"It's a formidable challenge WITH him," Bruce Pearl says.
Still, the Vol coach isn't ready to hoist a white flag just yet.
"Our formula for success is that everybody's going to have to do a little bit more," he says. "I thought we responded in the first half at Ole Miss; we played good basketball. We just ran out of gas."
Indeed. The Vols built a 38-28 halftime lead, then discovered the tank was empty. The Rebels outscored Tennessee 55-31 over the final 20 minutes to win going away, 83-69. Unless it plays significantly better on Sunday, the Big Orange (14-6 overall, 2-3 SEC) could get hammered by the 25th-ranked Big Blue (15-4, 4-2).
As Pearl notes: "What we have to focus on is ‘How can we defend better the second half? How can we score without Chris?'"
Senior captain Dane Bradshaw is aware how important Lofton is to the Vols. Still, Bradshaw believes he and his teammates can pick up the slack if their fallen superstar can't play Sunday in Lexington.
"Like we've been saying, it is all by committee," he says. "We all know how valuable Chris is but we have to survive without him. I'm confident we can get a win."