- Tuesday, February 13 2007 -
Kentucky - 85 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 20th by AP and 18th by ESPN/USA Today]
Tennessee - 89 (Head Coach: Bruce Pearl) - [Unranked]
|Chris Lofton (*)||30||6||14||4||10||7||8||1||2||3||1||5||0||0||1||23|
Halftime Score: Tennessee 40, Kentucky 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Florida 61 - 64|||||Alabama 61 - 72|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Inside Edition: Easy points thwart UK rally
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Chris Lofton was back to his old tricks but it was the guys around him that made Kentucky wish they had caught Tennessee without its star shooter again.
Lofton sealed the Volunteers' wild 89-85 victory in front of 22,320 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena with five free throws in the final 30 seconds but it was the unexpected dominance of freshmen post players Duke Crews and Wayne Chism that was responsible for Tennessee's payback victory.
Playing just 16 days after UK rumbled past their southern neighbor for the worst loss in Bruce Pearl's tenure at Tennessee, the Volunteers flipped the script on the Cats. Crews and Chism scored just 11 points in Lexington on Jan. 28 but combined for an obscene 34 points on 14-of-21 shooting this time around. It matched the same total the energetic duo had against Texas earlier this season.
"We weren't being aggressive, plain and simple,"? junior center Randolph Morris said. "We were allowing the ball down there too easy. We scored a lot of points but we didn't stop them.
"We weren't clicking on both sides. What did they shoot? Forty-nine percent? Our defense was terrible. We weren't guarding anyone. They were just taking us off the dribble and dumping it inside."
After shooting 29.6 percent in the first meeting Tennessee looked like a completely different team in the rematch. Lofton's presence certainly caused UK to be more cognizant of the perimeter shot, but the ease with which Tennessee got to the rim was startling. The Vols had 18 points in the paint in the first half and then capped their upset by logging 10 of their last 11 made field goals as either dunks or lay-ups.
"We haven't really defended well the last few games and we've got to figure out why," UK coach Tubby Smith. "They just threw it in the post without being challenged. That makes it tough."
Morris, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, said he was at fault for the defensive lapses in the paint but Smith cited all of his players for the matador defense.
"I'm glad (Morris) is one to look in the mirror but there were other problems,"? Smith said. "Lots of times we got caught with a guard trying to defend the post and we didn't get any backside help."
While Tennessee was having its way inside the Cats were trying to claw their way back into another game after falling behind by 16 points. What was once a 21-21 game turned into a double-digit lead during a Tennessee perimeter party that saw the Vols knock down three-pointers on five straight possessions, including two wide open looks by Lofton. Two free throws by the Kentucky native pushed the lead to 53-38 with 15:31 left before the Cats staged another furious rally.
Feeding off a breakneck pace UK dropped its own flurry of triples and fearless drives to the basket. Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley had 16 straight points to slice the lead to 59-51 before the Vols pushed the margin back to 68-55 with 9:31 remaining. Crawford, who game into game averaging 22 points a game on the road in SEC play, then put the Cats on his shoulders and scored 11 of the Cats' next 13 points to pull within 70-68. Moments later UK scored on its 10th straight possession to tie the game at 79, but freshman Derrick Jasper missed a free throw on a potential three-point play that would have given UK its first lead in more than 24 minutes of game time.
Crawford finished with a game-high 24 points to notch his fourth 20-point game of the year on the road.
"I knew it was now or nothing and I had to put everyone on my shoulders," Crawford said.
Ultimately though, UK succumbed to a pair of recurring issues Ð turnovers and up-and-down play during the course of the game. UK turned the basketball over 19 times, none more critical than the back-to-back miscues Crawford and Bradley had in the final 1:29 with the Cats down three and looking to tie or pull within one.
"We had careless turnovers down the stretch when we were finally in striking distance,‰Û? Smith said. "You saw the turnovers, we were pretty careless with the ball. That in itself cost us.
"In close games you have to find a way to execute and finish plays and we aren't doing it. Guys panic."
Chris Lofton didn't panic. Nor did his buddies.
Joe Crawford tries to track UT's Chris Lofton