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This Week in UT Sports History – Jan. 4th-10th

(Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)

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

The Tennessee Saturday night was not a delight for Rick Barnes and the Vols. Tennessee’s men’s basketball team (7-1), then ranked No. 7, dropped its first game of the season to Alabama in Knoxville with a final score of 71-63. Alabama turned on the heat after the half, getting hot from beyond the arc as senior John Petty Jr. hit four of 10 three-point shots for the Crimson Tide. The Tide shot 50% from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Vols struggled, only hitting four of 21 attempted threes in a disjointed offensive performance.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare to face Arkansas this week. Rick Barnes’ team will take on the Razorbacks (9-1) Wednesday night at 7 p.m. (ESPN2) and the Lady Vols (6-1) will face No. 10 Arkansas (9-2) Thursday at 6:30 p.m. (SECN). The latter marks the first conference matchup for Kellie Harper and her team following the postponement of scheduled games against No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 13 Kentucky. Both postponements came as results of a positive COVID-19 test among Tier 1 personnel.

While the Lady Vols wait to return to the court during a historic season, Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at other moments this week in UT sports history:

Jan. 4, 1999

Vol fans across the nation commemorate a particularly important New Year’s fiesta on Jan. 4 each year. The Tennessee Volunteers, under head coach Phillip Fulmer, captured the 1998 BCS National Championshipagainst No. 2 Florida State, 23-16. The game marked the first national title contest in the BCS era and the first 13-0 season for Tennessee. The football program’s perfect season came just months after Pat Summitt led the Lady Vols basketball team to a perfect 39-0 championship season in their third consecutive title run.

The 1998 title game ended a championship drought dating back to 1967. Then quarterback and current associate head coach Tee Martin threw for 278 yards, completing 11 of 18 pass attempts. Peerless Price caught four of those passes, accounting for 199 yards including a 79-yard touchdown reception.

The Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, marked only the second meeting between the powerhouse programs. The Seminoles tried to pace the Vols, attempting to stay within one score from halftime on. The held the Vols to 14 until the fourth quarter when Price’s touchdown gave Tennessee a spark. Then, kicker Jeff Hall capitalized with a field goal before Florida State drew within seven points. The chance to tie never came, however, and the Vols left victorious.

The University of Tennessee claims six national titles in football: 1938, 1940, 1950, 1951, 1967 and 1998.

Jan. 7, 1990

The SEC chose a Vol for its Rookie of the Week on Jan. 7, 1990. Little did anyone know that rookie would go on to claim the title of Tennessee’s all-time leading scorer. Allan Houston accrued 2,801 points during his collegiate career, picking up many accolades following that first recognition in the first week of the last decade of the 20th century.

That week, Houston helped the Vols to a 72-70 win against Auburn and an 82-77 win against Mississippi State. In the latter, Houston scored 18 points in the second half. Two of his six-straight free throws secured the Vol victory with 11 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs had cut a Tennessee lead to 80-77 with just 18 seconds on the clock. However, Houston’s second-half effort gave the Vols the push they needed to win after only leading by one point, 28-27, at halftime.

Houston started every game of his four-year career, playing in 128 total matchups. He stands as the only player to account for at least 2,000 points, 400 assists and 400 rebounds for the orange and white. The 6-6 shooting guard from Louisville, Kentucky, chose to play for his father, former Tennessee head coach Wade Houston. The elder Houston holds distinction as the first Black basketball coach at an SEC university.

The Detroit Pistons selected Houston as the 11th overall draft pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. He played 12 seasons of professional basketball and helped the United States National Team to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Seventeen years after his Rookie of the Week selection, the Southeastern Conference named Houston an SEC Legend in 2007. The University of Tennessee retired his jersey, No. 20, on March 6, 2011.

Jan. 10, 1925

Nearly one century ago, the Lady Vols outlasted regional opponents from Carson-Newman to pick up their first win of the 1925 season. The women representing the University of Tennessee won 38-30 in Knoxville. They finished the season, which only lasted until Feb. 24, with a record of 5-3-1.

Tennessee’s women’s basketball started sometime in the early 20th century around 1903 with captains leading exhibition squads until coaches entered the scene. The 1925 and 1926 teams under coach Ann Huddle found the most success as she led them to a record of 12-4-1 over two seasons.

The sport would only last one season after 1925 before a hiatus until 1960. The 1926 team put on an impressive show against Chattanooga to open play on Jan. 9 of that year. The Lady Vols won, 45-8. They held opponents to less than 30 points all season. However, they dropped their final game to Maryville on Feb. 26 in a one-point decision (28-27). They finished 7-1.

Early teams primarily played East Tennessee squads like Maryville, Tusculum, East Tennessee State University and Carson-Newman. Coach Mary Douglas Ayres (1919-1920), the daughter of former university president and Ayres Hall namesake Brown Ayres, revived the program after a decade-long break from competitive play between 1910-1920.

Nancy Lay served as the first head coach after Huddle, coaching from 1960-68. She would be followed by Joan Cronan (1969-70), Margaret Hutson (1971-74) and legendary women’s basketball pioneer Pat Summitt (1974-2012) whose former players Holly Warlick and Kellie Harper subsequently led (and currently leads) the program.

Harper led the Lady Vols to a 21-10 record in her first season as head coach before the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the postseason. The Lady Vols currently hold a 6-1 record, perfect at home (5-0). They host Arkansas this Thursday before travelling to LSU on Sunday.

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