Hoops falls to No. 1 seed Lady Vols 90-65 in SEC championship (with VIDEO)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With 3:09 remaining in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship, the Tennessee Lady Vols walked onto the floor waving their arms, beckoning their fans to get louder. But they didn’t need to; their team was already winning by 25.

A blistering 76.2 three-point percentage (16-for-21) from the Lady Vols told the story of the game; but when they weren’t sinking them from deep, UK wasn’t hitting many shots of its own. It finished 21-for-77 from the field (27.3 percent).

“I didn’t give the team much help today with our gameplan,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I put them in some bad positions … a lot of that is on me.”

The Cats held tight with Tennessee throughout out most of the first half, even cutting the lead to one point inside the three-minute mark.

“The game of basketball is full of runs, you can’t focus on that,” senior Victoria Dunlap said. “We just had to focus on the things we can control … and moving forward from that.”

Behind by only nine at halftime and playing up to form, UK hung its conference final hopes on 20 minutes of play that weren’t kind to the team.

And though the Lady Vols only scored on consecutive possessions a couple of times in the second half, UK fell behind even further, losing on a 90-65 score. Tennessee captured its 15th conference tournament championship with the win over the Cats.

Dunlap totaled 15 points in the loss, along with nine rebounds, one shy of snagging her ninth double-double this season.

“We came out strong as a team in the first half,” Dunlap said. “In the second half, we weren’t playing Kentucky basketball, and UT took advantage of that. With a team like that, you can’t give up little things, especially in transition.”

Tennessee junior Shekinna Stricklen ravaged the Cats, scoring 19 points on 7-for-8 from the field, including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. But it was senior Angie Bjorklund who led all scorers with 23 points and dropping in seven threes.

Dunlap was selected to the All-Tournament team for the second consecutive season. Alongside her is Stricklen, who was named SEC tournament MVP, fellow Lady Vols Bjorklund and Glory Johnson, and Vanderbilt sophomore Tiffany Clarke.

Season concluded, No. 16 UK now awaits an expected at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins on March 19.

“We have had some tough times this year, some very deflating losses,” Mitchell said. “But each time, this group has been able to bounce back … This is another chance for us to bounce back and show the great character these kids have.”

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Matthew Mitchell, Victoria Dunlap, Bernisha Pinkett opening remarks

Dunlap and Pinkett

Mitchell (Pt. I)

Mitchell (Pt. II)