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This Week in UT Sports History – Feb. 8th-14th

(Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)

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

Rick Barnes stands as the only active head coach in men’s basketball to have won three games as an opponent in Rupp Arena following No. 11 Tennessee’s 82-71 win against Kentucky (5-12, 4-6 SEC) in Lexington on Saturday. The Vols (13-4, 6-4 SEC) now prepare to face Georgia (12-6, 5-6 SEC) at Thompson-Boling Arena this Wednesday after COVID-19 protocols forced schedule shuffling in the Southeastern Conference.

Meanwhile, the No. 18 Lady Vols (12-3, 6-1 SEC) prepare to take on No. 15 Kentucky (13-5, 6-4, SEC) this Thursday at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington. Tennessee has won four of its last five games, the one loss coming against UConn on Jan. 21. Kellie Harper looks to take her team to the postseason after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted play in 2020, her first season at the helm on Rocky Top.

As college basketball enters the final month of the regular season, Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at notable hardwood moments and more, this week in UT sports history:

Feb. 11, 2007

The No. 3 Lady Vols took on Kentucky this week in 2007. Tennessee held a record of 22-2 (9-0 SEC) entering the home matchup with the border state team, who at the time had compiled a record of 16-9 (5-5 SEC). Pat Summitt prepared to face a former assistant turned head coach from her own coaching tree: Mickie DeMoss. DeMoss served on Summitt’s staff as an assistant from 1985-2000 and as associate head coach from 2000-2003, helping the program attain six of eight national championships.

In their last meeting on Jan. 26, 2006, DeMoss and the Lady Wildcats upset No. 1 Tennessee, 66-63. The Lady Vols held the all-time series record, 40-6, and looked to avenge the prior loss to make it 41-6. They also looked to continue a run toward yet another title, the first without DeMoss in orange and white.

The game notes indicated Tennessee’s probable starting five: Sidney Spencer, Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt and Alexis Hornbuckle. Those five rounded out a powerful offense with Parker averaging 19.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. Spencer and Hornbuckle likewise averaged more than 10 points per game. Anosike, whose younger brother E.J. now plays for Rick Barnes, held the lowest average, still picking up 7.5 points per game.

Spencer, who averaged around 12 points per game, stayed on track scoring 12 points in the Lady Vols’ 84-62 win against the Wildcats at home.

“This team worked really hard all summer long, so we’re just trying to keep with that throughout the year,” Spencer said postgame as reported by The Tennessean’s Ryan Callahan. “I’m just trying to work on things that I need to get better at.”

The Lady Vols looked to put on a show with some important individuals in attendance. The 1986-87 championship team reunited in Knoxville that weekend to mark the 20th anniversary of Tennessee’s first national title. Summitt said every player had managed to get to Knoxville to celebrate the occasion, and she hosted her former players at her house that Saturday night as they prepared to watch the next generation.

Little did they know the younger team would also be remembered as national champions by the end of the season. The 2006-07 Lady Vols went on to finish 34-3 with an undefeated 14-0 conference record. They beat Rutgers on April 3, 2007 to win Tennessee’s seventh national title.

The 2020-21 Lady Vols last played on Jan. 31. They look to return strong against Kentucky at 7 p.m. Thursday. The game will be streamed online via SEC Network+.

Feb. 14, 1987

Vol fans felt some love on Valentine’s Day in 1987. Tennessee’s men’s team struggled in the 1986-87 season while the women went on to win the program’s first national title. However, the Vols stood victorious on Feb. 14 when Auburn came to Stokely Athletics Center. Following a narrow loss to Kentucky on the road three days prior (91-84 in overtime), Tennessee erupted on offense for a 103-84 win at home.

The winning factor: Tony White.

White became the ultimate Volentine as he scored a program record 51 points against the Tigers, a record that still stands. “The Wiz” put on a show in one of the last games played in Stokely Athletics Center before Thompson-Boling Arena opened on Dec. 3, 1987. During his 37 minutes on the court, White hit 15 of 20 from the field and 18 of 19 free throws. He remained perfect from beyond the arc, picking up three three-pointers.

The 6-foot-2 guard led the SEC in scoring during his senior season, finishing third on the all-time scorers list with 2,219 points behind Allan Houston (2,801) and Ernie Grunfeld (2,249).  In 2018, White entered UT Medical Center where doctors delivered a leukemia diagnosis. He announced in 2020 he is in remission.

“Nobody is ready for cancer — believe me I know. When I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, I knew I was not going down without a fight, but cancer is not the kind of thing that you fight on your own,” White said last April. “Thanks to God, my family, my friends, the VFL community and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I am in remission.”

Though White gave a strong performance in 1987, the Vols failed to do so on the season. Tennessee finished 14-15, 7-11 in conference play.

The 2020-21 team stands one victory away from the 1986-87 team’s final win tally. The Vols will look to secure their 14th season win against Georgia on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Knoxville. The game will be televised on ESPN2. The previously scheduled matchup with Florida will be rescheduled at a later date.

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