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Lofton scores 14 as Tennessee survives first-half scare

Nov 17, 2007 - 4:26 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tennessee and Chris Lofton turned around slow starts after the break.

Lofton scored 14 points and Ryan Childress added 14 and eight rebounds as the seventh-ranked Volunteers overcame a lackluster first half and beat Prairie View, 89-75, in the second round of the 2007 Legends Classic.

Tennessee will play West Virginia in the semifinals next Friday in Newark, New Jersey.

The 6-2 Lofton, who shot 44 percent from the arc and averaged about 17.0 points per game his first three years, entered the game with just 15 points while missing 9-of-10 3-pointers in the first two games this season.

The senior was off the mark early in this contest, missing all six of his shots from the field in the first half, including two from the arc, as Prairie View led, 36-35.

The Volunteers shot 33 percent (12-of-36) from the floor in the first half.

"It was one of those nights. I cannot say a lot of terrifically positive things, except to give Prairie View tremendous credit," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "Understand, we could have lost, but we did not.

"Our players will talk about it a lot, and they will not get beat for a while because they are not ready. We just were not prepared to play. Put the blame on me; it was a game we could have lost."

But the Volunteers (3-0) and Lofton responded after the break. Tennessee scored the first five points and extended the lead to 53-43 on Lofton's layup - his first basket of the game - with 15:16 left in the game.

"We took the lead at the start of the second half, and that was a key," Pearl said. "We had overwhelming talent that allowed us to be just good enough to win this game. This is not criticism; it is just a fact. Sometimes you have these nights."

JaJuan Smith scored five points during the five-minute spurt, Wayne Chism added two inside hoops and Childress a three-point play.

Lofton heated up his long-range stroke minutes later when he drained consecutive 3-pointers that lifted Tennessee to a comfortable, 75-63, lead with 6 1/2 minutes left. The Vols increased the edge to 79-64 just 90 seconds later on a layup by Chism.

Lofton finished with 14 points on just 3-of-12 shooting and made 2-of-6 from the arc. Ramar Smith added 10 points and 12 rebounds and Tyler Smith scored 13 points for Tennessee.

Aaron Smith had 21 points and connected on 5-of-7 from the arc for Prairie View (1-2), which connected on 11-of-19 3-pointers.

"We were happy to be up at the half, but we knew it was a 40-minute game," Prairie View coach Byron Rimm II said. "We were not just happy to be here, though. We were determined to win, to cause one of the biggest upsets in the country."

Prairie View scored the first five points of the game and led most of the first half before Tennessee scored the final six points of the half to pull within one.