Each Monday we recap the previous week’s news and notes from around Tennessee Athletics. This is the place for Vol fans to catch up on any of the action they may have missed. Last week on Rocky Top, the men’s and women’s basketball teams had a rather rough week.
This article was written by RTI contributor Spencer Morrell.
The Vols continued their on-again off-again relationship with success as they split their two games of the week once more. On Wednesday, Tennessee welcomed South Carolina to Knoxville, and the Gamecocks started out red hot from the 3-point line. As a result, they gave the Vols all they could handle for most of the first half, but Tennessee was able to gain control of the game shortly before halftime. UT took a 50-39 lead into the locker room and the Vols were able to expand that lead to 16 as the second half began. South Carolina made a run and cut the lead to seven points with around nine minutes to go, but then Tennessee stepped on the gas en route to a 93-73 victory. Victor Bailey Jr.’s hot 3-point shooting powered Tennessee for most of the night and the guard finished the contest with a game-high 29 points. John Fulkerson scored 19, while Jaden Springer had 16.
Next the Vols renewed their rivalry with the Kentucky Wildcats in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Cats had revenge on their mind Saturday afternoon, and Tennessee was caught in the crosshairs. UT’s offense once again went missing, as it has been apt to do this year, and the Vols were almost immediately on their heels. UT only mustered 10 points in the first 10 minutes and found themselves down 13. The first half did not improve for the Vols as they trailed the Cats 45-30 going into the locker room. Tennessee did not reverse its fortunes in the second half, even as it limited Kentucky’s field goals. UT simply could not score, and it never threatened the Cats lead for the rest of the game falling 70-55. Bailey Jr. led the Vols in scoring once again with 18, while Keon Johnson added 15 on 4-for-14 shooting. Tennessee is now 15-6 on the season.
Lady Vol Basketball
The Lady Vols faced a monumental challenge last week after they faced weather related travel delays trying to return home from College Station, Texas. They were not able to return to Knoxville until Tuesday night at 9 p.m. This meant they had one day to prepare for No. 2 South Carolina.
The Gamecocks rolled into Knoxville on Thursday night riding a 31-game conference win streak, and the Lady Vols had not beaten a top 5 team since 2017. It looked like both streaks would continue as the game progressed, as Tennessee fell behind by as many as 16 points shortly before halftime. UT trailed 37-25 at the break as it looked like the Lady Vols’ early week travel woes were taking their toll. However, head coach Kellie Harper gave what she called a “fiery” halftime speech and it appeared to have an effect. The Lady Vols showed renewed energy and focus in the third quarter and they slowly chipped away at the Gamecocks lead. The Lady Vols then stunningly took the lead with a minute to go in the third quarter and the teams went barreling into the fourth frame separated by only a point. South Carolina managed a 3-point lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, but Tennessee wrestled the lead back with five minutes to go. The Lady Vols defended their lead and carried it to the final buzzer capturing a 75-67 upset. Senior Rennia Davis took over the game in crunch time and led her team in scoring with 24 points, all of which came in the second half. Rae Burrell chipped in 19 points and carried her team through much of the first half. Jordan Horston had 12 points coming off the bench.
The Lady Vols then travelled to Georgia on Sunday, but unfortunately the offense did not travel with them. Tennessee trailed 27-19 at halftime after shooting an abysmal 12.9% from the field in the first half. However, UT did not give up and cut Georgia’s lead to one point with about seven minutes left in the game, and the contest went down to the wire. The Lady Vols trailed by two with less than a minute to go, and they had multiple opportunities to either send the game to overtime or win outright. However, it was not meant to be. Tennessee could not get the ball in the hoop and lost 57-55. The Lady Vols shot 29% from the field and turned the ball over 20 times in a game most would like to forget. Davis again led the Lady Vols in scoring with 22 points, and Burrell contributed with 10. After splitting games this week, the Lady Vols are now 13-6 on the season.
The No. 16 Tennessee baseball Vols hit the diamond for the first time over the weekend and they started the season out strong with a series sweep of Georgia Southern. The Volunteers’ offense powered them to three straight victories over Georgia Southern, with the first two wins coming on Friday and Saturday, both with a score of 5-3. However, the Vols would need a few more innings to get it done against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles nearly closed it out in the ninth with runners on the corners and just a single out, but the Vols managed to turn a ground ball into a double play to force extra innings. The teams remained scoreless in the 10th and 11th innings before senior shortstop Liam Spence put the game away in a big way by cracking a grand slam over the center field wall in the top of the 12th inning, securing a 7-3 victory. The Volunteers are now 3-0 on the season.
Lady Vol softball
The No. 23 Lady Vols got their softball season underway last week as well, playing six games. Tennessee swept Eastern Kentucky in a two-game series, with the first game ending 10-0 after five innings and the second ending with a 3-2 win.
Tennessee then swept Southeast Missouri State in a two-game series including a 7-0 victory, and a 5-3 win.
The Lady Vols then split a doubleheader with Miami of Ohio on Sunday. They won the first game 7-3, before suffering their first loss of the season in the second game. UT just could not get the bats going in the second game against Miami (OH), and the Lady Vols fell 2-0. The Lady Vols are 5-1 on the season.
Rick Barnes’ squad will face off against Vanderbilt (6-12) on Wednesday night in Nashville at 9 p.m. before battling Auburn (11-12) on Saturday.
The Lady Vols will take on Mizzou (8-9) Thursday at 8 p.m. and then welcome Auburn (5-15) to Knoxville on Sunday.
Tony Vitello’s squad will take part in a two-game series against Arkansas-Pine Bluff as well as a three-game series against Indiana State.
The Lady Vols softball team will welcome a host of teams to Knoxville next week as they have games lined up with Ohio, Illinois State, UT-Martin, Northern Kentucky, and Central Michigan.