Lofton finished 10 of 14 from the floor and nine of 12 from beyond the arc. Probably his biggest bucket was a 3-pointer with 3:10 to go that boosted a three-point lead to 71-65. He nailed another 3, nudging the lead to 77-70 with a minute remaining, then scored his last two points on a pair of free throws with 22.6 seconds left, moving the score to 81-75.
"This is a great win," UT coach Bruce Pearl said on his post game show. "Not just because of where it is on the schedule and us being in the championship race … it's a great win because of how good that Georgia team is."
It was a game of spurts. Georgia streaked to a 19-7 lead midway through the first half but Tennessee responded with a 12-0 tun that tied the score at 19. After two buckets by Georgia, Tennessee went on a 19-4 explosion. Lofton hit four 3's during the outburst, including three in a row that expanded UT's lead from 29-27 to 38-27.
The Vols led 38-29 at the break and bumped the margin to 18 (54-36) five minutes into the second half. The lead was still 18 points (62-44) when the Dawgs switched to a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap that stopped Tennessee's transition game and dramatically shifted the game's momentum.
Georgia made a 14-1 run that narrowed the gap to 63-58. The Bulldogs eventually whittled three more points off the deficit, pulling within 67-65 with 4:35 remaining.
"We've got good stuff to run against the 1-3-1," Pearl said, "but we didn't execute it. And we really hadn't faced a 1-3-1 since Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 25)."
The Vols finally turned the tide. Dane Bradshaw hit a free throw and Lofton drained a pair of 3's to spark a 10-5 spurt that gave Tennessee a little breathing room.
Patterson chipped in 15 points, Watson 11 and JaJuan Smith 10 for Tennessee, now 18-3 overall and 9-1 in SEC play. Amazingly enough, Watson did not record an assist.
Tennessee outshot Georgia 53-46 percent from the field and outrebounded the Bulldogs 37-25. The Big Orange committed an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers, its most since the season opener against ETSU.
The win gave UT a sweep of the Dawgs, who lost 89-76 in Knoxville on Jan. 11. The Vols previously swept South Carolina.
Tennessee hosts Auburn Wednesday night at 7:30.