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 basketball team closed out their regular season, while the Lady Vols competed in the SEC Tournament.
This article was written by RTI contributor Spencer Morrell.
The Volunteers played their last game of the regular season on Sunday afternoon against the Florida Gators in Knoxville. The game had major implications for Tennessee’s seeding in the upcoming SEC Tournament as the Vols needed a win to secure the No. 4 seed and a double-bye in Nashville.
UT fell behind the Gators early in the first half and began to slip further and further behind. Tennessee trailed 31-17 with five minutes left in the first half, and the four-seed for next week’s tournament seemed to be slipping away. However, the Vols’ defense stiffened up and Florida only scored two more points in the first half. Tennessee was able to grab some momentum and were only behind 33-28 at the half.
It remained a five-point game for the first five minutes of the second half, before Tennessee began to make progress. UT pulled within one point with 15 minutes left in the game, and a Santiago Vescovi jumper put the Vols ahead with 12 minutes to go. They would lead the rest of the game on the way to securing a 65-54 victory, and the No. 4 seed. Senior John Fulkerson led the Vols with 14 points and 7 rebounds and kept Tennessee in the game for stretches of the first half. Freshman Keon Johnson also scored 14 in the win. Senior Yves Pons tallied five points, eight rebounds, and one block in his last performance in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Volunteers finished the regular season with a 17-7 record.
Lady Vol basketball
The Lady Vols took part in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina last week, first facing off against Ole Miss in the quarterfinal round. Tennessee looked to be on its way to a comfortable win as it led by eight after the first quarter, but the Rebels rallied in the second quarter. Tennessee went into halftime down 41-37, and found itself down eight by the end of the third quarter. UT then mounted a comeback in the fourth, taking a three-point lead with five minutes left in the game. It was able to hold that lead and come out with a 77-72 victory over an aggressive Ole Miss team that gave Tennessee all they wanted. Senior Rennia Davis recorded yet another double-double with 33 points and 14 rebounds, while junior Rae Burrell scored 18 points. Sophomore Jordan Horston contributed 12 points off the bench. With the win, the Lady Vols advanced to their first conference semifinal since 2016, where the South Carolina Gamecocks were waiting.
In the semifinal round, Tennessee found themselves smothered by South Carolina’s defense. The Lady Vols mustered only 12 points in the second quarter and trailed 39-25 at halftime. The Gamecocks were able to keep Tennessee at arms-length for the remainder of the game. UT could not gain any traction in the second half, and they simply could not chip into South Carolina’s lead. The Lady Vols bowed out of the SEC Tournament in the semifinal round, losing to the Gamecocks 67-52. Tennessee shot 36% from the floor and an abysmal 14% from the three-point line. Redshirt junior Jordan Walker and Horston led the Lady Vols with 11 points each. Davis and Burrell could not get going, and they managed only nine points each. The Lady Vols will now await their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
Tony Vitello’s baseball squad was back on the diamond last week, winning a mid-week matchup with Austin Peay on Wednesday by a score of 5-3. The No. 18 Vols would then welcome a dangerous Georgia State team to Knoxville for a three-game series over the weekend. Georgia State arrived in Knoxville with three top-15 wins under their belt, and the top-20 Vols were in their sights next. However, by the end of the weekend, Tennessee would leave no doubt about who was the better team. The Volunteers would sweep Georgia State in the three-game series winning 6-1 on Friday, 5-1 on Saturday, and 7-0 on Sunday. The Vols managed the shutout Sunday by pitching by committee. Five pitchers took the mound for the Vols on Sunday, but every pitcher was able to keep the shutout intact. The Vols threw 10 strikeouts on Sunday while allowing six hits. Tennessee is now 11-2 on the season
Lady Vol softball
The Lady Vols travelled to College Station, Texas over the weekend to take part in the Reveille Classic. This included games against Campbell University, Lamar University, and Texas A&M. On Friday, Tennessee downed Campbell 13-1 and Lamar 8-0, both in five innings. It then took on Texas A&M Saturday afternoon in the marquee matchup of the weekend. The Lady Vols would pull out a 3-2 victory, thanks in large part to a complete pitching performance from Ashley Rogers. Rogers pitched all seven innings, tallying 10 strikeouts and giving up only three hits in the victory. Tennessee would then close out the weekend with two more run-rule wins. The Lady Vols knocked off Lamar 8-0 in five innings before wrapping up the weekend with a 14-0 win over Campbell in five innings on Sunday. The Lady Vols are now 17-1 on the season.
Tennessee basketball will take on the winner of the five-seed vs. 12/13 game in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday. The baseball team will take on Charlotte on Tuesday before playing a three-game series against UNC-Greensboro this weekend. The Lady Vol softball team will take on Austin Peay on Wednesday, and then begin conference play with a three-game series against LSU over the weekend.