UK Hoops fall to Tennessee 91-54

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ESPN delivered Monday night’s UK Hoops game in three dimensions, but the Lady Volunteers controlled the Cats in every possible dimension.

The Tennessee Lady Vols  dominated the Cats statistically, gaining advantages in rebounding, shooting percentage, assists and turnovers.

UT routed the Cats 91-54 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., Monday night.

The Volunteer crowd of 14,807 was energetic even before the tipoff as the UT starters were introduced through a foggy entrance to the sounds of loud music, fireworks and pyrotechnics.

“Our fans are always great when it’s at home and just having them bringing a positive, energetic environment — that’s amazing,” Tennessee senior forward Glory Johnson said. “I think it helps our team a lot.”

The Vols capitalized on the crowd-induced momentum and started hot, draining their first two 3-pointers and jumping ahead 10-2, forcing UK head coach Matthew Mitchell to burn a timeout to settle down his team a little over two minutes into the game.

After essentially trading baskets with the Vols for the next 10 minutes of action, the Cats allowed a 21-10 UT run to finish out the half, trailing 46-28.

“I really thought until the very end of the half we were OK,” Mitchell said. “I just kept waiting for us to make a run and we started turning them over a little bit, we started to get some looks, we just couldn’t make any shots.”

The Cats never pulled closer than within 15 points in the second half, however, with the UT lead ballooning to as much as 40 points at 84-44 with 4:37 left in the game.

The Vols dominated in nearly every statistical category available for viewing.

The Cats connected on 21-63 shots from the field for 33.3 percent.

“(It was) just our offensive execution when the ball wasn’t going in the basket,” UK freshman guard Bria Goss said. “I felt like as a team we got discouraged where we needed to see that as adversity, which we go through every day and fight back strong. You know we just need to bounce back.”

The Vols were 36-61 from the field for 59 percent shooting.

“The players put in a lot of work on their own to getting into Pratt Pavilion  (UT’s practice courts) and putting up extra shots after practice since last Thursday,” Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said. “I think you saw a lot of them shoot the ball with confidence tonight.”

The Cats are now 0-3 this season when they allow their opponent to shoot greater than 50 percent from the floor, including the last two consecutive games.

“We are not getting as much heat on the ball and we’re not able to pressure, and I think people are handling that,” Mitchell said. “They certainly handled it better the last couple games to make enough plays.”

The Vols dominated the backboard, out-rebounding the Cats 45-27.

“We worked really hard the last two days in rebounding and defense and I think it shows. When we do those two things, everything else falls in place for us, “ Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “It was a focal point. We played with a lot of heart and a lot of effort, and that’s what rebounding is. We had a lot of effort tonight.”

The Cats’ signature pressure defense resulted in 19 UT turnovers, but the Cats turned the ball over 20 times themselves. The turnovers led to the Vols having a 32-15 advantage in points off turnovers.

“Kentucky’s a great basketball team,” Warlick said. “They force you to play fast. They force you to take care of the ball. I thought we did those things tonight. We beat a very good basketball team tonight.”

The Vols had three players reach double-digits, led by sophomore guard Meighan Simmons with 25 points.

Simmons was 10-17 from the field, including 3-5 from behind the arc. Senior forward Shekinna Stricklen added 18 points and six rebounds for the Vols.

Goss led the Cats in scoring with 15 points. She sat out much of the first half after collecting two personal fouls just 97 seconds into the game.

UK junior guard A’dia Mathies, who scored 34 points against the Vols a month ago in Lexington, contributed 12 points on 5-13 shooting.

“Mathies had a lot to do with our defeat against Kentucky, so she was a focal point for us,” Warlick said. “We wanted to make sure she didn’t have that game she had against us (earlier). We were aware of her, where she was, and wanted to make sure she took tough shots. For the most part, except for a stretch at the end of the first half, we did a good job on her.”

Even after the loss, the Cats stay alone atop the SEC regular-season standings. The No. 7 Cats (21-4, 10-2 SEC) hold a one-game edge over the No. 13 Vols (18-7, 9-3 SEC).  Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina are all tied for third place in the league with 8-4 conference records.

“(The loss) should probably count as more than one loss, but it only counts as one, so we are leaving town in first place and need to find some way to get it together and see if we can earn a victory Thursday night,” Mitchell said. “I think that the most valuable thing we can do is get the DVD (of the game) and shatter it into a thousand pieces and get our mind focused. We don’t have much time. We really have to get focused on Alabama.”

The Cats return to action in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Thursday night to take on the Crimson Tide (11-15, 1-11 SEC). The Cats defeated Alabama in Lexington 82-68 two weeks ago.

“It is embarrassing tonight,” Mitchell said. “We feel terrible. I wish Kentucky had played better. But we have a lot to play for and I think that would be the best thing for us to move forward and see if we can play a tough Alabama team that played us tough in Lexington.”