Cats rocked and toppled by No. 2 Vols

Not again.

That’s the statement No.2 Tennessee (15-1, 3-0) made last night in taking down UK 65-40 in Memorial Coliseum. The last time the Lady Volunteers played in Lexington in 2006, UK pulled off a 66-63 upset in Rupp Arena.

But this time around, Tennessee stepped out on the floor in the second half and had none of it.

“We realize a lot was made out of that (upset),” Tennessee forward Candace Parker said. “We came out in the second half and said we don’t have to see that again.”

With that mentality Tennessee used the second half to completely shut the door on the Cats, never letting UK (8-9, 2-1) get within single digits of the defending national champions. For every mini-run UK made, Tennessee rattled off their own making sure the Cats wouldn’t get the momentum needed to pull off another historic upset.

“We felt like we were right there,” senior guard Samantha Mahoney said. “It’s just our runs just weren’t bigger than theirs.”

Led by Parker’s 23 points, Tennessee used an improved shooting percentage to finish off the Cats while limiting UK to 29 percent from the field.

“When (Parker) asserted herself in the second half there wasn’t much we could have done to stop her,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said.

UK started the first half at a snail’s pace, with Tennessee taking the first six minutes to crawl out to an 8-0 lead. The Cats started 0-for-5 before freshman center Catina Bett’s lay-up that put UK on the board at the 14:18 mark. Freshman guard Amber Smith and Mahoney paced the Cats in the first half with six points apiece.

“(Smith) played with moxie and no fear,” Mitchell said. “She provided offensive leadership. She was aggressive and on the attack.”

Every time UK got within striking range, Parker and the Lady Vols took over, extending their lead to eight twice in the first half. UK tried to end the first half on a big run, but fueled by guard Alexis Hornbuckle, Tennessee matched the Cats shot for shot to end the first half with a 27-19 lead.

“Everybody plays hard against us,” Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said. “We know we are going to get their best shot because we’re Tennessee.”

Strong defense marked the first half for both teams, with UK shooting only 33 percent from the field and Tennessee managing only slightly better with 39 percent. Both teams combined for 0-for-12 from three-point range in the first half. Turnovers were also a problem as the Cats committed 10 while forcing the Lady Vols to eight of their own. But the Lady Vols still managed to never fall behind the entire game.

“We played tough defense,” Smith said. “We contested all their shots, they just hit really hard shots.”