Limiting Lofton

You know you've arrived when you score 12 points and everyone is asking, "What was wrong with him?"

Obviously, Tennessee's Chris Lofton has arrived. Tennessee's standout sophomore guard had a decent game Saturday against Arkansas, hitting 3 of 7 from the field and 2 of 5 from 3-point range en route to 12 points. That's just five below his season's average but considerably more is expected of Lofton since he went off for 31 points vs. Kentucky, 33 vs. Georgia, 25 vs. Auburn and 22 vs. Alabama the past two weeks.

Arkansas slowed Tennessee's transition game and kept Lofton under control for most of Saturday's game. As a result, one of the first questions UT coach Bruce Pearl fielded following the 73-69 loss to the Razorbacks concerned the modest scoring output from his star player.

"We try to use Chris in lots of ways to get other people open and to get him open," Pearl replied. "Keep in mind that Lofton also had a defensive assignment on (Jonathon) Modica and had to put forth a lot of effort because of the way they run their offense. He was chasing Modica the whole time."

Because he expended so much energy defending Modica, Lofton had a little less energy to expend trying to get open on the offensive end of the floor. In fact, all of the Vols expended a lot of energy defending the taller, fresher and more athletic Razorbacks. As a result, Lofton's teammates had less energy than usual to expend getting him the ball.

"We wear people down, getting them to cover us a little bit," Pearl noted. "Arkansas wore us down a little bit with their offensive execution. Then we weren't sharp enough or fresh enough to make the plays ourselves down the stretch. We were popped, and we were popped with about five or six minutes left to go in that game."

One thing is for certain: Lofton's shortage of shots wasn't because the Vols didn't try to get him open looks. The Razorbacks' tall and talented defenders simply did a great job of blanketing him.

"Arkansas's a very good team," Pearl said. "They could be a team that gets in the (NCAA) Tournament and makes some noise. They didn't play harder than we did – nobody does that – but they played hard enough."


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