Feb. 19, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Eleia Roddy couldn't have picked a worse time to head to the bench in foul trouble, though it did provide her a great perch to watch a ferocious and ultimately historic run by her Kentucky teammates.
With their leading scorer watching during a critical 15-2 second half run, the Wildcats cruised to a 66-56 victory Thursday night over No. 13 Tennessee, handing the struggling defending champion Lady Vols their first defeat at Memorial Coliseum in 23 years.
Trailing 32-31 when Roddy picked up her third foul, Kentucky got a quick 3-pointer from Carly Morrow and two layups by Amber Smith to jumpstart the surge. Roddy said the Wildcats' supporting cast made her proud.
"It was disappointing I had to go sit on the bench, but they took care of it," said Roddy, who joined Amani Franklin as Kentucky's leading scorer with 18 points. "That's what every player wants. Making it happen, that's what they did. I had a lot of confidence for that bench they were going to get it done."
Morrow had 13 and Smith added 10 as the Wildcats (14-12, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) beat the Lady Vols for just the second time in 30 meetings to preserve their faint hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament. Kentucky, which came in having lost six of seven, also beat a ranked opponent for the first time this season.
Afterward, women's basketball all-time winningest coach Pat Summitt blasted her young team for lack of effort.
"In 35 years coaching, this probably has been the least energy of any team I've coached," Summitt said. "I'm not good at coaching effort. It was a total lack of passion. I don't know that you can teach that to a player."
Tennessee's lone senior, Alex Fuller, said she thought the team's young players were being "young minded," relying on their youth as a crutch.
"You have to work at Tennessee," Fuller said. "It's not just a label. It's not just a sticker you put on your chest. It's going to be there for good."
Tennessee cut a 17-point deficit down to eight but could get no closer as the Wildcats milked time off the clock and made their free throws to seal the upset.
"We got that big lead, and all our coach was saying was, 'Don't let down. Don't let down,'" Smith said.
Matthew Mitchell, who secured the highest profile win of his Kentucky tenure, said he didn't feel confident until the end.
"Nothing they do surprises me," Mitchell said. "They're Tennessee."
While a nearly full Memorial Coliseum enthusiastically cheered on the Wildcats, the upset didn't have quite the same intensity as Kentucky's last win in the series three years ago. That was a last-second victory over a then-No. 1 Lady Vols team at Rupp Arena.
That game and this one marked Kentucky's only two victories in the series against its SEC rival since pulling one out at Memorial on Jan. 24, 1986. The other 28 meetings since all went to the Lady Vols.
The Wildcats were a completely different team early. They were shut out for the first 5 minutes, missing seven straight shots from the floor and two free throws by Victoria Dunlap.
Kentucky certainly had its chances, even during the drought, such as when Franklin caught a pass beneath the basket but stepped on the baseline before she could set up for the easy layup.
Tennessee used the Wildcats' mistakes to build a 10-0 lead, holding the Wildcats scoreless until back-to-back layups by Roddy seemed to recharge the Kentucky offense.
Those baskets started a 10-2 Kentucky run that also included a fastbreak layup from Smith off a crisp upcourt pass from Carly Ormerod.
Ormerod, the senior point guard and one of the team leaders, was one of the only Wildcats do contribute little offensively. She finished with just three points but did lead the team with six assists.
With Tennessee at risk of entering the tournament with its lowest seed in years, Cain said it was time to step up.
"It's been past time to grow up," Cain said.