Lady Vols dodge Cats' upset bid

KNOXVILLE — There are no moral victories in the Southeastern Conference.

There are no prizes for second place.

Kentucky learned that yet again at No. 7 Tennessee on Thursday night, falling 69-64 despite having a lead with five minutes to go in the game.

"We're extremely disappointed to lose," Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We'd come down here with the intention to win ... and our players had some good moments in the game, but not enough to win the game."

Tennessee did just enough to get the victory at Thompson-Boling Arena and halt UK's five-game win streak.

The Lady Volunteers, who start four underclassmen including three freshmen, used a 10-0 run to turn a four-point deficit with 5:10 to play into an insurmountable lead.

In that span, Glory Johnson scored five points.

"We did not want to lose and I was going to put everything that I had out there to ensure that we weren't going to lose," said Johnson, who ended up with 14 points and six rebounds.

Alicia Manning capped the late rally with a three-pointer with two minutes remaining. The freshman had 13 points and six rebounds.

Shekinna Stricklen led Tennessee, which won its fifth straight, with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists.

"Sometimes you're fortunate enough to win a game when you don't play well, and we were fortunate in this particular game," UT Coach Pat Summitt said. "Hopefully we can learn from it."

Kentucky learned that it has to execute more effectively down the stretch.

After taking that four-point edge, the Cats went on to miss four contested layups and turn the ball over twice. The Vols turned those mistakes into quick transition points.

"We missed some easy shots," UK's Amber Smith said. "But there are a lot of positives we can take from this and we'll just get better from this."

Smith had 12 points and a career-high eight assists in 39 minutes for the Cats.

The point guard, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament on this floor a year ago, had a late basket to cut the Tennessee lead to four with 1:26 to play, but the Vols were able to hit enough free throws to win it.

"For us, it was not a lack of effort, it was a lack of execution and that's what we have to work on," Mitchell said. "In this league, you don't get a lot of medals for trying. You get rewarded for doing what you have to do.

"We got to the basket, we just missed some shots in there close. ... We just didn't put the ball in the basket."

Kentucky, a team that has struggled to find the basket for much of this season, looked like an offensive juggernaut early in the second half when it went on a 12-2 run out of the locker room to grab a 39-37 lead.

The Cats did it behind seven points from Carly Morrow, who ended the game with a career-best 16 points, including four three-pointers.

UK (10-6, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) made a season-high eight treys and hit 57.1 percent from outside the arc and 45.5 percent from the floor.

That part frustrated Summitt. But the Vols (12-2, 1-0) were able to force Kentucky into 20 turnovers and win the rebounding battle 43-30 and grab their first SEC win.

"When our backs were against the wall, we stepped up," Summitt said.


■ For the fourth straight game, forward Lydia Watkins sat on the bench, continuing to deal with what is being called a "private, personal matter."

■ Carly Ormerod, who has been nursing recurring soreness in her left foot, played just one minute Thursday night, but Mitchell said she is fine and is available for Sunday's game.

■ Eleia Roddy's streak of double-doubles came to an end. She had seven in a row coming into this game, but foul trouble kept her sidelined for all but 21 minutes and she finished with only four points and two rebounds.