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SEC: Lofton leads Vols to victory

Associated Press
Published January 29, 2006


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl doesn't like calling timeouts to stop opponents' runs. That's the job of 3-point shooter Chris Lofton.

Lofton had 23 points, including consecutive 3s that ended a late run by South Carolina, to lead the No. 19 Vols to an 81-65 victory on Saturday.

South Carolina (11-9, 2-5 SEC) cut the lead to 55-52 with 8:34 left when Stephen McDowell's 3 capped an 8-2 run.

But Lofton hit two straight 3-pointers and C.J. Watson made two free throws to push the lead to 11 with 6:49 to go.

Pearl, in his first year at Tennessee, says he believes his team is conditioned enough to overcome runs.

"That's when we can separate and get on a run. Chris Lofton is a great example. I can't believe how open he got. I can't believe he made those shots," Pearl said. "Had I called timeout, I couldn't have given him a better look."

The Vols (14-3, 5-1) won their third straight.

A week ago, Tennessee defeated then-No. 2 Florida at home and set off a big celebration that resulted in the Vols getting back into the Top 25 and receiving a $5,000 fine from the SEC for fans running onto the court.

The crowd didn't swarm the court after beating South Carolina, but the fans were loud in cheering the first-place team in the SEC East.

The Gamecocks lost at home to the Vols earlier this month and couldn't maintain the momentum from beating Florida this week.

The Vols led the entire second half, but South Carolina kept chipping away at the lead. Tre' Kelley cut it to 69-63 on a 3-pointer with 3:10 left, and Dane Bradshaw answered for Tennessee with a three-point play.

Kelley scored again on a drive, but those were the final points in the game for South Carolina. Tennessee outscored the Gamecocks 9-0 over the final 2:20.

Andre Patterson had 13 points and 12 rebounds, Watson added 11 points and Stanley Asumnu had 10 for Tennessee.

Lofton, one of the best 3-point shooters in the SEC, didn't make a 3 until the second half. He finished 4-of-11 from beyond the arc.

"It seems the more tired Chris Lofton got, the better he shot," Pearl said.

AUBURN 66, GEORGIA 65: Ronny LeMelle hit two free throws with 22.9 seconds left to give the host Tigers their first SEC win in six tries. LeMelle hit his shots after freshman Quantez Robertson had missed six free throws in the final minute, which prevented the Tigers from putting the game away.

LSU 79, OLE MISS 73: The visiting Tigers made 13-of-15 free throws in the second half, were 9-of-9 from the line in the final 4:17 and finished with 24 points off 16 turnovers by Ole Miss.

ALABAMA 65, MISS ST. 59: The host Crimson Tide overcame 38 percent shooting for its fourth league win.