Head coach Bruce Pearl was understandably elated.
"That's the best we've shot free throws," he said. "We were a team that was obviously struggling at the line."
Tennessee's earlier free-throw woes could be traced in part to the fact freshmen were taking many of the foul shots. Even sharpshooting junior Chris Lofton was struggling at the stripe, however. After missing just 11 free throws (in 101 attempts) through his first two years on campus, he missed 12 (in 47 attempts) through the first 11 games of 2006-07. An 89-percent foul shooter entering the current season, he was hitting just 74 percent 11 games into 2006-07.
Since that slow start, however, Lofton has hit 27 of 28 tries, including 13 of 13 against ETSU. Meanwhile, three rookies who struggled at the line earlier this season – Wayne Chism (6 of 6), Duke Crews (3 of 3) and Ramar Smith (3 of 3) – combined to make 12 of 12 vs. the Bucs.
"Wayne makes all six, Chris makes all 13, Ramar makes all of his, Duke makes all of his," Pearl noted. "That's some real progress there. A lot of guys stepped up and made foul shots."
Lofton's 13-for-13 effort broke the school's single-game record. Asked about the accomplishment moments after the game ended, however, he seemed unaware that he had achieved a milestone.
"I didn't even know," he said, smiling sheepishly.
Then, in typical Lofton fashion, he shifted the focus from his accomplishments to his shortcomings.
"I'm disappointed in how I played," he said. "It was a bad night, offensively and defensively."
Maybe, but it was a great night from the foul line, for Tennessee and for Lofton.
SUNDAY'S TIPOFF SET
Sunday's Southeastern Conference opener against Mississippi State will start at 4 p.m., with TV coverage provided by Lincoln Financial Sports (WVLT-TV in Knoxville).