KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Chris Lofton scored 32 points and JaJuan Smith added 21 to help Tennessee beat Western Kentucky 93-79 Saturday.
The Volunteers (8-2) extended their winning streak to four after losing to North Carolina in the NIT Season Tip-Off over Thanksgiving. Tennessee had 10 days off since their previous game, a win over Memphis when Lofton scored a career-high 34 points.Reserves Ramar Smith added 15 points and Ryan Childress grabbed 10 rebounds for the Vols.The Hilltoppers (8-3) came close to beating a second Southeastern Conference team this season, but they could not sustain a rally.Western Kentucky, which won at Georgia but lost to Florida, cut it to 64-60 on Ty Rogers' 3 with 7:51 remaining.Lofton scored to start a 7-0 run and finished it with a three-point play that put Tennessee up by 11 with 5:54 left. The Vols continued to pull away in the final minutes.Meanwhile, Western Kentucky's top scorer, Courtney Lee was on the bench with four fouls.He led the Hilltoppers with 17 points while Jeremy Evans added 13 and Benson Callier had 10.Lofton finished 11-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. JaJuan Smith was 5-of-11 in 3-point shooting and tied a career high in points.Lee came into the game averaging 19.1 points a game, but he was hampered early in both halves with fouls.The Hilltoppers had the rebounding edge 38-27, and the Vols had trouble scoring in the post.Western Kentucky chipped away at the lead throughout the game.The Hilltoppers had a 7-0 spurt early in the second half that trimmed it to 52-47, and Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl immediately called a timeout. Lofton hit a wide-open 3 when played resumed, and the Vols were up by eight with 15:52 to go.Tennessee forced two straight shot clock violations, and Lofton scored four more points to push the lead to 61-49.Western Kentucky's last lead came at 21-20 midway through the first half, but Tennessee reeled off a 9-0 run. Duke Crews started it with a one-handed slam, and Lofton had two 3-pointers.The Vols stretched their lead to as many as 10 afterward, but the Hilltoppers battled back and had it down to 40-36 with 2:04 left before halftime. Tennessee scored the final seven points of the half to go up 47-36 at the break.