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January 29, 2008

No. 7 Tennessee escapes Alabama

Box score

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith got hot from the outside in plenty of time to bail No. 7 Tennessee out of serious trouble.

Lofton had five 3-pointers and 23 points and Smith added four 3s and 22 points to lead the Volunteers to a 93-86 victory over Alabama on Tuesday night, averting a second upset loss in six days.

The Vols (18-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) blew most of a 10-point lead but went 9-of-12 from 3-point range in the second half.

The Crimson Tide (12-9, 1-5) managed to pull within two points five times in the final 7 minutes, but never grabbed the lead.

Richard Hendrix's inside basket made it 83-81 with 1:45 left. But Smith hit a 3-pointer and Lofton added two free throws with 59 seconds left for an 88-81 lead.

The Vols, who lost at Kentucky last week, shot 69 percent from the field in the second half to overcome a season-high 23 turnovers.

Lofton and Smith both hit three 3s in the last 11 minutes.

The Vols had lost 16 of their last 17 trips to Coleman Coliseum and hadn't won here since 1998.

Tyler Smith had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee, which had a 45-36 rebound advantage. JaJuan Smith had five steals and was 4-of-7 on 3s while Lofton went 5-of-9 and has made 12 3-pointers in the last two games.

The Vols also went 19-of-28 from the free throw line.

Alonzo Gee led Alabama with 27 points, 21 in the second half, and had nine rebounds. Hendrix had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Mikhail Torrance and freshman Senario Hillman both had 12 points.

The Vols broke a 33-all halftime tie with a 12-2 run. It was capped by Ramar Smith's behind-the-back pass to Tyler Smith for a dunk.

Gee kept the Tide in the game by scoring 13 points in a 6-minute span after Tennessee built a 10-point lead.

The Vols had finished a sloppy first half cold. They took a 28-20 lead on a 3-pointer by J.P. Price with 8:38 left, then managed only one more field goal and two free throws after that.

Tyler Smith's two foul shots with 8 seconds left sent it into halftime tied. The teams committed 12 turnovers each in the fast-paced half after Alabama had only four in its last game against Auburn.

For more coverage of Tennessee, visit VolQuest.com; for more on Alabama, visit BamaOnLine.com.

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