Pearl cries foul

To say Alabama defenders "held" Tennessee's Chris Lofton to two first-half baskets Saturday in Tuscaloosa might be true in every sense of the word.

On his post-game show following the Vols' 92-79 loss to the Tide, UT coach Bruce Pearl said opponents are grabbing Lofton on a regular basis … without the infractions being called.

"I've been really quiet about the officiating," Pearl said.

The coach indicated he was not blaming Saturday's loss on uncalled fouls, noting that "We got beat tonight." Still, he said Lofton's ability to maneuver about the court is being unfairly impeded by opposing defenders. The coach implied that officials are so intent on the jostling that goes on under the backboards that they are overlooking the jostling that takes place on the perimeter.

"When there's a lot of contact inside (affecting) a great player, everybody in the building sees it and you can sort of protect him," Pearl said. "Chris is being held every possession, and they don't call it. Every possession they're holding him.

"You can't stop a guy from cutting or coming off a curl, put your hands on him like that. He's got no protection whatsoever, and he's one of the best players in the SEC, so we're going to have to look at that."

Pearl did not suggest there is a conscious effort by SEC officials to ignore fouls committed against Lofton. The coach indicated the problem is more of an oversight … an oversight he intends to correct.

"The officials are good," he said. "They want to be made aware of it. I'm going to have to make them aware of it, break some tape down, show it to them and say, ‘Hey, look. He can't hold him like this. He's a great player.'"

Over his last four games, Lofton has scored 31 points (at Kentucky), 33 (at Georgia), 25 (vs. Auburn) and 22 (at Alabama). Interestingly enough, he scored 19 of his career-high 33 points at Georgia in the first half eight days ago. Since then, he has been limited – or held, if you prefer – to 3 first-half points by Auburn and 8 first-half points by Alabama.

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