This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
Rick Barnes’ 2019-20 team fell, but not without a fight, to the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks by a score of 74-68 on the road in Lawrence, KS on Saturday. The Vols (12-7) outscored Kansas (16-3), 38-37 in the second half, but the Jayhawks’ 7-point first half lead gave them the edge. However, key performances give hope to Vol faithful moving forward. Yves Pons exploded with a career-high 24 points and a few signature blocks while John Fulkerson picked up yet another double-double. Jordan Bowden scored 19 in the second half in front of the 16,300 in attendance.
Meanwhile, the No. 23 Lady Vols (16-4, 6-1 SEC) returned to Thompson-Boling Arena, defeating LSU 62-55 during the annual “We Back Pat” game honoring the legendary coach’s legacy. Both head coaches, Kellie Harper and Nikki Fargas, played for Pat Summitt at Tennessee and now use her example as a guide for leading their own teams. And in Athens, Georgia, the No. 4 Lady Vol swimming and diving team remained undefeated, beating No. 9 Georgia at Gabrielsen Natatorium. The No. 12 men lost to the No. 8 Bulldogs.
As the Tennessee teams continue to make waves in their 2020 seasons, dive into previous Vol competitions in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
Jan. 28, 2007
Losing to a powerhouse rival on the road disappoints, but fans often point to glimmers of hope like Pons’ 24 points against Kansas even when losses happen. This week in 2007, fans found that hope in JaJuan Smith who scored 25 points against Kentucky on the road. Tennessee lost 76-57, but Smith stepped up in the absence of lights-out 3-point shooter Chris Lofton.
Kentucky had fallen out of the Top 25 after losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia, so Tennessee remained hopeful for a second consecutive win against the Wildcats. With 10 minutes remaining, Kentucky (16-5, 5-2) led by only one point, 47-46. But the Vols (14-7, 2-4) lost momentum as the Wildcats got the hot hand from the 3-point arc. The Wildcats made 7-of-11 from the 3-point range in the second half.
Without Lofton, who scored 31 points in the win at Rupp in 2006, Tennessee lost its fifth road game that month. In January 2007, the Vols won three games, all at home, against Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Georgia on their way to earning a perfect 16-0 home record that season. That same month, they lost to Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Kentucky on the road before kicking off February with yet another road loss to Florida. Tennessee’s road record stood at 3-7 by season’s end.
Redemption came in 2008 when March led to madness. Tennessee defeated Kentucky 63-60 in a 3-point win following a 3-point loss to Vanderbilt. (The win would be followed by another 3-point win against Florida in Gainesville, 89-86).
The current squad faces the current Cats for the first time this season on Feb. 8 in Knoxville. But first, the Vols face Texas A&M tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. at home. The game will be televised on SEC Network.
Jan. 29, 2005
Some dates just bring bad luck. Some teams just bring bad luck. And for Tennessee, that date is Jan. 29, and that team is Florida. Ranked in the Top 15 in 2005, 2010, and 2011, Tennessee Swimming and Diving lost to Florida on Jan. 29 of each year.
In 2005, the Vols entered the match-up at No. 15 while Florida held the No. 2 spot. A deficit of 50 total points sunk Tennessee in Gainesville. Though the day did not finish, as the kids say, “100” for the Vols, 200 remained a good number. Casey Dauw edged Florida’s Nick Borreca by two-tenths of a second to win the 200-yard individual medley. Two Vol 200-yard medley relay teams also clinched wins. And despite freshman Michael Wolfe’s second place finish in the 200-yard backstroke, the team still found a way to celebrate.
“[He] swam a lifetime best 200 backstroke, and his teammates were very excited to see that,” UT coach John Trembley said of the Volunteers’ team best in the event. Trembley remained pleased with his team’s performances despite the loss.
In 2010, however, Trembley called his team’s performance a “mixed bag” of strong and poor performances. For the first time since its opening, the No. 11 Vols lost in Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center, 164-133, to the No. 6 Gators.
Yet again, 200 marked a magic number. Tennessee won the 200-yard medley relay to kick off competition before Vol Ryan Harrison won the 200 freestyle and Brad Craig took the 200 breaststroke. But Florida clinched the 200 butterfly to pull ahead with a pool record.
“This was just a flat environment,” Trembley told UT’s Drew Rutherford. “Florida swam better than we did. Both of our seniors are the embodiment of an underdog and I am very proud of them. They have come a great distance and I wish we could have sent them out in a better fashion.”
One season later, Trembley and the Vols looked to finish off the season in better fashion. But it was Jan. 29, and the opponent was Florida. The No. 7 Vols failed to find their sea legs against No. 5 Florida, losing 198-101. The loss marked Tennessee’s first of the season.
Senior Brad Craig’s breaststroke proved his strong point yet again, only this time in the 100 with teammate Jake Epperson not far behind. While the veteran led his team, freshman Sam Petersen made waves with his third-place finish in the 1000 freestyle, placing him in the top five in school history with a 9:10.14 finish.
“I cannot say enough about Sam Petersen’s 100 freestyle,” Trembley said in another interview with Drew Rutherford. “The fact that it stands among our school’s best times says enough.”
The 2019-20 aquatic squads face Florida on Feb. 1 at 10 a.m. at the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville. Maybe better luck comes in February.
Jan. 28, 1998
The Lady Vols, of course, won it all in 1998 with a perfect 39-0 record. But on Jan. 28, 1998, the win felt extra special as Pat Summitt and company hung 100 – well, 102 – on the No. 17 Lady Bulldogs of Georgia. No. 1 Tennessee took the conference win on home court, 102-43.
The teams played on 14 days prior in Athens, Georgia, where the Lady Bulldogs only lost by 25 points to the dream team. The Lady Vols might have expected to score 100 points at home after winning 96-71 in the Classic City, but few expected Tennessee’s defense to hold Georgia to only 43 points—the Dawgs’ lowest total all season.
The Lady Vols forced 36 turnovers in the game, beating the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball. Chamique Holdsclaw led Tennessee in scoring with 28 points. The Lady Vols led by 34 at the end of the first half.
“I don’t know that we have had better intensity,” Summitt said in an interview for The Washington Post. “We watched film today of our defensive play at Georgia. [The Lady Vols] saw they needed to get back into the game. They appeared very motivated.”
On the offensive side, three other players also scored in double digits: Semeka Randall with 20, Tamika Catchings with 16, and Kristen Clement with 12.
That season marked Tennessee’s third consecutive national title. (Nearly a fourth; the Lady Vols finished second in 1995). But 1998 will forever remain the perfect year, a year in which national champions emerged clad in Big Orange…
The 2019-20 Lady Vols get back to work Thursday in Nashville against Vanderbilt. Tip-off is set for 9:00 p.m. and will be televised on SEC Network.