UK seeks second shocker in three years against Vols

Almost two years ago, UK Hoops sent shockwaves through women’s college basketball when it upset then-No. 1 Tennessee 66-63 at Rupp Arena.

The Cats, at the time, were on their way to one of the most successful seasons in recent history, and toppling the most storied team in the nation propelled them to a 22-win season and UK’s first NCAA Tournament berth in seven years.

Fast-forward to 2008.

The Lady Volunteers are the No. 2 team in the nation coming to UK tonight and, as always, are one of the favorites to cut down the nets at the end of the season.

The Cats on the other hand have taken a turn south since the upset at Rupp. Two years after its landmark victory, UK is struggling midway through the season. The Cats are just 8-8 under first-year head coach Matthew Mitchell and have just one quality win to date.

But even though the stakes and venue have changed — UK will battle the Lady Vols in Memorial Coliseum — a win tonight could turn the Cats’ season around, a big reason why Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt warned her team not to take UK lightly.

“When we head that way, we’ll definitely remember what happened the last time we played at Kentucky,” Summitt said in a teleconference. “That was obviously a night that I felt like Kentucky played terrific. They obviously found a way to win.”

And while Summitt said her team has not focused on what remains as arguably the biggest win in UK Hoops history, it will be a topic of discussion as her team prepares to play the Cats tonight.

“We haven’t talked about it, because we’ve been taking it one game at a time,” Summitt said. “But now as we prepare to play (tonight), there’s no doubt in my mind it’s something they will talk about and we will talk about.”

But according to the Cats, that game was so two years ago.

“I don’t know that the win two years ago factors into this game,” Mitchell said.

The few UK players remaining from that historic win said they are not playing the same team they faced two years ago.

“It helps in the back of our minds that we beat them,” junior forward Eleia Roddy said. “But it’s a different team.”

When UK and Tennessee step on the floor tomorrow night, it will be uncharted territory for the border-state rivalry as both the Cats and the Lady Vols are 2-0 in the conference. Opening conference play undefeated has given the Cats some newfound confidence after a 6-8 start to the year.

“Our team feels better about themselves than they did a week ago,” Mitchell said.

But UK’s biggest problem is going to be slowing down All-American junior forward Candace Parker, who leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 20.9 points a game. Parker also ranks in the top-10 in rebounds with eight per game.

“She may be the best women’s player — pro or college,” Mitchell said. “Defenders have to have a short memory because if you start to hang your head against her she’ll take advantage of it.”

Parker is also the reigning John Wooden Player of the Year.

“She’s a great player,” senior guard Samantha Mahoney said. “You just have to try and contain her.”

Injuries are not helping UK’s chances. Starters junior guard Carly Ormerod and senior center Sarah Elliott are doubtful for tonight’s game. Both Ormerod and Elliott were key players in UK’s last defeat of Tennessee.

That means UK will continue to rely on freshman forward Victoria Dunlap, a Nashville native and the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, in the low post. In two conference games, Dunlap has averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds.