Lofton doubtful for Saturday at No. 1 Florida

Updated: February 2, 2007, 4:56 PM ET
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee guard Chris Lofton remained doubtful to play at top-ranked Florida on Saturday because of a sprained right ankle.

Lofton, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer at 21.5 points a game, injured his ankle Jan. 20 against South Carolina and has missed three games.

He dressed for the last game against Georgia, but coach Bruce Pearl said Lofton would have played only in an emergency. Pearl expects the same scenario in Gainesville.

"I'd say he's doubtful, but he's getting closer. He's making progress," Pearl told The Associated Press on Friday before the team left for Florida. "He'll be dressed and will go through layup lines and he'd be available in an emergency situation, but right now I don't think he's ready to play enough of a role to make a difference."

The Volunteers (15-7, 3-4) were struggling before Lofton was injured, going through a stretch when they lost five of six games before returning home Wednesday and beating Georgia.

Pearl has altered the starting lineup twice since Lofton's injury. He had freshmen forwards Duke Crews and Wayne Chism start together for the first time against Mississippi, but they both got into foul trouble early and Tennessee lost.

Guard Josh Tabb has started the past two games in place of Lofton, giving Tennessee three starters who are freshmen. Junior JaJuan Smith has helped make up for Lofton's absence by scoring more than 20 points in the past four games.

When Lofton was first injured, officials said the sprain was significant but didn't give a timetable for when he would likely return.

After Florida, the Vols have eight SEC games remaining in the regular season. Tennessee faces a tough task trying to repeating last season's sweep of the eventual national champions. Lofton scored 29 points in Knoxville and 16 in Gainesville in two victories a year ago.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press