This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
‘Twas the week of the holidays and across Tennessee, no one was sad because Fulmer is AD. Awaiting the Vols’ chance to make a bowl statement, everyone prayed for Jauan’s reinstatement. VolShop packages arrived by the number while campus fell into a metaphorical slumber. And as the Vol teams seek winter victory, take a look back at ‘This Week in UT Sports History.'”
Dec. 27, 2005
A Christmastime crowd of 15,797 traveled Thompson-Boling Arena to watch Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee Vols take on Alabama A&M two days after the holiday in 2001. Alabama A&M entered the game with an average of 13.2 steals per game, leading the nation. And 14 years before official Ted Valentine enraged Vol fans by calling a 10-second clock violation with 21 seconds on the shot clock this past week, he refereed the holiday match-up won by Tennessee, 93-68.
Guard Chris Lofton led the team with 19 points while JaJuan Smith picked up a career-high 16 points coming off the bench. The Vols protected the ball on offense, limiting Alabama A&M to only two steals and maintaining a season-low nine turnovers.
“To have nine turnovers against a team that forces 20 is pretty good,” head coach Bruce Pearl said. “…Overall, I thought we played well. Some teams do not get better, but we were better in this game.”
Lofton, known for his 3-point shooting, put up 15 points from beyond the arc. Lofton would go on to lead the Southeastern Conference in scoring a season later with 20.8 points per game. That night, the visitors’ defense allowed Lofton and the Vols to shoot 55.4% from the field while only shooting 38.7% themselves.
“I knew coming in we would have to handle their pressure, and we did not do a good job of that tonight,” Alabama A&M head coach L. Vann Pettaway said. “Once Chris Lofton got hot with the 3-pointer, there was no stopping him.”
A win pleased Pearl and his team, but he was most thankful for the gift of a good crowd, especially during a week when many across the country spend time with family at home.
“That was a great crowd at Christmastime. Our guys were excited about being home again,” Pearl said. “To have a program, it takes a village. The marketing department has worked triple overtime to get people into the seats. If we had not come out and played with the effort that we gave tonight I would have been disappointed.”
Pearl coached at Tennessee from 2005 until 2011, when NCAA violations prompted a parting with the university.
Dec. 25, 2004
While fans come out in impressive fashion for the Vol basketball teams in the winter, some teams and athletes remain in the shadows, like golfer Sarah Bonner-Shanks. Fifteen years ago, Bonner-Shanks took time to share reflections and holiday wishes with Vol nation.
“This past week we had a Christmas party at Judi’s (Pavon) house. Everyone brought their own specialty dish, and we had an absolute feast! (Although my pie needed a little help, I’m still learning how to cook! ),” Bonner-Shanks wrote.” The party, though, was awesome. It was great to spend time with teammates and celebrate Christmas. We also made Christmas cards for our beloved Pen Pals in third grade.”
Former LPGA Tour player Judi Pavon has helmed Tennessee’s women’s golf program for two decades, leading the Lady Vols to 12 NCAA Championship appearances. As Bonner-Shanks penned her diary about the “absolute dream come true” of playing at Tennessee, she gave much credit to her coach.
She said her coach paid meticulous detail to each stroke, improving each player and the team as a whole as they strove for precision. Pavon also encouraged life skills to practice year-round.
“Over the break we were asked to think about this one question, ‘If you could do anything in the world and knew that you could succeed, what would that be?’” Bonner-Shanks said. “This is the exact positive, goal making and achieving environment I am surrounded by every day, and [I] feel absolutely blessed to be a part of it.”
Bonner-Shanks, a native of Kingsport, Tennessee, attended Dobyns-Bennett High School. Current Vol basketball standout John Fulkerson hails from the same city and school system. During her time at Tennessee, she notably made an ace on the No. 4 (par three) hole at the NCAA Championships in 2005 en route to her two-over-par finish, which situated the Vols at No. 10 in the championships on Day 1. The 2005 season was one of the Lady Vols’ best, winning the NCAA West regional and finishing sixth overall at the NCAA Championships.
The 2019-20 women’s golf team resumes play Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the Guadalajara International Invitational.
Dec. 28, 2014
Five years ago, the Vols touched down in Jacksonville, Florida, for the TaxSlayer Bowl. Team 118, led by Butch Jones, checked into their hotel that Sunday preceding the match-up with Iowa.
Junior defensive back Brian Randolph enjoyed the winter weather in the Sunshine State.
“As you can see, it’s sunny, nice and warm,” Randolph said. “It’s a great atmosphere here. It’s great football weather, so we feel very blessed to be here.”
The 2019 Vols will enjoy the same opportunity as they travel to Jacksonville for the 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The men in orange and white, led by second-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt, will face off against the Indiana Hoosiers at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2. The game will be televised on ESPN.
From all of us at Rocky Top Insider, may your holidays be historic!