With the SEC regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament secured, the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols dropped a 78-65 decision at No. 10 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.
The Lady Vols play their first game in the SEC Tournament on Friday, March 8 at 12 Noon. Tennessee will take on the winner of the No. 8 Arkansas/No. 9 Florida game.
Tennessee finishes its first season under head coach Holly Warlick with an overall record of 23-6 and a 14-2 mark in the SEC. Kentucky finishes second to the Lady Vols in the league at 25-4 overall and 13-3 in the league.
For the 17th time this season, Meighan Simmons led the lady Vols in scoring putting up 15 points to go along with seven rebounds and two assists.
Four Lady Vols notched double-digit scoring including Bashaara Graves who had 12 points and five rebounds, Cierra Burdick who notched her third double-double in the last four games on 11 points and 11 rebounds and Taber Spani who hit a three at the end of the game to give herself 11 points on the day.
Kentucky’s leader board was topped by senior A’dia Mathies, playing in her final game at Memorial Coliseum, and Jennifer O’Neill who each tallied 16 points in the game. Five different Wildcats notched double-digit scoring.
Turnovers played a big part in the Kentucky victory as the Wildcats used 19 Tennessee turnovers in the first half, a season high for the Lady Vols, to put 21 of their 36 points on the board. The previous season-high was 17 at Chattanooga in the first game of the season on Nov. 9, 2012.
The Lady Vols finished the game with a season-high 31 turnovers as Kentucky capitalized by tallying 33 points off of those turnovers. Tennessee’s previous high in 2012-13 was 26 turnovers in a game, also at Chattanooga.
Kentucky jumped out to a 12-4 lead as Goss knocked down a 3-pointer less than five minutes into the game. The lead moved to 10 points on another 3-pointer coming from O’Neill, making it 18-8 with 13:10 left in the first half.
The Lady Vols cut the once-13 point first half lead to just two at 34-32 nearing the end of the half using a 13-2 run sparked by Graves and Williams. Graves put up eight of the 12 points tallied during the run while Williams pulled down three defensive rebounds while tallying a bucket.
Williams came out of the game after injuring her right ankle with under-45 seconds remaining in the first half getting back on defense. At the time of the injury Williams tallied nine points and seven rebounds. Williams returned in the second half.
It looked as though the half would end with Tennessee down just two points, however a blocking foul on Graves was called as Samarie Walker dished out a pass to Azia Bishop who layed it up with .1 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Wildcats a four-point halftime lead. Walker also was given the opportunity for a one-and-one on the play, but missed the first free throw and Tennessee headed into the locker room down four 36-32.
The Wildcats opened the second half on a 9-0 run to extend its lead to 13 points and later extending the lead to 19 points using back-to-back A’dia Mathies 3-pointers and a 58 second, 8-0 run.
Kentucky led much of the second half by double-digits en route to the 78-65 victory.
Sophomore Ariel Massengale, who was injured late in the second-half of the SEC regular-season clinching win vs. Texas A&M last Thursday night, returned to action, starting at point guard.
Sophomore Isabelle Harrison was sidelined for the game with an injury, also suffered in the win over the Aggies.
Again, the Lady Vols start their quest for the SEC Tournament championship on Friday at 12 Noon in Duluth, Ga. Listen to the action on the Lady Vol Network or watch on Fox Sports Net.