Dan Fleser: Thoughts On The Current State Of UT Athletics

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - by Dan Fleser

KNOXVILLE – Some thoughts on what’s going on around Tennessee athletics these days:

Good Gator: After Sunday’s announcement that Tennessee was bound for the Gator Bowl and a Jan. 2 football playing date with Indiana, an ardent Vols fan who’s a former colleague of mine tweeted: “I’ve never been happier to be associated with anything involving the word “Gator” ”

Funny guy. Spot on with his sentiment, too 

If this bowl was a choice involving the Music City Bowl in Nashville, the Vols made the right call. Nothing against Nashville – well except maybe the traffic – but there’s nothing like Florida when it comes to a bowl trip. Unless, of course, you’re bound for Arizona or Hawaii.

The playing date also is advantageous. Amid the glut of bowl games, the Vols will have the bowl stage to themselves against the Hoosiers in a 7 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.

For a 7-5 team, Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer likely understated the Vols’ bowl bid in saying, “I think it played out very well.”

On guard: Tennessee’s 66-60 women’s basketball loss to Texas on Sunday didn’t play out as I had expected.

Instead of being threatened by the Longhorns’ size up front, Tennessee was outnumbered in the backcourt. Three Longhorns senior guards combined to score 51 points, hitting several tough shots. They also played scrappy defense on the other end.

Texas coach Karen Aston wasn’t off target in saying the game “was completely won on the perimeter.”

While the Lady Vols don’t lack for size, their backcourt is undermanned and inexperienced. The loss of sophomore guard Zaay Green to a season-ending knee surgery last month was felt for the first time on Sunday. Although she’s a wild card scoring-wise, there’s no doubt that Green could’ve helped defensively against Texas.

Sophomore Jazmine Massengill, who’s from Chattanooga, and freshman Jordan Horston will shoulder a heavy load as UT’s starting guards.

“I think we’re trying to mature some kids very quickly,” UT coach Kellie Harper said. “We want them to develop some savvy. Sometimes you can’t get that without experience.

“(Texas’) guards were very under control. They were aggressive and they were able to knock down shots.”

Not about intent: Much of the debate about Jauan Jennings’ suspension for the first half of the bowl game centered on intent regarding the sideline incident in the regular season finale against Vanderbilt.

Jennings tackled Vanderbilt’s Justice Shelton-Mosley on a punt play late in the game. The two players slid into Tennessee’s bench and Shelton-Mosley lost his helmet. When scrambling to his feet, Jennings stepped on Shelton-Mosley’s head.

Regardless of whether it was an accident, the rule that the SEC used in determining the punishment doesn’t consider intent. Instead it considers “flagrant personal fouls that game officials did not call.”

Hard to argue that this wasn’t a personal foul, especially upon further review.

“Absolutely we had a talk about it,” UT coach Jeremy Pruitt said on Sunday during a bowl game teleconference. “I know (Jauan) probably has some frustrations but it is something we support and will continue to move forward with it.”

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He may be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com


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