Is there a shot he won't take?

"If I'm in rhythm and I feel good, I'm going to let it fly from wherever I am," he said.

Chris Lofton's value is immeasurable. With him struggling, Tennessee scored just 33 first-half points against the Gamecocks. With him clicking, the Vols scored 48 second-half points. Asked if he relished the second half, he chuckled.

"I relished it a lot because I played awful the first half," he said. "I was thinking I had to have a better second half so I wouldn't be embarrassed."


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