Cats Fall To Top-Ranked Tennessee, 63-60

By BETH RUCKER
Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Chris Lofton is tired and sore. It's
been that kind of week for him and his fellow Volunteers.
Tennessee hung on to beat Kentucky 63-60 on Sunday, in a week
that included the Vols' first No. 1 ranking in school history on
Monday and a loss to No. 18 Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
"That's college basketball," Lofton said. "It's something we
have to deal with and get over."
The Vols have played three straight games against their biggest
rivals, including a win over then-No. 1 Memphis, and needed the win
over Kentucky to stay atop the Southeastern Conference.
"Altogether, I think it was a great week for us, even though we
lost our No. 1 spot," Tennessee forward Tyler Smith said. "We're
still happy with where we're at."
With one more win, Tennessee (26-3, 12-2) will capture the SEC
East Division and a share of the conference title. But the Vols are
trying to earn their first outright SEC regular season championship
in 41 years.
All of that was put in peril when the Vols squandered a big
early lead against Kentucky (16-11, 10-4). Lofton scored 14 points,
including a jump shot with 1:15 left, as Tennessee hung on to avoid
consecutive losses for the first time this season.
Derrick Jasper hit a 3-pointer to cut the Vols' lead to 63-60,
but Jasper and Joe Crawford both missed 3-point shots in the final
20 seconds that would have sent the game to overtime.
"I thought it was in," Crawford said of his shot. "There was
no question in my mind."
Tennessee held a 34-27 halftime advantage after leading the
entire first half, but Kentucky tied it at 41 when Ramon Harris hit
a jumper while being fouled by Duke Crews.
Harris hit the free throw to put the Wildcats up 42-41 with
13:54 left.
The teams then traded the lead until Ramar Smith dunked the ball
to put Tennessee up 58-57 with 4:24 left. The Vols held onto the
lead the rest of the game.
"We showed enough poise down the stretch to win," said
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who donned his bright-orange sports
coat for the game.
Tyler Smith finished with 15 points for the Vols.
Ramel Bradley led Kentucky with 17 points. Perry Stevenson added
13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Harris finished with 12
points.
"It's a tough loss. We had the chance of winning against a very
good team on their home court," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie
said. "We played extremely hard, but we didn't get it done."
Always a bitter rivalry between bordering states, Tennessee
added pomp and circumstance by honoring former All-American Ernie
Grunfeld and retiring his No. 22 at halftime.
The rivalry between the Vols and Wildcats thrived when Grunfeld
and fellow All-American Bernard King played in the late '70s,
during the days of the so-called "Ernie & Bernie Show."
The Vols also dubbed the Sunday game Lofton's senior night, and
hung 408 tiny '3' signs around the rim of the upper deck at
Thompson-Boling Arena to represent each of his career 3-pointers
entering the game.
Lofton has averaged more than 19 points against Kentucky, who
snubbed the Maysville, Ky., native coming out of high school.
He hit his only 3 of the game on two attempts with 13:38 left in
the first half.
Tennessee jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, and the Vols built
the advantage to 20-5 on a putback shot by Ramar Smith with 11:22
left before halftime.
Tennessee managed only two free throws in 3½ minutes as Kentucky
scored nine points.
Bradley hit a jumper with the shot clock expiring to cut
Tennessee's lead to 32-27 with 1:16 left in the half.
The Wildcats were playing without freshman phenom Patrick
Patterson, who scored 20 points in their 72-66 win over Tennessee
in January.
X-rays revealed Friday that Patterson, who was averaging more
than 16 points a game, had a stress fracture in his left ankle and
will miss the rest of the season.
"With Patrick going down, everyone had to step up and do a
little bit more," Bradley said. "Everyone stepped up and did
their job and we had a chance."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Rob Location: London on Mar 5, 2008 at 03:43 PM
    I have watched Tenn play all year,and you are wrong TENNFAN,they did not have a bad game.Their numbers were better than most of the games they have played all year.If they played that bad,they don't deserve to be in the top 10 anyway.Ky's 1st game they have played this year that I have actually seen some heart and determination!!Go Cats!!!
  • by trish Location: beattyville on Mar 4, 2008 at 10:57 AM
    To tennfan: Maybe Tenn looked bad, cause Ky played them hard on their home court, I guess the other sec teams deserve to have a decent season, Ky is a young team, with a new coach, wait til next year, I love my CATS, and I Love the Way Billy G coaches! We are on our way to being a team to be reckoned with in the next couple years! GO BIG BLUE!
  • by Cat Fan Location: Berea on Mar 4, 2008 at 07:01 AM
    To the Tenn Fan, so what if we have had only a couple of bad seasons in the past 100 years. We will take that over one good season out of the last 100 any day!! It is so funny that all the rest of the SEC teams know the best way to make themselves look better is to try to make Kentucky look bad.
  • by Note to tennfan on Mar 4, 2008 at 05:22 AM
    Thank god you are a Tennessee fan. Your thrashing of the English language makes me cringe. Turn off the television and pick up a dictionary; you will be surprised the doors it will open for you.
  • by tennfan Location: eastky on Mar 3, 2008 at 09:10 PM
    well Im a vol fan will probably take some redneck statement here but you want ther truth well handle it that was tenn worst basketball game ive seen them play this yr but ill tell you one thing ky can not play fast bball if it aint slow they cant play and most teams play fast ball now so thats why ky cant play if they could play fast ball they would be better than 80 something anyway they by rights shouldnt have any chance for NCAA with their season even with the player out
  • by Sigra Location: Ft Wright , Ky on Mar 3, 2008 at 05:24 PM
    I have been a fan of Wildcat Basketball for almost 50 years. I have enjoyed the sweet taste of many exicting victories and the bitter taste of disapointing loses. But , Sunday's matchup with the Vols on their home court will forever stand out as one of the greatest efforts put forth by an undermanned Ky team . If it is true that there can be victory in defeat, the outstanding effort of this team surely represents a victory in my book .... My congratulations to the entire team and coaching staff . I feel that the mental attitude and toughness demonstrated on Sunday is an indication of great things to come in the future for the program ... It didn't hurt that the game was on national TV either ... I'm sure Ky gained a lot of respect from those watching the game and maybe even attracted the attention of some solid recuits to the program .... Great job WILDCATS !!!!!!
  • by steve on Mar 3, 2008 at 03:09 PM
    Good job guys i am proud of you unlike some peaple that wants to throw billy under the bus patience my freinds patience.
  • by Sandy Location: Owingsville on Mar 3, 2008 at 03:05 PM
    I am proud of Billy G and the Cats. They played with heart. I will keep on being proud no matter what. It is hard to play against the refs and a good team. If you play.... play fair!
  • by Donnie Location: Pike CUNTY on Mar 3, 2008 at 03:05 PM
    The cats played their best game of the season Sunday . They played with heart and pride . I'm for the cats win or lose . I would like to wish Patrick the very best in his recovery . Go cats .
  • by Steve Location: Lexington on Mar 3, 2008 at 02:19 PM
    I was QUITE SHOCKED at the level of play the Cats displayed in this game. They looked like a championship-calibre team there, and that was WITHOUT Patterson. Even though it was a loss, I feel that Billy G has finally proven that he can teach people to play hard and overcome obstacles, and should be around here for a long time to come. Tubby's team would've exploded with 2 minutes left.
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