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Lofton sets record in Tennessee's win

Dec 20, 2007 - 4:47 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- By the time Chris Lofton took down one school record, Tennessee was well on its way to doing the same to North Carolina-Asheville.

Lofton scored 24 points and became the school's career 3-point shooting leader in powering the 12th-ranked Volunteers to an 86-73 victory over the Bulldogs on Wednesday night.

Transfer J.P. Prince and JaJuan Smith added 13 points apiece and Tyler Smith had 12 as Tennessee (10-1) extended its home winning streak to 23 games - the fifth-longest in the nation.

Despite leading by as many as 27 points in the second half, the Vols had to stave off a furious late rally to win its fifth straight game.

"I was really really pleased with the first half, because we really really played well," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I would like to have kept going at that pace the rest of the way, not because of the margin it would have given us, but just to see us play consistent basketball.

The night, however, belonged to Lofton.

Needing two 3-pointers to shatter the school record for career 3-pointers held by Allan Houston, Lofton quickly tied the mark by hitting from the arc 2:40 into the game, giving him 346 for his career and supplying the Vols with a 9-0 lead.

The reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year then eclipsed Houston with a 3-pointer with 12:16 left in the half, helping push the lead to 20-6.

"Chris Lofton is an accountable player, and it was good to see him scoring well tonight," Pearl said. "We all know what a great player Allan Houston was, and Lofton is the same kind of quality person as Houston."

Although he has been mired in a shooting slump, hitting just 8-of-27 shots in his past two games, Lofton scored 13 in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting and buried three shots from the arc to stake Tennessee to a 42-26 lead.

Tennessee quickly opened a commanding lead with a flurry of 3-pointers at the outset of the second half.

Jordan Howell opened the half with a 3-pointer, JaJuan Smith connected on back-to-back shots from the arc and 6-10 freshman Brian Williams nailed one of his own - his first 3-point attempt of the season - to make it a 58-33 bulge just over four minutes in.

The Vols' lead crested at 27 points when Lofton fed Prince for an alley-oop slam to make it 64-37 with 13:45 left.

Tennessee then went cold and failed to scored a field goal in 6:45, allowing the Bulldogs to go on a 21-5 run and creep within 69-58 with 8:07 to play.

"I am not happy with the outcome of this game, but I am happy we ground it out in the second half and put ourselves in position to win," Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "We just need to execute better and hit some shots."

Williams finally ended the drought for the Vols, scoring on back-to-back possessions inside to restore the lead to 73-58 with just under 6 1/2 minutes to go.

UNC-Asheville kept chipping away and cut the deficit to 76-67 on a layup by John Williams with 3:19 to play. It was the first time the lead was under double digits since 13-4.

Lofton answered with a foul-line jumper and JaJuan Smith added a jumper to make it 80-67 with 1:40 to play.

The backcourt duo of K.J. Garland (22) and Bryan Smithson (21) combined for 43 points for UNC-Asheville (8-3), which had its two-game winning streak snapped.

"UNC Asheville is a good team that will enjoy a good year, and will compete for the championship in the Big South Conference," Pearl said. "We like to play against teams that have a chance to win their league titles. K.J. Garland and Bryan Smithson are very good players for the Bulldogs."

    --- --- -----
    UNC ASHEVILLE 26 47 73
    TENNESSEE (12) 42 44 86 FINAL

    Dec 19 9:30 PM


    Dec 19 8:20 PM