No. 4 Tennessee tops Bulldogs, 74-71
Lofton’s big second half helps Vols preserve win
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.
Super soph: Jacob Gise (23) pulls up for two of his 11 points over Macon defender Antwan Brantley on Friday at Oxford College.