Gator killer

The key to beating Florida Wednesday night in Gainesville is pretty simple for the Tennessee Vols:

Keep Chris Lofton healthy between now and the game's 9 p.m. tipoff. He's a bona fide Gator killer.

Florida has an 89-12 record and back-to-back national titles to show for the last three seasons, yet the Gators are 1-4 against Tennessee during that span ... 0-4 when Lofton plays. The Vol senior missed UT's 2007 loss at Gainesville with a sprained ankle.

Lofton has given some of his best career performances against Florida. With one shot at the Gators remaining, he is hitting 53.4 percent from the field against them, shooting 51.0 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 17.4 points per game.

Moreover, the O'Connell Center resembles a home away from home for Lofton. In fact, his numbers are better there than at Thompson-Boling Arena. He is hitting 52.2 percent (12 of 23) from the floor and 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from 3 in two previous appearances at Florida's gym, while averaging 19.0 points per visit.

"I don't know what it is; I just like the setting there," Lofton said. "It's a great setting there. We always go in the night before and I try to get a good rhythm."

Only one SEC East venue has proven more to Lofton's liking – Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. In four road games at Georgia's gym he hit 55.1 percent (27 of 49) from the field and 56.6 percent (21 of 37) from 3, while averaging 20.8 points per game.

Here's how Lofton has fared at the other SEC East venues:

At Kentucky's Rupp Arena he has hit 51.0 percent (25 of 49) from the field, 51.5 percent (17 of 33) from 3 and averaged 24.0 points per game.

At South Carolina's Colonial Center he has made 44.4 percent (16 of 36) from the field, 36.0 percent (9 of 25) from 3 and averaged 11.7 points per game.

At Vanderbilt's Memorial Coliseum he has connected on 49.2 percent (32 of 65) from the field, 42.9 percent (18 of 42) from 3 and averaged 22.7 points per game.

Basically, Lofton's stats show he generally shoots the best in the games that matter the most. He seems to step his game up a notch when the stakes are highest.

"I guess you could say that," he said, grinning sheepishly. "But every time I step on the floor I try to do whatever it takes to help us win."

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