LEXINGTON, KY- No. 7/7 Tennessee improved to 13-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC on Sunday, defeating Kentucky (8-7, 0-1 SEC) 63-49 in front of a crowd of 8,921 at Rupp Arena.
The victory was UT’s first in the venue in three tries. The Big Orange women lost to the Wildcats during the 2005-06 season and fell to USC here in the 1986 NCAA Final Four semifinals. The triumph was only the third in Tennessee’s last seven trips to the Bluegrass.
The Lady Vols, who improved to 55-11 in the all-time series, were led in scoring by freshman Evina Westbrook who notched 17 points, tying her career high. Senior Jaime Nared recorded her sixth double-double of the season, contributing 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Fellow senior Mercedes Russell added 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, while freshman Rennia Davis just missed a double-double with 11 rebounds and nine points.
Maci Morris was Kentucky’s high-scorer with 18 points. She was the only Wildcat in double figures, as Tennessee held UK to 30.3 percent shooting for the game. The Lady Vols now have held 12 of 13 foes this season under 40 percent from the field (Marquette, .437, is the only one to shoot better than 40 percent).
Evina Westbrook and Meme Jackson set the tone early for the Lady Vols, each knocking down threes for Tennessee’s first two buckets of the game. Kentucky started the game cold, going 0-of-6 from the field. The Wildcats scored their first points off a Morris jumper with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter to end a 10-0 run by Tennessee. Jackson and Westbrook combined for three additional treys before the end of the quarter to help build a 19-point lead and head into the second stanza up 26-7.
The second quarter was a more evenly matched affair, with Kentucky scoring 13 points to Tennessee’s 10. The Wildcats began hitting from distance with Makenzie Cann and Morris both knocking down threes in the opening minutes. The Lady Vols weathered a 4:24 scoring drought at the end of the half to take a 36-20 lead into the break.
UT opened the second half with a 9-3 run to claim a 22-point lead at the 7:01 mark. Davis and Russell scored five points apiece in the third to help Tennessee to a 49-31 lead entering the final stanza.
Tennessee and UK traded buckets to start the fourth before UT went on an 8-3 run to lead by 23 with 3:33 to play. The Wildcats answered by scoring seven unanswered points and closed out the game with an 11-2 run. It wasn’t enough to overtake Tennessee, however, and the Lady Vols claimed a 63-49 victory.
Courtesy: University of Tennessee Athletics