for this game

Lofton, Tennessee use big second half to rout Florida

Feb 6, 2008 - 7:10 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Florida set the early tempo, but Chris Lofton and Tennessee had the last laugh.

Lofton scored 26 points as the seventh-ranked Volunteers continued their success at home with a 104-82 victory over No. 22 Florida in the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday.

Tyler Smith and JaJuan Smith had 23 points apiece for Tennessee (20-2, 7-1 SEC East), which used a late burst to roll to its 28th consecutive win at home, tying for the second-longest streak in school history.

The record is 33 straight from between 1966-68.

The Volunteers also notched their best start in school history.

"What a great game. Anybody who talks about the SEC being down this year just needs to look at this game," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I appreciate the style, and I want to talk about it. Many conferences slug it out; but both Florida and Tennessee were committed to up-tempo basketball at its best."

"Tennessee is a good team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They have a lot of answers at a lot of different spots. They have two great shooters in Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, and Tyler Smith is a really hard matchup because of his athleticism, strength and experience."

Although the Volunteers went on to reach 100 points for the third time this season, the Gators were the team that was on fire from the start, scoring 16 of the game's first 19 points.

Freshman Nick Calathes and Dan Werner both had five points in that early stretch.

"At the start of the game, nobody was back defensively under the goal for us," Pearl said. "We did not put pressure upon their quarterback. It was my fault for the matchups in transition."

Although it lost the lead when Wayne Chism's 3-pointer knotted the contest at 30-30 with 10:10 remaining, Florida trailed for no more than two minutes and held a 48-44 advantage at halftime.

After the Gators shot 64 percent (18-of-28) in the first half, the Vols sizzled after the break. They took the lead for good behind a 14-2 run in the early minutes after intermission, going ahead 60-54 on two free throws by Tyler Smith with 14:17 left to play.

Florida managed to close within two points at 67-65 after a free throw by freshman Chandler Parsons with 10:29 remaining, but Tennessee later opened a 84-72 cushion when Lofton capped a 13-4 run with one of his six 3-pointers.

"In the second half, our experience was a factor," Pearl said. "With three senior guards - Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith, and Jordan Howell - the way this game came out should happen here in Knoxville. Tyler Smith was the separation in this ballgame; he elevates his play when the game is on the line.

The Vols later closed out the game with an 18-5 burst.

Despite being a matchup of who could outscore who, the contest did have its physical moments, as Tennessee's J.P. Prince was whistled for a technical foul after he took exception to a hard hit from Werner attempting a fastbreak layup with 9:18 remaining.

Calathes made both technical free throws to cut Florida's deficit to 71-68, but Ramar Smith answered with a dunk and Tyler Smith followed with a layup.

"When J.P. Prince got the technical foul, his teammates bailed him out, just as they do for me sometimes when I get a technical," Pearl said. "You are supposed to take a foul, dust yourself off and go to the line. I was not happy with the way Prince reacted."

Lofton finished 7-of-13 from the field and 6-of-11 from the arc en route to his fifth straight game with 20 or more points.

JaJuan Smith also made six 3-pointers as the Vols went 13-of-29 (45 percent) from the arc.

Marreese Speights had 23 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the Gators (18-5, 5-3), who lost for the third time in four road league games.

Werner scored 18 points and Calathes added 15, nine rebounds and eight assists for Florida, which shot 54 percent (28-of-52).

"Tonight was a great lesson for us because I thought in the Arkansas game we were not making shots, and it affected our mindset," Donovan said. "Here tonight, we shot the ball well, ran offense pretty well; I thought we executed pretty well, shot a pretty high percentage from the field, and we still lost by 20.

"It was good to see our guys come back and respond on a quick turnaround. I am not happy we lost, but I thought in the last six minutes we ran out of some gas, and our bench maybe could not give us a lift."