A week that began with a No. 1 ranking
was far from smooth for Tennessee.
Chris Lofton scored 14 points, including a jump shot with 1:15
left, and the Vols beat Kentucky 63-60 on Sunday to stay atop the
Tennessee lost to No. 18 Vanderbilt on Tuesday, three days after
beating then-No. 1 Memphis to take over the top spot in the poll
for the first time in school history.
The Vols squandered a big early lead in this one, then 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.
Tennessee (26-3, 12-2) 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 (16-11, 10-4) 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 on to the
lead for the rest of 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
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
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.