Lofton's 3-pointers push Vols

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 11:50 p.m.
Chris Lofton's toughest assignment Wednesday night might have been grabbing a post-game shower after Tennessee's 83-76 overtime upset of Florida in the O'Connell Center.
Moments after the Vols' win, Lofton returned to the court in uniform for high fives and a post-game interview with Tennessee's radio broadcasters on press row. Lofton followed that by answering questions from the media on the now-empty court. Finally, the Vols guard was greeted by a small group of Tennessee boosters waiting for him outside the team's locker room, where smiles and hugs were exchanged.
"It was fun," Lofton said. "This was a hostile environment."
But it was Lofton who put a hush over the O'Connell Center. The true freshman from Maysville, Kent., tied a career high with 22 points while shooting 6-of-10 from behind the 3-point line. Lofton buried the Gators by hitting consecutive 3-pointers to open overtime, calming a team that blew a late lead in regulation and had struggled on the road in recent years.
The win was Tennessee's first at Florida in five years, and just the second since 1991. The Vols wasted a six-point lead in the final two minutes but had enough toughness to put the Gators away in overtime.
"This was an emotional win for us," said Vols coach Buzz Peterson, whose team is 10-7 and 3-2 in the SEC. "After what we've been through, this is quite a feat."
And they showed it. As the final seconds ticked off in overtime, Vols juniors Andre Patterson and Jemere Hendrix stood up from Tennessee's bench and waved goodbye to the exodus of Florida fans. Minutes later, the Vols were heard celebrating inside their locker room.
"That was the coaches (leading the cheers)," Lofton said.
Count Lofton among those with reason to celebrate. The 6-foot-2 guard was leading the nation in 3-point shooting last week at a 56.3 percent mark. But Lofton had shot just 29.2 percent from 3-point range in his four previous games.
He tried to correct his shot by avoiding working out his lower body in the weight room during the past week. He said it helped.
"I could definitely feel more spring in my shot," he said.
Lofton is just 17 games into his collegiate career, but he's already earning a name for himself. Lofton is just the third Kentucky Mr. Basketball to play for Tennessee (Allan Houston and Jermaine Brown are the others) and has a big following in Maysville. Stores in the small Kentucky town are selling No. 5 Tennessee jerseys.
Wednesday night, the SEC's top 3-point shooter made a name for himself in Gainesville.
"Chris did a great job," Vols guard Scooter McFadgon said. "He did what he does best - he knocked down shots and made baskets for us."
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or at

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