Lofton hits 33 to beat Dawgs

After matching his career-high with seven 3-pointers and setting a new career high with 31 points in last Tuesday's win at Kentucky, Tennessee's Chris Lofton had fans wondering what he'd do for an encore.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore answered that question emphatically Saturday in Athens, establishing a new personal record with 33 points and a new school record with nine 3's as the Vols held off Georgia 83-78.

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.

C.J. Watson, Lofton and Andre Patterson hit two free throws each in the final 33 seconds to seal the victory.

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.

Levi Stukes scored 20 to pace Georgia, which slipped to 14-9 and 4-6. Younes Idrissi added 14, Sundiata Gaines 13 and Mike Mercer 12.

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.

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