This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly series written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
A historic streak came to an end last week as the No. 23 Lady Vols (9-2, 3-1 SEC) fell to the Lady Bulldogs of Georgia (12-1, 4-1 SEC) in a heartbreaking 67-66 loss. The matchup marked the first time Georgia picked up a win in Knoxville since 1996. That previous game also resulted in a one-point loss, one memorable for both squads. The Lady Bulldogs beat the reigning and eventual repeat national champions by a one-point margin, 94-93, at Tennessee on Dec. 8, 1996.
Meanwhile, the No. 10 Tennessee men’s basketball team extended its season record to 10-1 (4-1 SEC) after an 81-61 win against in-state rival Vanderbilt (4-6, 0-4 SEC) on Saturday. The 20-point win gave head coach Rick Barnes his 719th career victory, tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins on the all-time win list. The game marked the 200th meeting between the two programs.
Tennessee’s one loss on the season came against Alabama (7-3, 6-0 SEC) when the Tide rolled into Knoxville for a 71-63 win, shooting out the lights from beyond the arc. However, 11 years ago this week, No. 8 Tennessee took the win at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to improve its record to 15-2 (3-0 SEC). Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at that game and more, this week in UT sports history:
Jan. 19, 2010
No. 8 Tennessee got off to a hot start in January 2010. An upset victory against No. 1 Kansas launched the program into the national spotlight before conference play. Head coach Bruce Pearl and company opened the SEC slate with an 81-55 win against Auburn before a thrilling 71-69 overtime win against Ole Miss at home. The Vols played four consecutive home games before hitting the road to Alabama. They picked up yet another victory, 63-56, rolling over the Tide in the second half.
Heading into halftime, Bama held a one-point edge. The score stood at 25-24. The Vols fought back in the second half, however, outscoring Alabama, 39-31, to take the win.
“Obviously in the second half, [Tennessee] really turned it up,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said at his post-game press conference. “I thought we played with great energy, but their energy got the best of us early in the second half.”
Pearl worked to adjust the lineup in the first half when star player Wayne Chism encountered foul trouble. Despite Chism’s time on the bench, the Vols hung within a point, and defensive efforts in the second half secured the win in what Grant called a “hostile” environment. Pearl agreed his team overcame a hard test.
“Road wins are hard to come by in league play, and this is an Alabama team that is going to finish in the top three, I believe,” Pearl said. “…Alabama certainly could have beaten us tonight.”
Despite the Big Orange effort, the win might have been overshadowed by football news that broke that Tuesday. ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach received confirmation that former head coach Lane Kiffin, who famously exited the program after one season at Tennessee, had crashed a leased Lexus after falling asleep at the wheel the previous August. Animosity raged at the time, as Kiffin had just left Knoxville to take the head coaching position at the University of Southern California.
Yet, basketball news boosted moral among Vol faithful that season. The 2009-10 team stands as one of the best in Tennessee history, pulling out gritty wins to reach the program’s first Elite Eight appearance.
The 2020-21 team returns to the court tomorrow night against Florida (6-4, 3-3 SEC). The two teams tip off at 7 p.m. in Gainesville. ESPN will broadcast the matchup.
Jan. 23, 1970
Four years before Pat Summitt took the helm as the head coach of the Lady Vols, Joan Cronan coached the Lady Vols to a win against Tennessee Tech, the first win of her last season as a head coach. The victory came down to the final minutes with a win margin of two points, 45-43.
Following an alternate berth in the first women’s National Invitational Collegiate Basketball Tournament in 1969, Tennessee looked to build a bigger national profile in 1970. After losing to Western Carolina five days prior, the Lady Vols won their first home matchup and commenced a three-game win streak on Jan. 23. (That streak ended at the hands of the same Western Carolina team two weeks later).
Seasons then began in January. The 1970 Lady Vols earned an 8-4 record: 3-1 at home, 2-1 on the road and 3-2 in neutral site play. They faced mainly regional opponents lie Carson-Newman and Appalachian State, but they did also face eventual SEC foe Georgia. Tennessee beat the Lady Bulldogs, 38-26, during the Winthrop Invitational on Feb. 15 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
The season marked the last for Cronan after serving since 1968. Cronan took over as women’s athletics director in 1983, expanding women’s athletics from seven to 11 programs. Her tenure included 10 NCAA national championship titles, 46 top five NCAA finishes and 29 Southeastern Conference regular-season championships before the men’s and women’s athletic departments merged in 2011.
Cronan’s successor Margaret Hutson joined UT’s physical education department in 1970. She led the Lady Vols to a 60-19 record in four seasons (1971-1974). The Lady Vols went 25-2 in her final season. Hutson died following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017, nearly one year after Pat Summitt succumbed to the same fate.
The 2020-21 Lady Vols picked up a win yesterday against Alabama on the road. Rennia Davis led the team with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the 82-56 victory. They will face archrival UConn in the Hall of Fame Revival Series in Knoxville on Thursday. ESPN will broadcast the game tipping off at 7 p.m.