Jan. 8, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt never stops looking for the next lesson for her young Lady Vols.
Shekinna Stricklen scored 18 points, including two late free throws, as No. 7 Tennessee hung on to beat Kentucky 69-64 on Thursday night.
"As I told our team, fortunately you can win sometimes when you don't play well. We'll learn from it," said Summitt, who earned her 995th win.
Summitt is hoping her team learns how to hold a lead for more than a half. The Lady Vols had to come from behind in the second half for a second straight game after using the largest comeback in team history to beat Rutgers on Saturday.
"Our desire is to be a 40-minute team. I think the watch stopped in the first half," Summitt said. "We'll get there."
Down 35-27 at halftime, the Wildcats -- who have only beaten the Lady Vols once in the past two decades -- opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 40-39 advantage with 16:02 left.
The teams traded the lead for the next 13 minutes. The Lady Vols scored 10 straight points, with a 3-pointer by Manning giving them a 61-58 lead with 2:47 left.
Kentucky all but shut down Angie Bjorklund, who entered the game leading Tennessee with 13.9 points per game. The sharpshooter was limited to seven points, including one 3-pointer, leaving Manning and Stricklen available around the perimeter.
"They just left me open, so I took the shot," said Manning, who went 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
Amber Smith stole the ball from Stricklen and drove for a layup to pull to 64-60 with 1:27 left. Smith later fouled Stricklen with 51.3 seconds left, and the freshman calmly hit both shots to give Tennessee a 66-60 lead.
Smith and Victoria Dunlap hit two more shots in the last minute, but the Wildcats (10-6, 0-1) would only get one more shot as the Lady Vols hit three more free throws.
"For us it was not a lack of effort, it was a lack of execution," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "In this league, you don't get a lot of medals for trying."
Carly Morrow led the Wildcats with 16 points, Brittany Edelen added 13 and Smith had 12.
Kentucky, normally a 27.2 percent 3-point shooting team, made 57.1 percent of their shots from behind the arc against Tennessee. However, the Lady Vols outrebounded the Wildcats 43-30 and scored 17 second-chance points compared to Kentucky's 9.
The scrappy Wildcat team hung close with Tennessee for part of the first half, forcing eight turnovers.
A fastbreak layup by Alyssia Brewer set up by a long pass from Stricklen capped an 8-0 run to give Tennessee a 28-20 lead with 3:46 left in the first half.
"There are a lot of positives that we can just go back and look back on," Smith said. "It wasn't a lot about what they were doing. We just missed a lot of easy shots. We had the opportunities, we just didn't get them in the end. I think we are going to get better after this."
The two teams will meet again on Feb. 19 as part of the SEC's last season of rotating schedules. Next season the conference will divide into divisional play.