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Lofton hits seven 3-pointers as Tennessee routs Georgia

Jan 27, 2008 - 5:16 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Chris Lofton was unable to prevent the loss of Tennessee's 11-game winning streak the last time out. The senior guard was not going to watch another one end.

Lofton hit seven 3-pointers en route to a season-high 27 points as the fifth-ranked Volunteers rolled to an 85-69 victory over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday.

Tyler Smith chipped in with 17 points, seven rebounds and a career-high nine assists for Tennessee (17-2, 4-1 SEC East), which captured its 27 straight contest at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Lofton and the Volunteers had been on an 11-game tear overall before absorbing a 72-66 setback at Kentucky on Tuesday. Tennessee made only three field goals in the final 10 minutes and was held to its lowest scoring output of the season.

"It was important that we bounce back from the loss Tuesday night at Rupp," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "Georgia had only one loss. In terms of the loss column, they were in the top four in the SEC. They were coming off of home wins over Alabama and Arkansas."

Despite the offensive issues, Lofton was still able to become the SEC's all-time leader in 3-pointers, sinking his 367th with just four seconds remaining.

The reigning player of the year in the SEC, Lofton went 5-of-10 from the arc in the loss to the Wildcats, but has struggled with his shooting touch for most of the season.

The Wooden Award candidate gave some indication that those problems may be over, knocking down three of his first four from the arc in leading Tennessee to a commanding 24-9 lead with just under eight minutes remaining.

"It is great to see Chris Lofton play so well," Pearl said. "Lofton put it on himself to have a good game tonight."

Lofton kept up the sizzling display, making another three on four attempts in the remainder of the first half en route to leading his squad to a 44-23 lead at the break.

"Chris Lofton ended up getting some quality shots in tonight's game," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "I feel as though he got going mostly against our zone. He got some good step-in looks facing the basket. He certainly made a couple tougher than that, but unlike past experiences with him, he probably got some better quality looks in this game than he has in the past."

The Bulldogs (11-6, 2-2), who tied a season low for first-half points, did have a 7-0 run to close within 59-40 with 10:46 remaining. However, Lofton hit another shot from the arc and J.P. Prince and Smith combined for three dunks for a 68-43 cushion with 9:18 to play.

Lofton finished 9-of-17 from the field, including 7-of-13 from the arc. He increased his career total of 3-pointers with 374, moving into 10th place on the all-time list.

Playing in his first game since December 4 due to a heart condition, Duke Crews had nine points and eight rebounds. The 6-7 sophomore received a very warm welcome from the crowd when he entered the contest.

"The response to Duke Crews' return was very heartening," Pearl said. "To think that he had nine points and eight rebounds. He gives us some physicality and we need it."

Sundiata Gaines had 20 points for Georgia, which went 4-of-22 on 3-pointers en route to dropping its third straight road game.

Billy Humphrey and Dave Bliss added 15 points apiece for the Bulldogs, who shot 41 percent (26-of-64) overall and committed 21 turnovers.

"There is no doubt they have a lot of athletes, and there is no doubt they forced a lot of turnovers," Felton said. "That is something they have been successful doing all year. But I just felt as though we did not play well at all. There were far too many times when we just were not strong and decisive and did not handle the ball with authority."