From the vault, a year ago today, the basketball Vols end their losing streak to Kentucky:
The Tennessee Volunteer basketball team continued its winning ways last night with a huge win over its nemesis to the north, the Kentucky Wildcats.
Former Kentucky Mr. Basketball Chris Lofton was again the catalyst, scoring a career-high 31 points in the Vols' 75-67 victory. UT ended an eight-game losing streak to Kentucky and strengthened its leading position in the SEC East.
Said Chris Lofton, "I got in my rhythm and my teammates kept feeding me the ball. I just tried to block everything out tonight."
The Vols led most of the way, but Kentucky closed the gap as the clock wound down. Then, with 2:26 left in the game and the Vols behind 64-65, Major Wingate put Tennessee back on top with a bucket underneath to make the score 66-65.
Lofton scored the next seven points and was still calling for the ball when the clock ran out. "I was going to do something I probably shouldn't have done," he said. "I'm glad they didn't throw me the ball.''
I noticed something from the television coverage that was very telling. When the Vols scored the basket that effectively guaranteed the win, they danced over to the timeout huddle only to be greeted by coach Bruce Pearl yelling at them to calm down, to control their elation. Not one single player on this team has ever beaten Kentucky, much less at Rupp Arena. Pearl looked like he was instructing them, however, to act like they weren't surprised they won.
Pearl coaches 24-7. During the game, he coaches from tip-off to final buzzer. His style of play uses all 94 feet of the court, and he makes the most of the talent on his team.
Pearl wins because he uses everything at his disposal.
I believe that this was the gamma radiation game, the point at which coach Bruce Pearl was first exposed to the mutating agent that nows makes him prone to morphing into the Hulk. Remember that, when we were so elated to simply get one win against Kentucky? And now, a mere twelve months later, we're expecting it and disappointed if we come up short.
What a difference a year makes. Sometimes I wonder which is better: having a great team that wins most of the time, after which you say, "Well, that was pretty fun, again," or having a team on the rise, that is still losing most of the time, but that wins an occasional big one that produces moments like this: