Lofton the film critic

In an effort to break out of a confounding shooting slump, Tennessee's Chris Lofton has been watching film of college basketball's finest shooter ... himself.

The films he's watching won't win any Oscars but they just might win the Vols some basketball games. They revealed that the 6-2 All-American isn't using the same form this season that enabled him to hit 47.9 percent from the field and 41.9 from 3-point range this season. As a result, he's making just 35.6 from the field and 35.3 from beyond the arc this season.

"I've been spending a lot of time watching film of myself – this year and last year – and comparing how different it looks," he said recently.

The film study was prompted by head coach Bruce Pearl, who thought he noted some variation in Lofton's 2006-07 form and his 2007-08 form.

"Coach was telling me my elbow was out wide and I need to get it in," Lofton said, "and that I was kicking my leg out instead of just going straight up and down."

All shooters are streaky but Lofton's 3-point stroke has been unusually erratic this season. He made just 3 of his first 17 attempts, a frigid 17.6 percent. He seemed to snap out of his doldrums by hitting 20 of 46 attempts (43.5 percent) in Games 4 through 7. After going 1 of 3 in Game 8, however, he settled into something of a so-so groove, hitting 4 of 12 tries in Game 9, Game 10 and Game 11.

One thing is certain: Lofton's struggles can't be blamed on a lack of practice.

"He's been in the gym like crazy," Pearl noted.

Pearl has been in Lofton's face, too.

"I'm even on him a little bit about his shot selection and some of his preparation prior to the catch – squaring up to the basket and doing some things that great shooters need to do," the coach said. "He's accountable."

Lofton looked like his old self in the first half of Wednesday night's game with UNC-Asheville, draining 3 of 4 tries from beyond the arc. He seemed more relaxed and confident than at any time this season.

"It's really, really nice to see him feeling better about it," Pearl said.

Lofton's confidence – and his shooting streak – were short-lived, however. He made just 1 of 8 treys in the second half of Wednesday's game. So, when asked if he was ever concerned that his stroke wouldn't come around, he smiled sheepishly and replied, "It's not come around YET. Hopefully, if I continue to work, it'll come around."

Lofton's shot may not be falling as consistently as he'd like, but the 3-point marks in UT's record book are falling. He drained career 3-pointers No. 346, 347, 348 and 349 Wednesday, passing Allan Houston (346) to become the program's all-time leader in that category.

"It's interesting," Pearl said. "Allan Houston is probably as fine a student-athlete, person, Christian man as you'll meet. He's an amazing community servant. It just doesn't get any better.

"Chris Lofton is the same way, another tremendously high-character person. Both of them are pretty quiet and they both let their games do their talking."

Lofton's game has done a lot of talking the past two-plus seasons. After playing for a Buzz Peterson team that went 14-17 in 2004-05, he sparked a turnaround that has produced records of 22-10 in 2005-06, 24-11 in 2006-07 and 10-1 heading into today's 2 p.m. tipoff at Xavier.

"Chris has been a huge part of – if you want to call it – some sort of a resurrection," Pearl said. "Chris just wanted this program to be competitive. That's why he came here, and he made it competitive."


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