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    The 25th-ranked Lady Vols were unable to overcome Texas A&M’s Chennedy Carter’s career game in a 73-71 loss to the 16th-ranked Aggies in Knoxville on Sunday.

    Texas A&M (20-5, 8-4 SEC) made just one field goal in the fourth quarter. It was all the Aggies would need, however, as the No. 16 team in the country still scored 20 points in the frame courtesy of 17 made free throws. Tennessee (17-8, 7-5 SEC) outscored Texas A&M 24-20 over the final 10 minutes, but because of its inability to defend without fouling, the Aggies closed out the game on the free throw line.

    “I think after a close game, you can pick up a stat sheet and find many areas that you could’ve won the game,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said following the game. “It’s easy to do.

    “The other side is, I’m proud of our effort. I thought it was one of our best games in terms of 40 minutes of effort. I think we can build on that. You’ve just got to clean up some of those stat sheet items. You’ve got to keep giving focus and effort like that and give yourself a chance.”

    Sophomore Rae Burrell led the Lady Vols with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting, while Rennia Davis chipped in 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting to go along with six rebounds and five assists. Burrell started her third career game for the Lady Vols. After Sunday’s performance, she’s now the team’s second-leading scorer at 10.2 points per game.

    The Lady Vols trailed Texas A&M 36-30 at the half. Tennessee shot 40.6 percent from the field but was unable to slow down the Aggies on the defensive end. A&M shot 45.2 percent overall, 66.7 percent from three, and 85.7 percent from the free throw line.

    Here are our three observations from the Lady Vols’ loss to the Aggies.

    Too Much Chennedy Carter

    Following the game, Burrell claimed that the Texas A&M star flopped too much. But that wasn’t at all the case. Carter is simply one of the best players in the SEC, and the Lady Vols couldn’t slow her down regardless of who was defending her. Burrell just happened to be one of her victims.

    Carter finished with 37 points on 10-for-22 shooting and 3-for-5 from three. She was 14-for-16 from the free throw line while pulling down five rebounds, picking up three steals, and tallying two assists in 36 minutes.

    “We went zone, and I think a lot of the time we were not aware of where she was,” Davis said. “Even if we were, I don’t think we connected on a lot of the defensive stops that we could have got on her, just as far as knowing where she was and knowing that we had to bump off a bit quicker or just get here a little bit faster.”

    Free Throws and Turnovers

    Tennessee has gotten better about limiting turnovers. But the Lady Vols are still not where they need to be, and Sunday’s game was yet another example.

    “We watch film,” Harper explained. “We try to help teach. We run for every turnover in practice. We try to focus on it, do a lot.

    “At some point, it’s just stepping out there and taking care of the basketball. I get that we’re never going to be spot-free. We’re not going to have zero, but we’ve just got to cut down two apiece (between Burrell and Jordan Horston). It’s a big deal.”

    Burrell turned the basketball over five times, and Horston turned it over a team-high six times. As a team, the Lady Vols turned it over on 16 different occasions. Those 16 turnovers led to 19 points for Texas A&M.

    Tennessee didn’t help itself at the free throw line either. As a team, the Lady Vols were 6-for-16 from the charity stripe. Freshman Tamari Key was 1-for-6 and Burrell was 3-for-6. Jaiden McCoy was 0-for-2 as UT missed 10 free throws in a two-point loss.

    “I don’t think it’s anything fundamental,” Harper said of the free throw struggles. “It’s just a lack of focus. You miss a couple, and then you start worrying about them.

    “I think we’ve got players that can make free throws. They do it consistently in practice. When you get in a big game like this, you’ve just got to focus, have confidence, step up there, and knock them down.”

    On the flip side of Tennessee’s free throw struggles, Texas A&M was 28-for-33 from the free throw line for the game.

    Lady Vol Fans Show Up and Show Out

    Free throws and turnovers were an issue against Texas A&M, but fan support was not.

    Sunday’s attendance of 12,738 is the largest Lady Vol crowd since the 2017-18 season. It’s the third audience of 10,000 or more this season, an increase over the 2018-19 season that saw no games with an attendance greater than 10,000.

    “My pre-game speech was about the crowd,” Harper said. “It was about using them, letting them push you further and help you. (The crowd) was awesome. What a great environment for a big-time game. And that’s what this was today, and that’s what these players signed up for. That’s Tennessee basketball; that was fun.”

    Up Next

    Tennessee now hits the road for a date with Arkansas (20-5, 8-4 SEC) on Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET in Fayetteville. The Lady Vols will then return home on Sunday to face Vanderbilt (13-11, 3-8 SEC) at noon.

    Tennessee completed the season-opening sweep of Western Illinois on Sunday afternoon with another huge win, coming away with a 23-4 victory.

    The Vols (3-0) tallied 19 hits at the plate and 16 strikeouts on the mound, recording double-digit hits and strikeouts for the second consecutive game. Tennessee’s 19 hits were the most in a game since 2016. Thirteen different Vols recorded a hit, and six Vols tallied multiple hits.

    “It feels good,” coach Tony Vitello said following the win. “The bottom line is that there were some really good at-bats as the weekend went on.”

    Tennessee didn’t push any runs across in the first inning, but they did so in the second inning by scoring eight runs. Connor Pavolony got things going by drawing a walk with the bases loaded to score Evan Russell. With the bases still loaded, Luc Lipcius hit a two-run double to left center. Max Ferguson then hit an RBI single before Zach Daniels and Jake Rucker hit back-to-back two-run doubles which gave the Vols an 8-0 lead at the end of two innings.

    Ferguson drove in his second run of the game in the third inning. The sophomore second baseman smacked a line drive home run over the right field fence to extend the Vols’ lead to 9-0.

    In the fourth inning, Jake Rucker scored on a wild pitch. Liam Spence then singled to left to bring in Pavolony and give Tennessee a 11-o lead at the end of four.

    Jackson Leath (W, 1-0) started for the Vols on the bump. In his first career appearance and start, Leath didn’t allow any runs until the fifth inning. He ran into trouble in the first, giving up a walk and then allowing a Leatherneck to reach on a wild pitch despite striking him out. After a visit from pitching coach Frank Anderson, the junior struck out the final two batters of the inning to get out of the jam.

    “I just settled in and threw strikes,” Leath said. “After the first inning, just being able to establish a fastball and work off-speed off that.”

    Leath pitched 4.1 innings in his Tennessee debut. The right-hander allowed three earned runs on two hits, but he allowed just two walks and struck out 12 Western Illinois batters. The Leathernecks didn’t touch up Leath until the fifth inning when they struck for three runs on a two-run triple and an RBI groundout.

    “It was a tale of three different stories for me,” Vitello said. “That was pretty special there in the middle when he (Leath) found his groove. At the very end, the third story, it was me leaving him in there too long.

    “It was a good first time outing, and he showed flashes of brilliance out there. I look forward to more of him on the mound.”

    Tennessee answered Western Illinois’ three runs with two runs of its own when Lipcius hit his second two-run double of the day. Lipcius finished 2-for-3 at the plate with two doubles and four RBI.

    “It was really important that we weren’t giving up at-bats,” Lipcius said. “That’s really important as a team, because we have a lot of tough competition coming up.”

    The Vols led 13-4 midway through the seventh after Western Illinois tacked on a run courtesy of a Trenton Bauer home run. Tennessee then exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 20-4 lead after seven.

    In the inning, Pete Derkay singled through the left side to score Jordan Beck, Trey Lipscomb hit a sacrifice fly to score Alerick Soularie, Landon Gray singled up the middle to score Derkay, Spence reached on a throwing error which allowed Christian Scott to score, Beck singled to left to score Matt Turino, and Derkay was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

    Austin Knight hit a three-run home run in the following inning to score the final runs of the game. It was Knight’s second career home run and the second consecutive game in which the sophomore hit a three-run home run.

    Sunday’s win for the Vols to sweep Western Illinois marked the second straight season Tennessee opened the year with a series sweep. Last season, the Vols swept Appalachian State to begin the 2019 season.

    Tennessee will be back in action against Charlotte (1-2) on Tuesday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.

      (Photo via Cory Fravel/247Sports)

      A month ago, four-star wide receiver Jayden Thomas picked up an offer from Tennessee. Moving forward, the Vols are one of the main teams he wants to focus on in his recruitment.

      Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver who plays for Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, tweeted out a list of his top teams in his recruitment this weekend, and the Vols made the cut along with several high profile programs. Tennessee is included along with Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Arkansas.

      According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Thomas is the No. 132 overall prospect and No. 26 wide receiver in the 2021 cycle. He already holds over two dozen scholarship offers, but Tennessee and the 10 other schools among his favorites will have most of his attention moving forward.

      Thomas is a multi-sport athlete who plays football, basketball, and baseball for Pace Academy. He’s been timed running a 4.63-second 40-yard dash and a 4.21-second shuttle time at a regional camp for Nike’s The Opening in March of 2019, and he showed off a 33.6-inch vertical leap as well.

      Though he’s not blazing fast, Thomas is far from slow and has a good initial burst off the snap. He glides down the field and takes long steps to get past defenders. Thomas is very tough and fights for extra yardage on every reception, refusing to go down on initial contact. He has good athleticism and route-running capabilities.

      In his junior season, Thomas was nominated for the Atlanta Football Offensive Player of the Year by USA Today High School Sports. He’s one of 10 nominees for the award, and the list includes Vol quarterback signee Harrison Bailey, LSU tight end signee Arik Gilbert, Alabama wide receiver signee Javon Baker, Georgia offensive line signee Broderick Jones, and 2021 Tennessee running back target Cody Brown among others.

      In his high school career, Thomas has caught 83 passes for 1,224 yards and eight touchdowns according to MaxPreps. He’s also run for a touchdown and thrown for one on offense. In baseball, Thomas hit .387 in 88 plate appearances in 2019, totaling 29 hits, two home runs, eight doubles, three triples, 17 RBI, and 31 runs scored. He also stole 14 bases and pitched 20.1 innings, earning a 2.75 ERA and striking out 18 batters.

      Tennessee currently has six prospects committed to them in their 2021 class, and one of them projects as a wide receiver. Four-star Jordan Mosely from Mobile, Alabama is UT’s lone WR commit in the 2021 class as of now.

      Few Vols within Tennessee’s baseball program generated as much buzz over the offseason as junior pitcher Chase Wallace did.

      Wallace proved why on Saturday, making his first career start and guiding Tennessee (2-0) to a 19-0 win over Western Illinois (0-2) in game two of the three-game series. The win clinched the Vols’ first series win of the season.

      The right-handed pitcher out of Sevier County picked up the win in his first start. Wallace (W, 1-0) threw 72 pitches in 5.2 scoreless innings of work, 47 of which were strikes. He gave up two hits, struck out six, and walked just one batter.

      “We saw the Chase (Wallace) that’s been Chase all junior year,” coach Tony Vitello said following the game. “The way he’s pitched all junior season, literally the whole time, has been as a Friday night type pitcher, and I thought he did that today.”

      Wallace only ran into trouble once, which came in the third inning when Western Illinois managed to load the bases. After a quick mound visit from pitching coach Frank Anderson, Wallace got the Leathernecks’ best hitter to pop out to second.

      “(Frank Anderson) told me to take a deep breath and to calm down,” Wallace said. “He honestly told me what pitch to throw next and that was about it.

      “I was just throwing it in the zone and letting the defense work. The first two innings, I threw nothing but fastballs.”

      Tennessee mustered just three runs on Friday afternoon in its season opener. A day later, Wallace and the pitching staff received plenty of run support.

      UT scored right off the bat in the bottom of the first inning. After Zach Daniels reached on a walk, the junior outfielder advanced to third, ultimately scoring on a balk. In the second inning, Liam Spence recorded his first career hit as a Vol, hitting an RBI single up the middle.

      “I don’t think we have the best offense in the country, but we’re certainly not the worst either,” Vitello said. “We started a little slow early, partly due to Western Illinois’ pitching, but also not getting it going the way we need to. They finally shed themselves of a little bit too much of an adrenaline rush.”

      Tennessee scored two runs over the first four innings. It then proceeded to score 16 combined runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings on the way to scoring 19 runs, which is the most runs scored during the Vitello era.

      In the fifth inning, Evan Russell got things going with an RBI single before Landon Gray drove in a two-run double. Trey Lipscomb then hit an RBI single. Following Lipscomb’s single, Gray scored on a balk to round out the six-spot the Vols put on the board in the fifth.

      Tennessee tacked on three in the sixth inning to push its lead to 13-0. Drew Gilbert made his first career appearance as a Vol, hitting a two-run double as a pinch-hitter. The freshman then scored on an RBI groundout off of the bat of Alerick Soularie.

      The Vols broke out the big bats in the seventh inning. After Lipscomb scored on a wild pitch, Daniels launched a massive three-run home run over the left field fence for his first homer of the season. A couple of batters later, sophomore Austin Knight clubbed the first home run of his career, a three-run shot to put Tennessee up 18-0.

      “We got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things,” Daniels said. “We have a lot of guys who can swing it and put the ball over the fence, we have a lot of speed. We have a lot of guys who can get the job done.”

      Gilbert drove in the final run of the game in the eighth inning on an RBI single. After driving in his third run of the game, he saw action on the mound. Gilbert allowed one hit in one scoreless inning of work, and he struck out three.

      “He’s one of our best players,” Vitello said of Gilbert. “He sat there for a game and a half on the bench and was energetic and cheering for his teammates. Then when he got his opportunity, he showed you what he can do.

      “He can affect the game on both sides of the ball. A lot of the accolades or attention he acquired was on the mound, but he’s got a really good swing and incredible hand speed. He’s equally as good offensively.”

      Tennessee’s season-opening series win marks the second consecutive year the Vols have opened up the season with a series win. Last season, the Vols didn’t allow a run in their first four games. They’ve yet to allow a run this season through two games.

      “When this group just plays, they’re pretty exciting,” Vitello said.

      The Vols go for the sweep of Western Illinois on Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.

        (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

        If you like foul calls and free throws, Saturday’s Tennessee vs. South Carolina game was for you.

        A combined 52 fouls were called on the Vols and Gamecocks on Saturday night, but unlike the last time these two teams played, UT couldn’t take advantage of South Carolina’s poor free throw shooting.

        Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC) fell in the closing seconds to the Gamecocks (16-9, 8-4) by a score of 63-61. The Vols led for nearly 24 minutes of game time, but South Carolina pulled ahead in the final 22 seconds on made free throws by Malik Kotsar, and that was enough to ice away the game.

        Josiah-Jordan James went to the line with 3.7 seconds left after South Carolina fouled him before he could get off a three with UT trailing 63-60. James made the first free throw, then he intentionally missed the second. The freshman was able to get his own rebound and put up a shot as the clock wound down.

        His shot didn’t fall, and John Fulkerson didn’t have enough time to corral the miss and put up a shot of his own.

        The Gamecocks snapped a five-game losing streak to the Vols with the win, and they’ve now won eight of their last 10 contests after losing to Tennessee 56-55 in Knoxville on January 11th.

        Here are our three biggest takeaways from the Vols’ disappointing loss to South Carolina on the road.

        Lack of Fundamentals 

        Yes, the officials were far from ideal in Saturday’s contest, but the Vols have nobody but themselves to blame for the loss against South Carolina.

        Tennessee was careless with the basketball, missed too many free throws, and gave up too many second-chance opportunities. The Vols turned the ball over 20 times, allowing South Carolina to score 22 points off turnovers. Tennessee was outscored 12-3 in second-chance points thanks to Carolina capitalizing on 11 offensive rebounds (UT had 10).

        Most importantly, Tennessee wasn’t good from the free throw line.

        The Vols are one of the better free throw shooting teams in the SEC, and South Carolina is the worst in the league. On Saturday, both teams stunk it up from the charity stripe, and it cost UT more. Tennessee finished just 17-of-28 from the free throw line while Carolina went 19-of-32. But the Gamecocks hit several free throws late in key moments, and UT was inconsistent after a good start from the line.

        All those mistakes added up, and despite some good defensive play for most of the game, the Vols’ sloppiness on offense came back to bite them.

        Wasted Strong Performances 

        Tennessee’s poor overall team effort hurts for a number of reasons, but two individual players really have to feel the sting after their good showings.

        John Fulkerson was effective — though he did have two crucial traveling calls go against him — and totaled a career-high 25 points. Fulkerson also brought down nine rebounds, finishing one rebound shy of another double-double. The redshirt junior also had a steal and a block.

        Josiah-Jordan James returned to action on Saturday, marking his first appearance in two weeks. James had missed the last four games after re-aggravating a groin/hip injury, but he was able to give it a go against South Carolina, and he played well. James played for 30 minutes off the bench and totaled nine points, five assists, three rebounds, and just one turnover. He tied Santiago Vescovi for the team lead in assists, but Vescovi turned the ball over four times.

        Yves Pons had a good game as well, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in 29 minutes.

        Everyone else, Jordan Bowden included, had fairly unremarkable or bad nights. Bowden was 1-of-7 from the floor, Vescovi finished 2-of-8, and Davonte Gaines was the only other Vol to score, making two of his four free throws.

        Hopes Dashed?

        South Carolina isn’t a bad team, but they aren’t exactly a great one, either. Losing on the road in Columbia to an average Gamecocks team isn’t a resume-breaker, but with the way the rest of the Vols’ schedule plays out to end the regular season, Saturday’s loss sure felt like a death blow to UT’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

        Tennessee now falls to 14-11 on the season and 6-6 in conference play. After a home match-up with Vanderbilt on Tuesday, the Vols have to travel to Auburn to take on the Tigers on Saturday, stay on the road for a contest against Arkansas on the following Wednesday, then host Florida, travel to Kentucky, and finish the season with a home game against Auburn.

        Unless the Vols can somehow pull off a couple upsets down the stretch, they’ll likely miss out on the Big Dance this year.

          Tennessee won an ugly defensive struggle the last time they took on South Carolina this season, but the Gamecocks have been a different team since these two programs last met.

          The Vols (14-10, 6-5 SEC) will take on South Carolina (15-9, 7-4) over in Columbia on early Saturday evening, marking the second time the two teams have played this season. The last time Tennessee and South Carolina faced-off, UT escaped with a 56-55 victory in Knoxville in a game that saw both teams struggle to shoot the ball. Thanks to a drawn charge by John Fulkerson in the closing seconds, UT was able to close out the win.

          Since then, South Carolina has gone on a tear.

          The Gamecocks have won seven of their last nine games — including wins over Kentucky at home and against Arkansas on the road — and have averaged 77 points a game on offense in that stretch. South Carolina has gone from 8-7 overall and 0-2 in SEC play after their loss to Tennessee to 15-9 overall and 7-4 in conference play.

          Tennessee, meanwhile, has struggled with consistency, going 4-5 in that same span and averaging less than 70 points a game on offense.

          Although South Carolina has been hot as of late, they tend to always struggle with Tennessee. The Vols own a 47-27 all-time record against SC, and UT has won five-straight games against the Gamecocks. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes is also 9-7 all-time against South Carolina head coach Frank Martin.

          Freshman guard Josiah-Jordan James is still questionable for the Vols for Saturday’s contest. James has missed Tennessee’s last four games after re-aggravating a hip/groin injury from the preseason.

          Take a look at everything you need to know for today’s match-up. If you can’t make it to the game, here’s how you can watch or listen to tonight’s Tennessee vs. South Carolina game.

          Tip-Off: 6:00 Eastern, February 15th, Colonial Life Arena (Columbia, SC)

          TV: SEC Network (Mike Morgan and Pat Bradley)

          Streaming Online: ESPN.com/watch or the ESPN app

          Radio: Vol Network

          Line: South Carolina (-4)