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This Week in UT Sports History – March 22nd-28th

(Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)

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

The Lady Vols advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament yesterday with a win against Middle Tennessee State, 87-62. The two teams entered the half with a tie before Tennessee took a 13-point lead, 62-49, heading into the fourth quarter. Size gave the Lady Vols the advantage to take a 25-point victory in the end, snatching offensive rebounds for the put-back.

In Athens, Georgia, Tony Vitello picked up his 100th win as Tennessee head coach. He reached the milestone faster than any other coach in program history with an 11-6 win against Georgia at Foley Field on Friday. The No. 13 Vols went on to win the series after dropping Game 2 by a score of 5-4 on a Bulldog walkoff. Tennessee won, 4-1, on Sunday.

While Tennessee programs like women’s basketball and baseball continue to etch stats in the record books, Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at prior lines in the athletic annuls this week in UT sports history:

March 22, 2005

It was only fitting the University of Tennessee name its basketball court after the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.

On March 22, 2005, Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols beat Purdue, 75-54, to give the legendary coach her 880th victory, one better than Dean Smith’s 879. Minutes after the game clock hit zero to send the Lady Vols to another Sweet 16, university officials announced the court would soon bear Summitt’s name.

The longtime coach, overcome, looked to the rafters where her national championship banners hung overhead. Director of Women’s Athletics Joan Cronan unveiled the court design as the Lady Vol program celebrated Summitt’s milestone.

ESPN’s Beth Mowins covered the events, making note of Summitt’s shock.

“I never even though about anything like that ever,” Summitt said. “I don’t think there could have been a better gift in terms of the feeling that I had and how much I love this university.”

Tennessee, then a one-seed, improved the 28-4 on the season thanks to 11 three-point shots, which set a school record in NCAA tournament games. The Lady Vols got help on defense from freshman Nicky Anosike, who worked for six steals in the game. Anosike, who won national championships as a Lady Vol in 2007 and 2008, returned to Tennessee as a graduate assistant in 2018 following a WNBA career with the Minnesota Lynx, Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks. She now serves as head coach for Anderson County High School.

The win against Purdue gave Anosike’s head coach her 24th consecutive Sweet 16 berth. The Lady Vol program reached every Sweet 16 from 1982 to 2008 and 2010 to 2016. Tennessee lost in the first round in 2009.

Current head coach Kellie Harper earned her renown in four of those NCAA runs, three of which ended with a national championship title. She coached her first NCAA tournament appearance as the Lady Vol leader on Sunday. Tennessee will face six-seed Michigan tomorrow.

March 28, 2014

Unfortunately, the Sweet 16 was not sweet as soda pop for the Rocky Top faithful in the largest crowd to ever watch a Tennessee basketball game. Following three solid victories, Cuonzo Martin’s Vols lost a heartbreaker to two-seeded Michigan, 73-71 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Down by 11 at the half, Tennessee put 37 points on the board in a valiant second half effort, outscoring Michigan by nine points. Of course, the deficit remained, and 41,072 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium watched the Wolverines take the win.

The Vols held the defensive advantage. By the end, Tennessee forced 13 turnovers while only committing seven. The orange and white outrebounded Michigan, 28-27. However, hot shooting from beyond the arc gave the Wolverines an edge. Tennessee hit only 27.3% of its three-pointers while Michigan hit more than half, 55%.

The 11th-seeded Tennessee team had already surprised fans and analysts following an overtime victory in the first round. The Sweet 16 seemed like a miracle, and the end of the game seemed even more miraculous as the Vols closed a 72-64 deficit with less than two minutes left in the game. Tennessee then came within one. But a controversial charge call stalled the comeback as Jarnell Stokes muscled toward the basket with 10 seconds on the clock.

Michigan forward Jordan Morgan flopped to the ground, the Associated Press reporting he perhaps “[embellished] the contact.”

“I don’t think I fouled him,” Stokes said. “It was a smart play for him to try to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it.”

Tennessee lost an opportunity to take the lead, and Michigan advanced after adding a single free-throw.

The 2020-21 men’s basketball team exited the tournament in the first round following a horrible first-half outing against Oregon State. The Vols only managed to pick up 19 points before halftime, down by 14. Both teams scored 37 points in the second half, not enough for Tennessee to make a comeback. The final score stood at 70-56.

Rick Barnes congratulated Oregon State, saying he wished his team had given them more of a competition. Vol Nation wished the same, as did thousands across the country who picked Tennessee in March Madness bracket competitions.

The Vols finished the 2020-21 season 18-9 overall and 10-7 in conference play.

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