Tennessee 111, Texas 105, OT

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Add another improbable comeback to Tennessee’s early season resume.

Chris Lofton scored a career-high 35 points, including a long 3-pointer to give the Volunteers their first lead in the second half, and Tennessee held off Texas for a 111-105 overtime victory on Saturday.

The Vols (10-2), who needed a last-second shot to beat No. 15 Oklahoma State on Monday, rallied from 17 points down in the second half to take an 88-87 lead when Lofton hit a 3 from about 30 feet with 18 seconds left in regulation.

Tennessee’s Ramar Smith was then fouled and made one of two free throws, and Texas (8-3) forced overtime when freshman Kevin Durant drove to the basket and scored with 1.1 seconds left to tie it at 89.

The Vols never trailed in overtime, and the young Longhorns couldn’t find the groove they had when dominating earlier in the game.

Tennessee trailed 50-35 at halftime after shooting 30 percent and went nine minutes between field goals.

“At halftime we should have been down more than 15. We played so poorly for a long stretch in the first half,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.

“I said Texas can play better than that. They played good. They can play better. Now we’re either going to get blown out of here or we’re going to come back and represent.”

Pearl believes the Vols should find a place in the Top 25 next week. Since losing to No. 2 North Carolina on Nov. 24, Tennessee beat Murray State, Memphis and Western Kentucky before its two latest nail-biters.

“We’re in that company,” Pearl said.

JaJuan Smith added 19 points, and Wayne Chism had 18 for Tennessee. Duke Crews scored all of his 16 points in the second half, and Ramar Smith added 15 points and nine assists for the Vols. Lofton had 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.

Durant led Texas with 26 points. D.J. Augustin had 20 points and 13 assists, A.J. Abrams added 17 points and Justin Mason had 15. Damion James added 14 rebounds and four blocks.

“We got into some serious foul trouble and tried to work through that,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “It’s two good teams going at each other. The flow for us never got the way we wanted in the second half for whatever reason.”

The Longhorns, who have the youngest starting lineup in school history with four freshmen and a sophomore, looked like they were headed for an easy victory to avenge last year’s stunning 95-78 loss to Tennessee in Pearl’s first season.

But once again Pearl found a way to win with the youngest team he’s ever coached, overcoming Texas’ dominance in the first half and bigger speedy players.

At 6-foot-9, Durant proved tough to guard, but he picked up his fourth foul late on an offensive charge.

“I didn’t agree with some of the calls that were thrown my way, but that’s part of adversity,” Durant said.

The Longhorns were ahead by eight points after Abrams scored with 2:52 left in the second half. But Tennessee kept chipping away as it had during the whole game. Crews scored twice around a free throw by Texas, and Lofton hit another 3 with 1:05 left to cut it to 87-85. Abrams missed on a drive, and Lofton hit his long 3 over Durant to give the Vols the lead.

Lofton said that 3 may have been the longest he’s made in college.

“I needed to take that shot to get the lead. I thought it was going to win the game, but (Durant) came out and made a great play to send it into overtime,” Lofton said.

Said Durant: “I was in his face and had good defense and he hit two long 3s over me.”

Lofton hit his career-tying seventh 3 of the game to start the overtime. Augustin answered with a basket for Texas to cut it to 92-91, but that was as close as the Longhorns would get the rest of the way.

Tennessee went 8-of-10 from the free throw line over the final 1:12.

The Vols were playing without starting point guard Jordan Howell, who broke his right hand in practice on Thursday.

The Longhorns had won three straight since losing to Gonzaga on Dec. 2.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
D. Augustin D. Augustin
6-9,  20 Pts
4 Rebs, 13 Assists
C. Lofton C. Lofton
8-24,  35 Pts
11 Rebs, 1 Assists

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Saturday, Dec 23