Alabama upsets No. 11 Lady Vols for first Knoxville win

Alabama (16-10, 6-7 SEC) overcame a dominant Lady Vols run midway through the second half on Thursday night to upset No. 11 Tennessee 72-63 for its first ever win in Knoxville.

Tennessee (21-5, 9-4 SEC) trailed Alabama 33-26 just a few minutes into the second half. After a 15-0 run over the span of three minutes, the Lady Vols took a 41-33 lead. Tennessee built the run around a tremendous defensive effort. Alabama turned it over five times in the first half, but Tennessee’s active hands and full-court press forced the Crimson Tide into five turnovers during the Lady Vol run.

Then, the game flipped on its head. Alabama guard Hannah Cook drained a three to put a knife in the Tennessee run and the Crimson Tide rolled back within five.

The Lady Vols maintained a five-point lead throughout the third quarter, taking a 49-44 lead into the final frame after outscoring Alabama 25-15 in the third.

After the Crimson Tide didn’t score in the final 2:31 of third quarter play, Alabama got to work right away in the fourth quarter. Sparked by a Jordan Lewis three, the Crimson Tide went on a 14-0 run to take a 58-49 lead.

After exploding for 25 in the third, Tennessee scored just one point over the first seven minutes of the final quarter. The Lady Vols weren’t able to respond to the Crimson Tide run, scoring just 14 fourth quarter points.

In what proved to be a bittersweet moment, Lady Vols senior center Mercedes Russell scored her 1,500th career point with 6:29 remaining in the second quarter. The basket extended placed Russell in elite company.

With the bucket, Russell is the sixth Lady Vol ever to score 1,500 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. The senior from Oregon joins Chamique Holdsclaw, Sheila Frost, Glory Johnson, Bashaara Graves and Tamika Catchings as the only Lady Vols to reach the milestone.

Alabama outscored Tennessee 21-9 in the second frame. Following a poor offensive outing by both teams in the first half, Alabama closed the half on a 12-0 run to take a 29-24 lead into the break.

The Lady Vols shot just 30 percent in the opening half and didn’t score over the final 4:34 of play.

Jaime Nared led Tennessee with 22 points and seven rebounds on 9-of-18 shooting. Freshman Rennia Davis chipped in a double-double, scoring 18 points and hauling in 10 rebounds. Russell also finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 points and 10 rebounds.

For Alabama, Lewis finished with 19 points to lead the way. Cook finished with 10 points while Ashley Williams added 16 and 10 rebounds.

After back-to-back home games, Tennessee now hits the road for back-to-back road games. The Lady Vols will be in Columbia, Missouri on Sunday afternoon to take on No. 13 Missouri. Tip is set for 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 15 Tennessee looks to continue hot streak at Alabama

Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) will go on the road to battle Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) Saturday evening at 6 p.m. The Vols have been red-hot lately, winning their last six games and coming off their first win at Kentucky since 1999.

Rick Barnes has Tennessee rolling right now thanks to the defense. The Vols have been stingy on the defensive side of the ball, allowing slightly over 66 points per game on the season.

The Vols haven’t allowed over 65 points to an opponent in the last eight contests.

If Tennessee wants to succeed at a sold out Coleman Coliseum Saturday, it will have to make shut down star point guard Colin Sexton.

The former five-star prized recruit for Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has lived up to his rating this season. Sexton is third in the SEC in scoring with 18.6 points per game.

Sexton went head-to-head earlier in the season with Oklahoma point guard Trae Young and bettered him in the contest. To say the least, the Tennessee guards will have their hands full in this one.

Tennessee has balanced scoring on its side. Barnes’ top seven players in minutes played average over seven points per game.

Both Lamonté Turner and James Daniel III make huge plays off the bench for Tennessee, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Vols bottled up Tremont Waters, a freshman standout for LSU, and sent him home after scoring only seven points on 1-9 shooting.

Only a week later, the Tennessee defense held Ole Miss’ standout guards to 20 combined points on 29 total shots. The Vols held Deandre Burnett to 2-13 shooting in the game.

Turner played a key role in the win over Kentucky Tuesday evening. He will need a big game both offensively and defensively for the Vols on Saturday. Turner must offset Colin Sexton, as Sexton will be one of the most versatile guards the Big Orange plays all season.

Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has his team playing very good basketball as of late, but the Tide has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference this season. Alabama is one of the few teams to knock off Bruce Pearl’s red-hot Auburn Tigers this season. The Tide also beat No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 23 Florida.

With the good comes the bad, as Johnson’s Alabama team has also been knocked off by far lesser opponents. The Tide lost by double-digits to Georgia, Texas and Ole Miss – all teams ranking in the bottom-tier of their respective conferences.

If Johnson wants his team to be respected come tournament selection time, the Tide will have to prove the good outweighs the bad and knock off lesser teams after a big time win. Both teams will have their hands full in this matchup, but look for the guard play to be the deciding factor.

Johnson and the Tide are 1-1 against Barnes since his tenure in Tuscaloosa. The Vols look to win only their 19th game at Alabama since the rivalry began. Tennessee is 18-44 all-time at Coleman Coliseum.

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Tennessee hires Jeremy Pruitt to be Vols 26th head football coach

Tennessee has named Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt the Vols 26th head football coach. University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer will hold a press conference Thursday evening at 6:05 p.m. ET to introduce Pruitt.

“I know Coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level,” Fulmer stated in a press release from the University on Thursday morning.

“Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and Coach Pruitt meets all criteria.”

Pruitt has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the country over the last several years, building a 128-31 record as a two-time Broyles Award Finalist and assistant coach.

“I’m certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee’s caliber,” Fulmer said. “He’s driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university’s values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes.”

This year, Pruitt has coached Alabama’s defense to the No. 2 overall defense in the country after guiding the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 defense last season. From 2014-15, Pruitt coordinated the No. 7 and No. 17 overall defense in the country while at Georgia. In 2013, the Rainsville, Alabama native helped guide Florida State to a national championship behind the country’s third-ranked defense.

Pruitt has been a part of three other championships as well, helping guide Alabama to national championships (2009, 2011, 2012) as an assistant from 2007 to 2012 before leaving to take over as defensive coordinator at Florida State.

Before his coaching career began, Pruitt played college football as a defensive back at Middle Tennessee State before finishing his playing career at Alabama.

From 2000 to 2006, Pruitt was a highly respected defensive coordinator throughout the state of Alabama at Plainview, Fort Payne and Hoover High School. In 2007, he would become a defensive assistant under Nick Saban. Pruitt would serve as an assistant under Saban until 2009 before heading to Tallahassee in 2013 to serve as the Seminoles defensive coordinator.

While at Florida State, his defense was first in the nation in scoring, allowing just 10.7 points per game. The Seminoles defense also led the nation in interceptions with 26, while they allowed the third fewest yards per game (248.2). Pruitt was a 2013 finalist for the Broyles Award.

Following just one year as Florida State’s defensive coordinator, Pruitt traveled up north to Athens, Georgia to serve as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator for two years. In 2014, Georgia finish top 20 nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense. While also serving as the secondary coach, Pruitt helped guide Georgia’s defense to the nation’s No. 1 pass defense in 2015.

The Alabama native returned to Alabama for his second stint in Tuscaloosa following Kirby Smart’s departure to Georgia. As defensive coordinator, Pruitt helped lead Alabama to the College Football Playoffs in both 2016 and 2017 as his defenses were the best in the nation in scoring defense.

Throughout his impressive time as an assistant coach, Pruitt has coached 34 NFL draft picks. Reuben Foster, Jonathan Allen and Jalen Ramsey are just a few of the players he has helped guide to the NFL. Pruitt has also coached 11 first-team All-Americans.

Pruitt replaces Butch Jones as the head coach of the Vols after Jones was fired on Nov. 12. In five years as Tennessee’s head coach, Jones was 34-27 and 14-24 in conference play.

The hiring of Pruitt wraps up a 25-day coaching search that brought national embarrassment following the Greg Schiano fiasco. During the search, John Currie was fired as director of athletics after just eight months on the job. Fulmer, Tennessee’s Hall of Fame football coach, took over as athletic director last Friday following the termination of Currie.

This evening’s press conference to introduce Pruitt will be held in the Peyton Manning locker room of Neyland Stadium.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Brad Matthews

Tennessee volleyball falls to Alabama in five sets

The Vols fell to the Crimson Tide, 3-2, in their last road match of the season on Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. Brooke Schumacher and Callie Williams led the team with a 1.0 hitting percentage in the loss, and Alyssa Andreno followed with a .450 hitting percentage. Madison Coulter dominated the court with a .407 hitting percentage and led the team with 15.5 points and 13 kills.

Tennessee won the first set, 25-21 after a close, back-and-forth set. Sedona Hansen started the set with a soft serve to win the first point of the match. The two teams exchanged points until Tennessee went on a three-point scoring run over Alabama leaving the score at 10-8.

Alabama built an early lead over Tennessee to start the second set, but Erica Treiber cut the score to a one-point game with a kill. Treiber then followed with a service ace to tie the game at 10-10. Tennessee went on a three-point scoring run and Alabama responded with an 11-1 scoring run to win the set, 25-19.

The Lady Vols regained momentum in the third set and went on a three-point run, forcing Alabama to call a timeout. The timeout didn’t faze the Vols as they continued their run, as they went on a five-point run to build a seven-point lead over Alabama. Tennessee continued to build its lead over Alabama and Tessa Grubbs took the set point with a kill. Tennessee won the set 25-17.

Tennessee couldn’t keep up with Alabama in the fourth set, allowing the Tide to win the set 18-25, to tie the series 2-2.

The two teams battled back and forth in the final set, but Tennessee couldn’t beat the pressure of Alabama allowing them to win the set, 15-11.

The Vols will be back in Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday to play Ole Miss at 7 p.m. ET.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Alabama and Tennessee meet for 100th time

Tennessee (3-3) and No. 1 Alabama (7-0) will meet for the 100th time on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The third Saturday in October is typically a top-25 matchup, but this year has a different feel to the game. Alabama opened as a 34-point favorites, and Tennessee has not beaten the Crimson Tide since 2006.

The series has not been competitive as of late, and the closest meeting in the past 10 years was in 2009 when Lane Kiffin led the Vols into Tuscaloosa and lost by two points. Butch Jones and the Vols have been rather close in a couple games, but for the most part, the outcome has gone in Alabama’s favor.

Nick Saban has the SEC by the horns, and until he leaves, the Crimson Tide will keep on rolling over the conference — and the rest of the nation. Saban is a mastermind in college football, and he grabs the opponent by its throat and exposes its weaknesses. Alabama is once again the reigning SEC champion and the front-runner to return to the National Championship game. The Tide have outscored opponents 193-31 in four conference games thus far, and have only allowed three touchdowns in four games.

If you are Tennessee, that is not what you want to hear. The Vols have not scored a touchdown since late in the second quarter against UMass. Tennessee has been lackluster this season in stretching the field vertically, as the Vols longest passes have come on yards after catch, the majority of them by star running back John Kelly.

Tennessee’s keys to success:

Over-and-over it seems Tennessee is put on a pedestal by the Crimson Tide, and spanked in front of the nation, as Alabama annually embarrasses Tennessee year in and year out. There might not be much Jones and the Vols can do this year to contend with the Tide, nonetheless beat them. If they want to pull off the upset and snap the 10-game winning streak Nick Saban holds over them, these are the keys to success.

Butch Jones needs to watch the tape on the past two national championships. Jones needs to let Guarantano loose and stretch the field both vertically, and horizontally. Vertically, Alabama is certainly beatable — every big game the Tide has lost, their opponent has thrown for a ton of yards.

Tennessee needs to ride John Kelly for at least 25 carries. Kelly is not touching the ball enough, and he is the Vols best player. Once the run game opens up for Tennessee, it will be able stretch the field horizontally with new starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Alabama did it last year with Jalen Hurts in Neyland Stadium when Hurts ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns.

Alabama’s keys to success:

This is a mean Alabama team, and it’s hard to find things that Tennessee, or any other team can do to beat them. The Crimson Tide shouldn’t have to kick it into overdrive this game in order to beat Tennessee by a couple touchdowns, but crazier things have happened. Clemson recently went down to Syracuse on Friday night, and Washington State was blown out on the same night.

Alabama’s keys to success will simply be sticking to its 2016 script against Tennessee. The Tide ran for 409 yards and averaged 8.5 yards per carry last year. Running back Bo Scarbrough ran for 109 yards and had a game-long 85-yard run to crush Tennessee’s spirits. Scarbrough will be looking for the same kind of success this year, as he only had five carries last year, averaging 21.8 yards-per-carry.

Crimson Tide star running back Damien Harris carried the football 14 times last year for 94 yards against Tennessee. Alabama simply needs to run the same plays they did last year and they will be just fine. Hurts recorded 185 passing yards a season ago against Tennessee, so they shouldn’t have to throw the ball too many times.

Prediction

Absolutely nobody is giving Tennessee a chance in this game. This game isn’t for Butch Jones, it is for the players. Alabama wins, 35-6.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports

No. 25 Tennessee shuts out Alabama

No. 25 Tennessee defeated Alabama 2-0 on Thursday night at the Alabama Soccer Complex in Tuscaloosa. After the Crimson Tide embarrassed the Vols with a 5-1 win in Knoxville last season, the visitors were able to grab the win this time around in Tuscaloosa.

Tennessee (10-1-1, 2-1-1 SEC) struck first in the 19th minute when junior Khadija Shaw scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season. Shaw was assisted by redshirt freshman Erin Gilroy who leads the team in total assists with five on the season. Following the goal, the Lady Vols led 1-0.

The Lady Vols would continue to dominate much of the possession in the first half, and eventually add a second goal in the 37th minute. Sophomore Salera Jordan ran down the left flank and exploited the space behind Alabama’s back three defenders to score her first goal of the season. Jordan’s goal would put Tennessee up 2-0.

Alabama (8-4-1, 0-3-1 SEC) came out aggressive early in the second half with two shots on goal within the first three minutes, but the Crimson Tide’s best chance was in the 65th minute when freshman Chloe Maize hit the crossbar. Alabama held most of the momentum going forward, but the Volunteers were able to hang on until the very end. Tennessee goalie Shae Yanez didn’t allow a goal in the second half, as she pitched her seventh complete shutout of the season.

After two road games in-a-row, Tennessee will return to Regal Soccer Stadium on Thursday night to play the Ole Miss Rebels. The match is set for 7 p.m. ET on SECN+.

Edited by Ben McKee