I’ve been a fan of the Tennessee Lady Vols for over 30 years now, am a UT alum, have been to many of the men’s games, but I’ve never actually been to a Lady Vols game. Until last night. UT came to Chattanooga to play UT Chattanooga, a 3-2 Southern Conference team (small conference). The Lady Vols were undefeated and ranked #4 in the country. Easy win, right? Well, UTC got off to a great start and UT was playing TERRIBLE defense, and normally they’re one of the best defensive teams in women’s basketball. They were scoring layups on us, out rebounding us (normally we’re a dominant rebounding team), out hustling us, and we really looked flat. Our offense was terrible too. UTC jumped out to a big lead and led throughout the first half. I kept waiting for UT to catch up, but they never did. At the half, the Lady Mocs (UTC) led the Lady Vols 37-21. I couldn’t believe it! It was crazy. We’ve been beating teams by 49 points a game this season. And we were totally dominated — by a team that had only one starter over six feet tall. Normally the Lady Vols have a very tall team and we were definitely taller than they were last night. There’s no way we should have been trailing so badly.
Our coach must have said some pretty serious stuff at halftime, because we came out with a much better defensive effort. We played full court defense and got turnovers and some good shots. And even though our offense stilled looked off, we started catching up. Their one time 17 point lead was trimmed to 10 with about 10 minutes left in the game. We kept up the pressure and made some better shots. Finally, with about three or four minutes left, we evened it up at 57. Now I knew we were going to win. Just like we should. Except … our coach called off the full court press and UTC started making layups again. And making good shots. And we just went back to looking bad. With about a minute left, UTC was up 64-63. I thought we’d get the ball on possibly two more possessions and would pull it out. We came down the floor, put up a bad shot, fouled the Lady Mocs player, who promptly made one of two free throws to put them up 65-63. We still had about 18 seconds left, though, to tie or win on a three. Then the unreal happened. We got it down in the post to one of our best players who went in for a layup to tie it and it got blocked. She got the rebound, went up again, and it got blocked AGAIN!!! UTC got the ball back with 2.7 seconds and we fouled. They sunk both free throws to ice the game and won 67-63. It was unreal and I think it was only the second time we’ve ever lost to them. The crowd of mostly Lady Vol fans (we travel well) was stunned. The Lady Mocs fans were going nuts. All I could say was, great effort UTC, lousy effort UT. We shot 37% for the game and I think UTC shot over 50%. We only made a couple of threes; they made six. We just flat out got beat. Chattanooga was the better team last night and now we’ll fall from #4 and we’ll have to regroup because we play #6 Texas next, so we better put on a good showing for them.
The game environment was a little weird. UTC has a nice little arena. We had decent seats and they weren’t overly expensive. But, the guy to our right was a huge neanderthal who slammed into my wife as he walked past her and left a dent in her nose. Nice. I should have pushed him over the seats. Asshole. The women to our left were butch as hell and one had hairier arms than I do and they were pretty histrionic all game long, waving to all of their friends all over the arena. Annoying. The guy behind us screamed all game long. Nearly deafened us. And the disgusting young fat woman in front of me was wearing jeans without a belt and had the worst plumber’s crack I’ve ever seen in my life. To top it off, someone kept farting all throughout the game and the place stunk. Really weird vibes. Can we say redneck? Even though we live in Chattanooga now, and it’s a pretty nice little city, there are still a ton of rednecks around here and they were out in full force last night. Yikes! I’ve lived all over the country and I’ve never encountered anyone quite like the southeastern Tennessee/ north Georgia redneck. And the accents! Sheesh.
Still, even though my team lost, we had a good time and my wife was so impressed with the Lady Mocs that she wants to go back to the arena to see THEM play some more games. Maybe I’ll join her. Heh.