No. 4 Ten­nessee tops Bull­dogs, 74-71

Lofton’s big sec­ond half helps Vols pre­serve win

The Covington News - - Sports - By Charles Odum

ATHENS — JaJuan Smith had a let­down from the best game of his ca­reer, but Chris Lofton wouldn’t let Ten­nessee have a let­down.

Lofton scorched Ge­or­gia’s zone de­fense, scor­ing 19 of his 22 points in the sec­ond half, and No. 4 Ten­nessee held on for a 74-71 win over the Bull­dogs on Satur­day.

Lofton made 5 of 7 3-point­ers af­ter half­time, and the Vols sur­vived when Sun­di­atta Gaines, who scored 23 points, missed a last-sec­ond 3.

Smith scored only two points on 1-for-7 shoot­ing, one game af­ter he set a ca­reer high with 32 in a win over Arkansas.

“It’s as sim­ple as this, there is no other two-player com­bi­na­tion in the coun­try that is as ex­cel­lent at mak­ing out­ra­geous, spec­tac­u­lar shots, de­fended, deep-range shots, as those guys,” said Ge­or­gia coach Den­nis Fel­ton of Lofton and Smith. “They’re very, very dif­fi­cult to deal with.”

Lofton, a se­nior, in­creased his South­east­ern Con­fer­ence ca­reer record for 3-point­ers to 398 with his six against Ge­or­gia, which tried to cover for a short­age of play­ers by stick­ing to a zone de­fense.

“I got in a rhythm at the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond half,” Lofton said. “I got great open looks and it just kept hap­pen­ing.”

Wayne Chism had 16 points and Tyler Smith added 12 points and 10 re­bounds as the Vols stretched their win­ning streak to seven.

Ten­nessee (23-2, 10-1) has the best 25-game record in school his­tory and has won eight straight in the se­ries with Ge­or­gia (12-11, 3-7), in­clud­ing a sweep of this sea­son’s two games.

Lofton was 1-of-6 from 3point range at the in­ter­mis­sion be­fore scor­ing 19 of his team’s 39 sec­ond-half points.

“That’s why he’s an Al­lAmer­i­can,” said Ten­nessee coach Bruce Pearl. “No ques­tion, Chris Lofton willed this win. Chris Lofton put this team on his shoul­ders in the sec­ond half. We were not go­ing to leave this build­ing with­out a win, and Chris Lofton saw to that.”

Gaines, who also had nine re­bounds and eight as­sists, played the full 40 min­utes and helped keep Ge­or­gia close.

Ge­or­gia was play­ing its third straight game with­out sus­pended start­ing guard Billy Humphrey fol­low­ing his ar­rest for un­der­age drink­ing. Gaines moved from point guard to fill in for Humphrey and scored 32, 27 and 23 in the three games.

Humphrey is cleared to re­turn for Ge­or­gia’s next game at Ken­tucky on Tues­day night, ac­cord­ing to Fel­ton, if his sore knee al­lows.

Ter­ranceWood­bury added 14 points for Ge­or­gia.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Su­per soph: Ja­cob Gise (23) pulls up for two of his 11 points over Ma­con de­fender Ant­wan Brant­ley on Fri­day at Ox­ford Col­lege.

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