Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

January 24, 2013

ROCKY TOP BEAT: Tennessee basketball teams were on the road

CROSSVILLE — The Vols and the Lady Vols were both on the road last night in SEC action. The Vols were looking to avoid losing their fifth game in their last six contests. It promised to be a daunting task against Ole Miss, a team which enters the game undefeated in league play and with only two losses all season. Difficult, but not an unattainable task for this still evolving young team. 

The Lady Vols had a different set of goals last night (at Vanderbilt). Continuing an unblemished SEC record and avenging last year’s blowout loss were on their minds. Playing their in-state rival at a difficult venue, Memorial Coliseum, certainly presented its own challenges. However, there is another challenge on the horizon; non-conference foe No. 2 Notre Dame is coming to Knoxville this Monday night. 

The ESPN’s Big Monday contest on most nights would be enough to excite Lady Vol fans, but this night should be off the charts. That is because Pat Summitt’s banner will be hoisted to the arena rafters where it will take its rightful place with other Tennessee legends.  

Notre Dame will present a huge challenge, led by their star senior, Skylar Diggins. The home court advantage and large crowd could be the thing that tips this the Lady Vols way. If you’re not attending this historical night in Lady Vol basketball, you can still catch the action at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN2. 

The Vols will return to action this Saturday against Alabama, when they will have a chance to avenge an earlier loss in Tuscaloosa earlier in the month. Alabama is coming off a big win against Kentucky, but the Vols are a better team at home. Look for them to reverse the earlier three-point loss to the Tide and continue to play with confidence the deeper they go into the season. 

Freshman Derek Reese’s recent outside shooting has been a welcome addition. Any scoring from beyond the arc is a plus for a team that has struggled with scoring. This young team has shown flashes of putting it all together. This weekend could be a huge step in the right direction. The game will be broadcast Saturday on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. CST. 

Coach Butch Jones and his staff continue to work towards filling out the 2012 recruiting class as National Signing Day gets closer. They might not end up with one of Tennessee’s highest ranked classes, but they have been involved with some of the nation’s best athletes despite their late start. 

This past week the entire defensive staff went with Coach Jones for the in-home visit with Georgia five-star safety recruit Vonn Bell. This weekend Bell travels to Rocky Top for his official visit. The Vol Nation will keep an eye on this one which might not have a resolution until National Signing Day. 

Our friend and fellow columnist Jim Butler has been dealing with some serious health issues lately. Jim, just know that the thoughts and prayers of the local Big Orange Nation are with you. We need you to bounce back. After all, what is the Tennessee–Vanderbilt rivalry, at least for me, without your input? Get well soon Jim!

(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)

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