Cats Come Up Just Short Against Top-ranked Vols, 63-60

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- 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 Southeastern Conference.

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 points.

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 3 1/2 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.

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