Basketball Vols Seeking First Tournament Title Since 1979

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - by special report to The Chattanoogan

KNOXVILLEL -- Tennessee enters the 2008 Southeastern Conference Tournament as the Eastern Division’s No. 1 seed and will meet the winner of Thursday’s South Carolina - LSU game at 1 p.m. EST Friday, March 14, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

The Vols will be looking to end a three-game losing streak in the SEC Tournament. Since being eliminated from the 2005 tournament in the quarterfinals by Kentucky, Tennessee has lost its opening round games (South Carolina in 2006 and LSU in 2007) in each of the last two years.

The Vols are 0-3 when playing as the top seed in the East.

The Vols’ 28 wins this season have eclipsed the previous school record of 26 set in 1999-2000. Tennessee reached the 20-win milestone faster than any team in school history. UT’s 14 SEC wins are its most-ever in a 16-game conference schedule.

UT’s 14-2 league record earned the school its ninth regular season SEC title. It is UT’s first conference crown since 1999-2000 and the first outright (no ties) title since 1966-67. The Vols won their second SEC Eastern Division championship in the last three seasons and their fourth overall.

Chris Lofton and Tyler Smith were named first team All-SEC by the league’s coaches. JaJuan Smith earned second team All-SEC honors and was named to the league’s All-Defensive team. J.P. Prince was tabbed the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year and Bruce Pearl earned a share of the SEC Coach of the Year honors.

Lofton has passed Dale Ellis (2,065 points from 1979-83) for fifth on Tennessee’s all-time scorers list with 2,067 career points. The Maysville, Ky., native ranks third in NCAA history with 419 career 3-pointers and his 106 triples this year are tied for second on UT’s single-season charts.

Tyler Smith leads the Vols in rebounding (6.8 rpg), assists (3.5 apg) and field goal percentage (.533) while ranking third on the team with 13.3 points.

Tennessee Trends

Bruce Pearl will be coaching his 498th career game Friday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.

UT’s 560 assists this season are the most in school history, breaking the school record of 546 (in 35 games) set in 2006-07.

UT’s schedule is ranked as the most difficult in the nation by kenpom.com.
Tennessee’s 28 wins this season are the most in school history.

Tennessee’s 14 SEC wins are the most since the league went to divisional play in 1991-92. It is the most UT has ever had in a 16-game conference schedule.

For the first time since SEC divisional play started in 1991-92, UT posted a 6-0 record against the West.

Bruce Pearl’s 74 wins in his first three years at Tennessee are the most by a Tennessee coach in his first three seasons in Knoxville.

UT has won 12 games away from home this season (12-3).

Tennessee has outrebounded 11 of its last 13 opponents and owns a +5.9 rebounding advantage during those games. The Vols are averaging 15.6 offensive rebounds during the stretch.
Chris Lofton is shooting 46.9 percent (61-of-130) from 3-point range in his last 15 games.

Tennessee’s last 18 opponents have combined to shoot 104-of-349 (29.8 percent) from 3-point range.

Vanderbilt entered its Jan. 17 game against the Vols as the SEC’s top 3-point shooting team but made just 3-of-21 and Ohio State went 2-of-20 behind the arc.

Only four Vols have fouled out of Tennessee’s first 30 games despite having a player record their fourth
foul 49 times.

Tennessee is averaging 22.2 points per game off turnovers this season (687 points in 31 games).

Tennessee’s 82.5 points per game are leading the SEC for the third consecutive year. Pearl’s teams have led their league in scoring 15 of his 16 years as a head coach.

Tennessee is the only team in the SEC that does not have a player ranked among the league’s top 30 in minutes played. UT has eight players averaging at least 15 minutes per game.

Tennessee has forced an average of 18.7 turnovers off an SEC-best 9.48 steals per game this year.

UT leads the SEC with 18.06 assists per game.

Six different players have led the Vols in scoring this season.

UT’s home attendance has grown for the third consecutive year. The Vols are averaging 20,267 fans per game, up from 19,661 last season.

Tennessee is 45-2 at Thompson-Boling Arena since the start of the 2005-06 season.

UT has a 32-game homecourt winning streak. The Vols’ last home loss was a 78-80 decision to Kentucky in the final home game of the 2005-06 season.
The Vols are 23-0 in non-conference home games under Bruce Pearl.

Bruce Pearl is 15-7 against ranked teams while at Tennessee.

The Vols have made at least one 3-pointer in 350 consecutive games.

Under Bruce Pearl, UT is 67-5 when leading or tied with five minutes left in the game.

UT is 49-4 when scoring 80 or more points under the direction of Bruce Pearl.

Tennessee has an all-time record of 1,419-906-2 in its 99th season of
basketball.

UT’s 634 regular season SEC victories rank third all-time in the SEC. Only Kentucky and Alabama have won more league games.

Tennessee is 245-86 in its 21st season in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols have winning home records in 18 of their 20 seasons in the facility.
Tennessee is the only Division I school ever to rank in the top five nationally in attendance for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball in the same season. The Vols turned the trick for the fourth time in 2006-07.
UT In The SEC Tournament

The Vols are 54-43 all-time in the SEC Tournament … Since the tournament was renewed in 1979, the Vols are 19-28 ... Tennessee’s four SEC

Tournament titles are the third-most of any league member … Only Kentucky (25) and Alabama (6) have won the tournament more times … Only Kentucky (110 wins) and Alabama (55) have more SEC Tournament victories.

Tennessee As The East’s No. 1 Seed

The Vols are the SEC East’s No. 1 seed for the fourth time since league expansion in 1992 ... The Vols also earned the East’s top seed in 1999, 2000 and 2006 ... UT is 0-3 as the top seed, losing to West No. 4 Mississippi State 56-62 in 1999, East No. 5 South Carolina 68-75 in 2000 and East No. 5 South Carolina 71-79 in 2006.

Vols In Atlanta

The Vols are 7-11 all-time in the SEC Tournament when it is played in Atlanta ... UT is 25-43 all-time when playing in Atlanta ... Since 1964-65 the Vols are 8-10 when playing in Atlanta.

Working For The Weekend

A win Friday against either South Carolina or LSU would give the Vols their first SEC Semifinal appearance since advancing to the finals of the 1991 SEC Tournament ... Tennessee is 0-11 in Quarterfinal games since the 1991 SEC Tournament.

Vols Win 9th SEC Title

With an 89-86 victory at Florida March 5, Tennessee secured its ninth Southeastern Conference regular season championship and the school’s first since in eight years ... It is UT’s first outright title (not shared with any other school) since the 1966-67 squad won the conference crown with a 15-3 league record ... Tennessee has won SEC titles in 1936, 1941, 1943, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982 and 2000 ... The Vols won their fourth SEC Eastern Division title, including their second in three years under the direction of head coach Bruce Pearl.

Lofton Breaks SEC 3-Point Record;
Ranks 3rd In NCAA History

Chris Lofton became the Southeastern Conference’s all-time 3-point leader against Kentucky (1/22/08), passing Arkansas’ Pat Bradley ... Lofton’s 419 career treys rank first in SEC history and are third all-time in the NCAA record books ... He became just the seventh player in NCAA history to make 400 career triples ... The senior has made 106 3-pointers this season ... He holds Tennessee career records for 3-pointers made (419), attempted (979) and percentage (.428).

He leads the Southeastern Conference with an .842 free throw percentage.
Second in the SEC with 3.42 3-pointers per game.

His 106 3-pointers this year are tied for second on UT’s single-season lists. He holds four of the top five single-season marks in school history.
Led the SEC in 3-point percentage (47.0), free throw percentage (.872) and 3-pointers made per game (3.88) in league games.

His 17.9 points in SEC games ranked fifth in the league.

Broke the SEC record for career 3-point attempts at LSU (2/9/08). Has 979 career 3-point attempts.

Passed Dale Ellis for fifth on UT’s career scoring lists against South Carolina (3/9/08) and currently has 2,067 points.

Earned first team All-SEC honors for the third time in his career. Joins Len Kosmalski, Ernie Grunfeld, Bernard King, Reggie Johnson and Allan Houston as UT’s three-time first team All-SEC picks.

Lofton Reaches 2,000-Point Milestone

Chris Lofton became the sixth Vol to score 2,000 career points when he reached the milestone in the second half of the Vanderbilt game (2/26/08) ... The senior ranks fifth in Tennessee history with 2,067 career points ... He became the first Vol to reach the milestone since Allan Houston (1989-93) and the first Southeastern Conference player since South Carolina’s B.J. McKie (2,119 points) reached the mark during the 1998-99 season ... Other Vols who have scored 2,000 points include: Houston (2,801), Ernie Grunfeld (2,249), Tony White (2,219), Reggie Johnson (2,103) and Dale Ellis (2,065).

Vols’ 28 Wins Are Most In School History

Tennessee’s 28 wins this season are the most single season wins in school history ... It is the third consecutive year the Vols have won 20 or more games and the 21st time in school history ... It is the 15th time in 16 years as a head coach Bruce Pearl has won 20 games ... Pearl has averaged 24.4 wins in his 16 years as a head coach and 24.7 in three years at UT ... Three of the seven winningest teams in Tennessee history have been coached by Bruce Pearl.

Turning Up The Heat

Tennessee is forcing its opponents to turn the ball over an average of 18.7 times per game which is among the most in the nation ... The Vols are averaging 22.2 points per game off turnovers this season (687 points in 31 games) ... UT’s turnover margin of +5.97 easily leads the SEC.

Looking At LSU

The fourth seed in the West, LSU posted a 13-17 overall record and a 6-10 mark in league action ... Second team All-SEC selection Marcus Thornton ranked second in the league with 19.7 points ... His 21.6 points in conference games led the SEC ... The Tigers finished the regular season strong by winning four of their final five games.

Looking At South Carolina

South Carolina earned the No. 5 seed in the East with a 13-17 overall record and a 5-11 mark in SEC play ... Sophomore point guard Devan Downey, a first team All-SEC selection, ranks third in the league with 18.3 points ... He leads the SEC with 3.17 steals and is second with 5.20 assists per game ... Mike Holmes, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, leads USC with 5.7 rebounds per game.

Bernard King Named SEC Legend

Considered one of the greatest players in Southeastern Conference history, Bernard King will be honored as one of 12 Chick-fil-A SEC Basketball Legends at the SEC Tournament ... King will be honored at halftime of Tennessee’s opening game on Friday, March 14 ... King earned first team All-America honors in each of his three seasons at Tennessee, including consensus All-America honors following his junior campaign in 1977 ... The three time SEC Player of the Year teamed with Ernie Grunfeld to comprise the “Ernie and Bernie Show” ... He finished his career ranking second all-time at Tennessee with 1,962 career points and 1,004 rebounds ... He led the Southeastern Conference with 25.8 points and 14.4 rebounds per game as a junior and 26.4 points as a freshmen ... The Brooklyn, N.Y., native went on to play 14 seasons in the NBA where he made four All-Star appearances and led the league in scoring with 32.9 points in 1985.

Balanced Offense

Tennessee is the top scoring team in the Southeastern Conference but list only one player among the top 10 scorers in the league ... UT leads the SEC with 82.5 points per game but leading scorer Chris Lofton ranks 10th in the league with 16.0 points ... Tennessee also leads the SEC with 18.06 assists per game but UT leader Tyler Smith ranks 12th with 3.45 assists per game.

The Vols have had four or more players reach double figure scoring in a game 16 times this year. Five or more players scored at least 10 points four times. Six different players have led the Vols in scoring this season.

Vols Rank 6th Nationally In Assists

UT is prominently listed among the national leaders according to the March 11 NCAA statistics.

Assists per game: 18.1 apg / 6th
Assist-Turnover Ratio: 1.42 / 6th
Scoring offense: 82.5 ppg / 7th
Steals per game: 9.5 spg / 9th
Scoring margin: 13.7 / 10th
3-pointers per game: 9.0 3pg / 22nd
3-pointers per game: Chris Lofton - 3.4 3pg / 16th

It Doesn’t Rain 3s, It Pours Them

The 3-point shot has been a key part of Tennessee’s repertoire under Bruce Pearl ... The Vols are averaging 24.8 3-point shots per game this season ... 38.9 percent (770 of 1,981) of the Vols’ shots have been from 3-point range ... UT is second in the SEC with 8.97 3-pointers made per game on the year ... 13 different Vols have made a 3-pointer this season.

Tennessee’s 50 3-point attempts against North Carolina A&T (11/27/07) shattered the school record of 37 and are the third-most in SEC history. The Vols’ 37 3-point attempts at UT-Chattanooga (12/4/07) are tied for the second-most in school history.
The Vols have tied the school record for 3-pointers made in a game with 16 two times this season. They performed the feat less than a week between games, doing it against Middle Tennessee State (11/20/07) and then against Texas (11/24/07).

Chris Lofton is the SEC’s career leader with 419 3-pointers.
Lofton broke his own single-game record for attempts by going 8-of-20 from 3-point range against North Carolina A&T (11/27/07). It tied for the third highest number of attempts in SEC history.

Lofton’s eight 3-pointers against North Carolina A&T are tied for second-most in school history. Lofton already holds the school record with nine triples in a game against Georgia his sophomore season.
JaJuan Smith’s seven 3-pointers against Middle Tennessee (11/20/07) rank in a tie for fourth on UT’s single-game lists.

(E-mail Stan Crawley at wscrawley@earthlink.net)


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