Friday, January 18, 2008

(2) Tennessee 65, Kentucky 40

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Even after a lopsided victory, Candace Parker did some self-diagnosis of what she believes is ailing the defending national champions.

Sure, No. 2 Tennessee weathered a sloppy first half and cruised to a 65-40 victory over Kentucky. Parker was still predicting the team would get an earful from coach Pat Summitt this week in practice because the Lady Vols were outrebounded 36-28.

"We're trying to take steps, and I guess admitting you have a problem is the first step," said Parker, who scored 23 points. "We know we need rebounds."

Parker was accepting some of the blame, but in Summitt's mind, the All-American who Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell calls the best female player in the country -- college or professional -- needs to get some help from her teammates.

"Sometimes we stand around and watch Candace Parker play and rebound," Summitt said. "That's something we have to get better effort out of, across the board."

Parker had seven rebounds and made 10 of 14 shots, one below her season-high for baskets in game. Twice, she put up a highlight-reel left-handed hook shot that the Wildcat defenders could only watch sail through the net.

Things didn't start out quite so easy for the Lady Vols (15-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference). They had no assists and scored just a 27 points in the first half -- their lowest total of the season.

"We came into the locker room pretty drained, and we didn't have much energy," Parker said.

But despite Tennessee's early woes, the Lady Vols never trailed, largely because Kentucky's shooters were even worse.

The Wildcats (8-9, 2-1) connected on just 9 of 23 shots in the half, and six of the misses were airballs.

Second half, it was all Tennessee. Kentucky had cut the deficit to 11, but the Lady Vols went on a 17-3 run during a six-minute span late in the game to turn it into a blowout.

"I didn't think that we gave enough effort over 40 minutes," Mitchell said. "About 32 minutes is what it looked like to me, so that's not going to get it done."

The Wildcats didn't get on the scoreboard until nearly six minutes into the game on a contested layup by Catina Bett. By then, Tennessee had built an 8-0 lead.

Kentucky pulled to within 11-9 with 9:30 left in the half after consecutive driving layups by freshman Amber Smith, but the Lady Vols scored the next six points to pad the lead. Mitchell credited Smith for at least giving his team a spark.

"I think we came out very aggressive," Smith said. "We never gave up, and we kept taking it to them."

The Wildcats won the rebounding battle in large part due to the return of senior center Sarah Elliott, who had been listed as doubtful for the game with a left knee strain.

Samantha Mahoney led Kentucky with 12 points.

Tennessee extended its streak to 318 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, albeit barely. The Lady Vols missed their first seven attempts from long range and didn't connect on their lone one of the game until Angie Bjorklund made one with under four minutes left.

The last time these teams met in Lexington in 2006, the unranked Wildcats shocked the top-ranked Lady Vols 66-63 at Rupp Arena. Kentucky hasn't beaten Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum, the regular home for the women's team, since 1986.

Mitchell, the first coach to start 2-0 in the SEC in his inaugural season at Kentucky, was handed his first league defeat. Mitchell was a graduate assistant at Tennessee during the Lady Vols' Final Four run in 2000.

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