Lofton's on fire

When Andre Patterson scored 11 first-half points Wednesday against Auburn, the Vol forward appeared well on his way to a career night. He scored just four points the rest of the way, however.

What happened?

"Chris Lofton!" Patterson answered, grinning broadly.

Lofton HAPPENED, all right. The sophomore guard took over the game in the second half, hitting 7 of 9 shots (6 of 8 from beyond the arc) and scoring 22 of his game-high 25 points in the final 20 minutes.

Lofton has drained 23 of 33 shots from 3-point range over the past three games, scoring 31 points vs. Kentucky, 33 vs. Georgia and 25 vs. Auburn. Vol coach Bruce Pearl has never seen anyone shoot so well from so far out for so long a period of time.

"No, I've never seen anybody have this kind of run like Chris," the coach said.

When Lofton gets into his "zone" he is unstoppable. At such times he seems to shoot even better under duress than he does when he's wide open.

"I was worried about his shooting percentage because he was getting open looks," Pearl quipped of the second half vs. Auburn. "He's better when they're guarding him."

Lofton responded in typical low-key fashion when asked what got into him during the second half of Wednesday's game.

"I don't know," he said. "I just got in a little rhythm there the second half. I was getting open looks and I started knocking ‘em down. I was really surprised. C.J. (Watson) and Dane (Bradshaw) were beating the pressure and getting me open looks."

Lofton took just three first-half shots vs. Auburn, making one. Did Pearl tell him at halftime to become more aggressive?

"No," Lofton replied. "He never talks to me about offense."

Lofton's performances against UK and Georgia earned him National Player of the Week recognition from ESPN and tons of attention from other media. He found all the fuss flattering but a little embarrassing.

"It's great attention but I really don't worry about what other people think," he said, smiling sheepishly. "I just have to continue to play for Tennessee and try to help my team win."

Lofton was so hot in the second half vs. Auburn that fans held their breath each time he launched a jump shot. Patterson had a different reaction.

"When Chris shoots it's like, ‘Should I box out or just start running back on defense?'" Patterson quipped. "His jumper's nice. I like joking him that he sold his soul to the devil for that jumper."

So, if you think Lofton is smokin' now ... just wait.

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