Vols Pound Long Beach State, Advance - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Carrie Anderson

Vols Pound Long Beach State, Advance

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Forget "Rocky Top." Chris Lofton may

have come up with a new Tennessee rallying cry.

Lofton led the way with 25 points as the Volunteers set off some

offensive fireworks to beat Long Beach State 121-86 Friday -

matching the most points scored by a team in a first-round NCAA

tournament game.

"It really was (fun)," Lofton said. "We're used to playing

like that. When a team plays (uptempo) like that, we get excited.

It was just a fast-paced game.

"We put the 'fast' back in 'fast break."'

Catchy - and accurate. The point total equaled the most in a

first-round game, set by UNLV in 1977 against San Francisco.

Both teams came in averaging 80 points - putting them among the

top 11 in the nation - so it wasn't a shocker that baskets came in

bunches.

But the numbers were nonetheless staggering for old-timers who

believe defense drives teams into the elite field.

"I like an identity for a program. This is our identity,"

coach Bruce Pearl said. "We've never finished second in (any

league in) scoring in 14 or 15 years I've been a head coach. We

pride ourselves on, as Chris said, putting the fast back in fast

break. We do. We want to be able to do that and win. I enjoy being

uptempo and being aggressive in transition. We'll put four or five

guys on the floor that can score, and they've got a lot of

freedom."

The Volunteer (23-10) hit triple digits on a dunk by Duke Crews

with more than 6½ minutes left and then stepped on the gas to tie

the school mark for points.

"They were scoring from all kinds of positions on the court,"

Long Beach State coach Larry Reynolds said.

JaJuan Smith added 24 points, Ramar Smith 22, Crews 12 and Wayne

Chism 10 points. Dane Bradshaw had a career-best 11 assists.

"We didn't come in with a game plan that says we want to put up

100 on these guys," Bradshaw said. "It was just the flow of the

game."

The Volunteers improved to 29-3 in Pearl's two years when

scoring 80 or more points - a threshold they reached with 13

minutes remaining. They'll face Virginia in the second round of the

South Regional on Sunday.

Kejuan Johnson scored 24 points, Aaron Nixon 23 and Kevin

Houston 17 for the 12th-seeded 49ers (24-8), regular-season and

tournament champs of the Big West who were making their first NCAA

appearance in a dozen years.

Lofton, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, led the

way as the Volunteers shot 59 percent from the field and made 14 of

27 3-pointers. He hit half of his eight shots behind the arc and

JaJuan Smith hit 4-of-6.

Each team hit seven 3-pointers in a wild opening half that

featured the Volunteers racing to a 29-12 lead in the opening 7½

minutes. They did it with precision shooting, their full-court

press and trapping pressure.

Lofton keyed the defense, with two steals leading to a pair of

layups in a 5-second span.

The 49ers got as close as 41-35 thanks to their own long-range

marksmanship, with Nixon hitting four shots behind the arc and

Johnson three - each of which were arching rainbows that barely

rustled the net.

The 3-point shooting contest also was hardly a surprise. Both

teams set school records this year, with Tennessee hitting 286

3-pointers and the 49ers making 261.

Ahead 57-45 at the break, the Volunteers ran off 12 of the first

14 points in the second half - seven by Lofton - to build the lead

to 69-47.

"The start of the second half was the key for us," Bradshaw

said. "We stopped them and got some easy buckets in transition as

well as out of our half-court offense."

From then on, the totals mounted. The Volunteers had 90 points

with 10 minutes left.

"We knew we had to score," Ramar Smith said. "We knew it was

going to be a high-scoring game and we came out and scored."

It wasn't as if the 49ers didn't have a big offensive game. They

hit 49 percent from the field and made 12 of 21 3-pointers. But

Tennessee had only six turnovers and picked up 22 points off

turnovers.

The game might have been the swan song for Reynolds, 63-83 in

five years at Long Beach State. School administrators allowed him

to finish out his contract, saying they would discuss the future of

the program after the season ended.

"The program has come a long way," Reynolds said. "There are

still steps the program needs to get to. I'm sure the gentlemen

that are in charge of that will make the best decision for Long

Beach State."

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