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Lofton, JaJuan Smith help Tennessee get past Alabama

Jan 30, 2008 - 6:18 AM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith's outside shooting helped Tennessee get a rare win in Alabama.

Lofton had 23 points and Smith added 22 - including a key 3-pointer late - as No. 8 Tennessee held off the Crimson Tide, 93-86, in Southeastern Conference action on Tuesday.

Tyler Smith added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Volunteers, who had not won at Alabama since January 28, 1998.

Tennessee (18-2, 5-1 SEC East) had led throughout the second half but was unable to pull away until late in the game.

With the Volunteers leading by two, JaJuan Smith drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to stretch the Tennessee lead to 86-81 with 1:25 remaining. Alabama never got closer than four the rest of the way as Lofton and Smith each made a pair of free throws to help put the contest away.

"My teammates knew I was feeling it and they were just trying to get me the ball and get me some good looks," Smith told the Tennessean. "I was just making them at the right time."

For the game, Lofton made 5-of-9 attempts from the arc, topping the 20-point mark for the third straight game, and JaJuan Smith was 4-of-8 from the outside for his third 20-point game of the season. In his last three contests, Lofton is a combined 17-of-32 on 3-pointers.

The Volunteers led for the majority of the first half, taking their biggest advantage at 28-20 after a 3-pointer by J.P. Prince with 8:30 left in the half. But Alabama responded with a 13-3 run - capped by a layup from Richard Hendrix - to take a brief 33-31 advantage and the contest was tied at 33-33 at intermission.

Tennessee quickly took a 10-point lead on the heels of a 9-0 spurt at 45-35 on a dunk from Tyler Smith with just under 18 minutes remaining.

"I thought the first minute or two of the second half hurt us, because we had a couple of turnovers, missed a couple of shots and fouled them on a three-point play," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "Our guys battled with them hard, and I have nothing but praise for them as far as effort goes."

However, the Crimson Tide (12-9, 1-5 West) did not go away as Alonzo Gee scored eight straight during a 10-2 run that pulled Alabama within 51-49 with 12:36 left. Gee also became the 42nd Alabama player to top the 1,000 career scoring mark during that span.

"My teammates made plays for me and they were able to get me open," Gee said. "I was able to make shots. It was just me being aggressive on the offensive end. I feel like my teammates made great plays for me and got me open, and I was able to score."

Lofton nailed three consecutive 3-point attempts, the last of which gave the Volunteers an eight-point bulge before the Crimson Tide scored seven straight points to cut the deficit to 70-69 with 6:24 to play.

Tennessee committed a season-high 23 turnovers and were outscored 54-36 in the paint, but shot 69 percent (18-of-26) from the floor in the second half, including 9-of-12 from the arc.

It was also just the second win in its last 19 games in Alabama for the Volunteers.

"We couldn't let the game slip away," JaJuan Smith said to the Tennessean. "It's real tough to get big games on the road. Their fans were behind them like a sixth man. They were scrappy and came out hard. We just came out and fought with them."

Gee finished with 27 points and nine rebounds and Hendrix added 20 and 12 for Alabama, which shot just 16-of-27 from the foul line.

"I am extremely proud of our team," Gottfried said. "We are disappointed obviously, but they played hard. They absolutely played their hearts out tonight."