Holiday break doesn’t slow down Tennessee

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

The cold snap and power outages disrupted the scoreboard circuits, the clock kept running to start the game, and fire alarms sounded across the upper levels of the arena, but the Lady Vols weren’t fazed and ran to a 92-53 win over Wofford on Tuesday evening.

The first game after a week-long break for the holidays often can be sluggish, but Tennessee led 24-4 after the first quarter and 49-15 at halftime and held the Terriers to their lowest offensive output of the season.

Winter weather that disrupted travel across the country also impacted Wofford, which had its bus break down en route to Tennessee from Spartanburg, South Carolina. The new bus slid down one of Knoxville’s icy hills but managed to miss a concrete wall. Tennessee’s Jordan Horston had travel issues trying to fly back to Knoxville and ended up arriving in the wee hours of Tuesday, thus missing Monday’s practice.

The senior played well without any practice and scored 13 points in 14 minutes and grabbed four rebounds to help Tennessee improve to 8-6. Wofford fell to 9-4.

The Lady Vols also might be the most talented 8-6 team in the country.

“When they get clicking, they can go a long way in the tournament,” said Wofford coach Jimmy Garrity, referring to the NCAA tourney. “Their record is not anywhere indicative of the kind of team that they are, can and will be. They’re well-coached. They play really, really hard.”

Tennessee was last seen Dec. 18 giving No. 2 Stanford all it could handle in California before falling 77-70. Instead of dispersing across the country, the team stayed together one more night on the West Coast.

“After our game at Stanford we stayed in Palo Alto for the evening, practiced the next day, and we were able to have closure from that game,” coach Kellie Harper said. “If we hadn’t stayed over, that would’ve eaten on everybody this entire break. We were able get a good workout in before we got on the plane and headed back home.”

The power outages during Knoxville’s frigid single-digit weather apparently took a toll on the overhead scoreboard with two sides completely blank and two sides showing the jersey numbers of the players on the court for both teams but no video. The corner video screens at the top of the arena did work, as did the ribbon scoreboard around the arena and the shot clocks. Less than a minute into the game, a foul was called, which should have stopped the clock, but it ran for nearly two minutes before the issue was resolved.

Kaiya Wynn, Rickea Jackson, Justine Pissott and Jillian Hollingshead celebrate after Tuesday’s win. (Tennessee Athletics)

A few minutes later, all of the fire alarms went off with red blinking lights, but the 7,909 in attendance stayed put and the teams either didn’t notice or weren’t concerned.

“I’m proud of our team and our focus coming off of a well-earned Christmas break,” Harper said. “I thought our players responded well. I thought we had really good focus to start this game. Going into this game, Wofford’s lowest offensive point total was 67. For us to keep them to 53 was a really good job by our defense.”

The Lady Vols have a short turnaround for the next game and will leave Wednesday for Florida. Tipoff against the Gators is set for 6 p.m. Eastern on Thursday in the SEC opener for both teams. The home opener is Jan. 1 against Alabama at noon. Tennessee lost to both teams last season and that’s something the team is aware of – along with the reset provided by conference play.

“It’s like a new season,” Horston said. “I feel like we are moving in the right direction and we can go where we want to go. We need to stay locked in and stay together.”

SEE Y’ALL AT THE HALL: Tickets are almost sold out for the Jan. 6 celebration with the Lady Vol Boost (Her) Club featuring the entire 2022-23 basketball team, female athletes from other sports and members of the 1997 women’s basketball national championship team, including Kellie Harper and Abby Conklin. The event will be held at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame from 6-8:30 p.m.

A $35 ticket can be bought here. The event also will include hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, photos, tours of the hall and a silent auction with autographed items by Harper, Candace Parker, Dolly Parton, Rick Barnes and Josh Heupel and a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year family reserve bourbon.

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.


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