By Steve Williams
There were some happy moments in Big Orange Country last week.
(Hey Jimmy Cheek, this is still Big Orange Country isn’t it?)
While I wait on an answer to that question, let’s review the good times of the past few days …
Rick Barnes, despite not wearing a Big Orange blazer, saw the Vols climb out of the Black Hole and run the Kentucky Wildcats all the way through the tunnel and back to Middlesboro last Wednesday night.
(Technically, the Tennessee men’s basketball team trailed by 21 points in the first half before rallying for an 84-77 victory.)
UT sports information so far can only confirm it’s the biggest comeback win since 2006 but is still researching. I doubt seriously the Vols have ever had a bigger comeback win against such a highly significant opponent.
It definitely will become one of the most memorable triumphs of all times for many Tennessee fans.
Give UK Coach John Calipari credit for telling it like it was – “They came back and blew our brains out.”
I wasn’t shocked this Tennessee team beat Kentucky. It’s like I told the two Kentucky fans I ran into at McDonald’s in Halls after the game. Tennessee can beat any team in the country when they get hot and those great Tennessee fans get rockin’ in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Of course, we know all too well, they also can lose any night out when those shots aren’t falling. I’ll spare you the examples of that. Today’s objective is to reflect on last week’s good times.
By the way, the two Kentucky fans from Middlesboro were nice but about as blue as the school colors they were wearing. When asked if the Wildcats would make it to the Final Four again this season, one said he wasn’t sure if they would or not. “We might not even make the tournament,” said the other.
Be safe driving back, I told them as I walked away. Those two guys, I thought, sure have a long, long ride home ahead of them.
Meanwhile, the news of the big Tennessee win was drawing national attention and prominently mentioned on ESPN and other national sports shows.
It would have been the talk of the town on Wednesday had it not been college football’s National Signing Day. But even head football coach Butch Jones began his press conference to wrap up signing day by congratulating Barnes and the Vols.
That afternoon Butch’s 2016 recruiting class finished with a home run as 6-6, 260-pound defensive end Jonathan Kongbo III, the nation’s No. 1 junior college player, became the Vols’ 21st and final signee.
Kongbo, who played at Arizona Western College, picked the Vols over Southern Cal, Florida State and Ole Miss mainly because “I believe they’re on the verge of something big.”
The addition of King Kong capped a 17-hour flurry that saw Tennessee get three 4-star recruits and a 3-star recruit to rise from No. 22 to No. 14 in the national recruiting rankings.
“It was big,” said Jones, talking about the importance of Tennessee’s finish. “We still felt that there was room for more speed, more athleticism, and we were going to swing the bat … you can never have enough speed and athleticism.”
The week got even a little sweeter Thursday night when Holly Warlick was presented a cake in commemoration of her 100th coaching win after the Lady Vols rolled past Arkansas 75-57.
Finally, I did receive confirmation – by UTsports.com – this still is Big Orange Country.
And last week it was a happy place.