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This Week in UT Sports History – Leap Day Edition

Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

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

Every four years, Americans: elect a president, watch the summer Olympics, and have one extra day to work, play, or watch a few ballgames. This year marks a leap year with an added day on Feb. 29.

As this only happens every four years, let’s take a look back at Vol sports moments from Leap Day in “This Week in UT Sports History.”

Feb. 29, 1964

The Kentucky Wildcats (20-3, 10-3 SEC) traveled to Tennessee (15-7, 8-4 SEC) on Leap Day 1964 with a mission to clinch the SEC regular season title. The men in orange and white stood ready to defend their home court against the second-ranked team in the NCAA, hoping to crush the Cats’ shot at a fifth national title. The Vols held an undefeated home record.

Then, they didn’t.

Tennessee lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky on Feb. 29, 1964, when Wildcat Tommy Kron put up 17 points in an otherwise gritty defensive battle to win 42-38. Kron’s two defensive steals, complete with a foul and three-point play, gave Kentucky a slight edge the Vols could not surmount.

Leading 13-12 in the first, Tennessee turned over the ball to the 6-foot-5 opponent who quickly turned the deficit into a 19-13 lead. In the second half, the Vols pressured Kentucky standout Cotton Nash, holding him to a career-low five points as they climbed back into the game. Less than two minutes remained on the clock when Tennessee came within three points, 35-32.

Volunteer Danny Schultz made four free throws on his way to scoring 10 points. His season total for foul shots came up to 95 of 104, good for a 91% free throw average. A.W. Davis led the Vols in total points with 12 in the relatively offense-less match-up.

Alas, the scrappy Vols played sloppily while fighting for the ball in one-on-one coverage. Kentucky racked up foul shots and earned the 21st Southeastern Conference title. Tennessee head coach Ray Mears and the Vols finished second in the SEC shortly after with a win against Florida to close out the 1963-64 season.

Feb. 29, 1992

What a way to end the regular season. Pat Summitt’s No. 2 Lady Vols kept a crowd of 8,718 happy on Leap Day 1992 as they surged to a 105-59 win against Arkansas at Thompson-Boling Arena. On Senior Day, sophomore Peggy Evans proved the true team hero, putting up 22 points. The 6-foot center also grabbed seven rebounds in the last game ahead of the SEC Tournament.

Seven of 60 total rebounds, that is.

The Lady Vols showed no mercy on the offensive and defensive boards, pulling down an equal 30 rebounds on both ends of the court. Oddly enough, Arkansas pulled down 30…total.

“I feel good about where we are,” Summitt said as reported by Kingsport Times-News executive sports editor Ron Bliss. “We feel good about how we’re playing going into the post season.”

Tennessee finished the regular season 24-2 overall and 10-1 in conference play. The Lady Vols lost an overtime stunner to Ole Miss on Jan. 18, 1992, in Oxford. That 80-78 loss stung for Summitt, and she and her team remained motivated to improve.

Earlier in the day, the men’s team beat South Carolina, 87-64, in its last home game of the season. The fans stuck around and fed on that momentum to cheer the Lady Vols to victory.

“I’m proud of the attendance figure,” Summitt said. “It’s something we’ve always set as a goal. It has meant so much to the girls to get the fan support they’ve gotten this year. It really means a lot to us.”

The No. 2 Lady Vols made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 1992 but failed to advance. The Lady Vols have advanced to that round 34 times in the program’s history, most recently in 2016.

Feb. 29, 2004

The women’s track and field team nearly leapt to victory on Feb. 29, 2004 at the SEC Indoor Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. Tennessee took team second place overall, seven spots better than the year prior.

The Lady Vols earned more team points at the championships than in the previous four SEC meets combined. The combined total stood at 97 heading into the meet, and Tennessee tallied 99.50 on the weekend.

The 4×4 team of Antoinette Gorham, Nicole Cook, Kameisha Bennett, and Dee Dee Trotter set a school record 3:32.59 to earn a bid to the NCAA Championships. Tennessee’s distance medley relay team (Brooke Novak, Toyin Olupona, Mindy Sullivan, and Lindsay Hyatt) won the SEC title in that event, a first for the women’s Vol track program.

“We had SEC champions, SEC records, UT records, NCAA automatics and provisionals, 28 personal bests as well as times that rank among the best in the country,” head coach J.J. Clark said. The performance gave Clark and his team hope for the impending outdoor season.

The distance medley relay team beat a 17-year-old SEC record held by conference title winner Florida. The 11:16.61 effort barely made it into the record books above the Gators’ 11:16.93 mark.

The day did not end so well for the men’s track and field team, however. Putting up only 60 points, the Vols finished sixth at the SEC Indoor Championships. The placement proved the Vols’ worst at SEC Indoors since 1963 when the team finished seventh (before a stretch of eight consecutive SEC indoor titles). Tennessee earned no individual SEC titles for the first time in four years.

Garland Porter came the closest to a title in his first SEC championship. He earned a team-high 11 points in the weight throw to take the silver spot.

“I thought I could have done better,” Porter said. “There were some times I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. It’s second place, and I’m capable of doing better.”

Just nine days earlier, Porter set a school and facility record in the 35-pound weight throw at Stokely Athletics Center. He took double gold with a 58-4 mark in the shot put at the Tennessee Invitational. Porter holds a Top-15 all-time international ranking in the weight throw.

The 2020 SEC Indoor Championships begin on Friday in College Station, Texas.

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