This Week in UT Sports History – Feb. 10th-16th

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little

    The No. 23 Lady Vols failed to hang against No. 8 Mississippi State on Thursday, losing 72-55. However, the young squad holds onto a top 25 spot with an overall record of 17-6, impressive for a first-year head coach whose star, Rennia Davis, went down for the count in the latest sweep of the flu in East Tennessee.

    As for Rick Barnes and the men…well…oy. At 13-10 (5-5 SEC), the Vols continue to struggle as a cohesive unit despite breakout seasons for Yves Pons and John Fulkerson. Currently, Jordan Bowden leads the team in points, averaging 13.1 per game, 7.4 points behind Arkansas’ leader, Mason Jones, who the Vols face Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. in Knoxville. The Razorbacks enter the contest at 16-7 overall. Despite a disappointing record, Tennessee finds ways to stay competitive in each game, like the lights out 3-point shooting from Santiago Vescovi on Saturday to close the gap against Kentucky, narrowing the Cats’ lead to 51-47 off an assist from Bowden in the second half before an eventual 77-64 loss.

    On the softball diamond, hot and cold bats for the Lady Vols propelled them to a “3-1” start in 2020. Tennessee took down Northwestern, 6-3, on Saturday before senior slugger Chelsea Seggern put up a career-high four runs including two homers in a 10-2 win against Kansas. The Lady Vols finished off the weekend with a 13-6 “win” against Western Michigan that didn’t count because of time restrictions before a shutout loss, 8-0, against Arizona.

    As these Tennessee athletic traditions continue into 2020, take a look back at moments in “This Week in UT Sports History.”

    Feb. 11, 2006

    Talk about the night the lights went out in Georgia. Chris Lofton said good night to the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens on Feb. 11, 2006, when he scored a career-high 33 points, 27 of which came from nine 3-point shots. The preceding game, Lofton had set records with 31 points and seven 3-point shots in a 75-67 win against Kentucky.

    “I just get hot sometimes,” Lofton said in the postgame presser. “I try to just stay hot.”

    He blazed the path to victory for the No. 11 team in the country, which, at the time, boasted the best Southeastern Conference record. Despite a second half resurgence from the Dawgs, who cut the lead to two points with less than five minutes on the clock, Lofton’s shots sunk one right after the other. He paved the way to an 83-78 win.

    Former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl gave Georgia credit, saying the Bulldogs were much quicker and more athletic than his squad. But the Vol defense came up big to fend off the stingy Georgia guards. But offense remained the name of the game. Lofton led the charge, beating Allan Houston’s 1989 record of eight 3-point shots in one game.

    “He just won the game for them,” Georgia head coach Dennis Felton said. “He flat out won the game for them.”

    Lofton scored one point for every minute he played in the game, 33-for-33. Georgia actually outscored Tennessee in the second half, 49-45, but the Dawgs failed to come back from the 9-point halftime deficit.

    Four days later, the Vols hit the century mark against Pearl’s current employer, Auburn. Tennessee won 105-89 on the road to the NCAA Tournament. The Vols lost in the round of 32 to Wichita State, finishing the season at 22-8 overall.

    Feb. 11, 2010

    While many Vol fans remember Lofton’s name and performance, few remember Michael Wright. Appropriate that during Black History Month, a month devoted to celebrating the innovations and accomplishments of those remembered and those often relegated to footnotes, Wright’s story appears.

    On Feb. 11, 2010, USA Diving officials confirmed Tennessee diver Michael Wright became the first African American to win a USA Diving national championship after the Winter National competition in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 8.

    With a school-record 396.00 score, Wright secured the championship on the one-meter springboard. 2008 Olympian Jevon Tarantino previously held the record of 388.65.

    Wright transferred to Tennessee from Indian River Community College in 2008, becoming the first black member of the swimming and diving team. The 6’1” junior from Forest Park, Illinois, joined SEC Champion football player Lester McClain, quarterback and baseball player Condredge Holloway, basketball star Larry Robinson, and NCAA tennis doubles title holder and SEC champion Rodney Harmon on the list of Tennessee athletes who broke racial barriers.

    In 2011, Wright won the SEC title for the one-meter board. The All-American later became a coach at Tennessee and competed on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” in 2018.

    Feb. 11, 2008

    Speaking of champions, the Lady Vols won the eighth national title in program history in 2008, earning a record of 36-2 by season’s end. However, that record nearly stood at 35-3. Pat Summitt’s squad nearly squandered a home game against Rutgers on Feb. 11, 2008, escaping with a one-point win, 59-58.

    Mired in controversy, the No. 1 Lady Vols edged out the No. 5 Scarlet Knights in Thompson-Boling Arena as they looked to repeat as national champions. The crowd sat on edge for the rematch of the 2007 NCAA women’s national title game for which Rutgers wanted revenge.

    Nicky Anosike came down with an offensive rebound as time quickly expired. Rutgers’ Kia Vaughn fouled Anosike from behind, but the Rutgers bench erupted as players thought time truly had run out giving them a 58-57 win.

    Time on the clock at the time of the foul: 0.2 to go.

    The game clock paused with two-tenths of a second remaining in the game, lingering to lead officials to determine the foul had occurred before the buzzer. Naturally, Anosike made her two free throws for the 59-58 victory and a 22-1 overall record.

    In an interview for The New York Times, Mike Costabile, whose Precision Time Systems company furnished the clock system for Thompson-Boling Arena, attributed the clock stoppage to human error.

    “The clock stopped, then somebody seemed to say, ‘Uh oh,’” Costabile said. “Maybe they were anticipating a foul being called or they pressed a button by mistake, and then they restarted it. It seems we have some human error involved.”

    The SEC released a statement defending the crews working and officiating the game while Rutgers athletic director Bob Mulcahy said officials and the crew failed to correct the error by alternative measures like stopwatch monitoring on the replay.

    Despite the controversy, the 0.2 second difference likely would not have affected the outcome of the 2008 season. With Anosike and Candace Parker playing their best basketball, no team could fend off the defending champions by season’s end. The Los Angeles Sparks drafted Parker at No. 1 overall in the 2008 WNBA draft, and she remains one of the best — if not the best — to play the game as a WNBA champion, WNBA finals MVP, five time WNBA All-Star, two time league MVP, two time NCAA national champion, AP Female Athlete of the Year (2008), and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

    The 2019-20 Lady Vols (17-6, 7-3 SEC) face a tough test Thursday, taking on LSU (16-5, 6-3 SEC) on the road at 7:30 p.m.

    Lexie Little
    Lexie Little is a journalist from Kingsport, Tennessee, who holds a Bachelor of Communication degree from the University of Tennessee with majors in both Journalism & Electronic Media and French & Francophone Studies. She's a contributor to RTI and writes the weekly column "The Week in UT Sports History." Lexie formerly worked as a feature writer for VIPSEEN Magazine and continues to freelance for various publications as she earns her master's degree from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.