KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Coach Pat Summitt wanted Candace Parker to take it to the hoop. Instead, the All-American went above the rim.
Parker dunked for the seventh time in her career and scored 20 points to help No. 2 Tennessee overcome a sluggish first half in a 79-51 win over Kentucky on Sunday.
"Coach Summitt told me to go strong to the hoop," Parker said. "She said I needed to go inside the paint and take over and stop taking fade-aways."
With the Lady Vols' leading by 18, the 6-foot-4 Parker chased down a loose ball after Chante Bowman lost control of it at midcourt.
After the fast break, Parker hesitated at the baseline as if she were going to dunk but stopped to get better control of the ball. Then she turned around and put it in with 8:08 left in the game as the home crowd erupted.
The Lady Vols (20-1, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) led 32-24 after a slow first half, but went on a 15-6 run that ended as Parker drove for a layup with 14:07 left to put Tennessee up 49-31.
Kentucky (11-11, 5-3) never recovered.
Parker had four dunks last season, including one against rival Connecticut. She also dunked twice in her freshman season against Army in the NCAA tournament.
LSU All-American Sylvia Fowles is the only other women's college player to dunk this season. Only six women have dunked in a college game.
Parker was one of four Lady Vols in double figures. Alexis Hornbuckle added 13 points, Alberta Auguste had 11 and Nicky Anosike 10. Vicki Baugh grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Lady Vols missed 28 shots and a free throw during the first half. The 30.3 percent field goal shooting was their worst first-half percentage of the season for a team that averages 47.2 percent shooting.
"Obviously it was a game of two different halves," Summitt said. "In the locker room I said we go as Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle go. They have to bring intensity from the opening tip to the last possession. We saw what happens when they do that."
Tennessee warmed up a bit 2 minutes into the game as a jumper by Shannon Bobbitt sparked a 20-5 run that ended on a pair of free throws by Nicky Anosike with 7:28 left in the half.
But the Lady Vols failed to score in the last 2:35 before the break, and Kentucky took advantage by cutting Tennessee's margin to 32-24 on baskets by Sarah Elliott and some free throws.
Samantha Mahoney led Kentucky with 18 points and Elliott added 11.
Kentucky shot 47.4 percent from the field -- the best shooting percentage of any Tennessee opponent this season besides UCLA. But the Wildcats couldn't overcome their 36 turnovers.
"We didn't take care of the ball obviously," said coach Matthew Mitchell, who tutored under Summitt as a Tennessee graduate assistant in 1999 and 2000. "It was a tough, tough day."
Kentucky's Amber Smith sprained her right knee with 0.5 seconds left before halftime after she collided with Auguste. She did not return, and Mitchell said she would be evaluated Monday.
"Amber's been doing such a good job at the point," Mahoney said. "I had to move in and take her spot. With them cranking up the pressure and really getting in our passing lanes, it was disturbing our offense."