Epps' Monster Night Not Enough as Tennessee Edges Hoops
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Isabelle Harrison and Cierra Burdick combined to score 25 second-half points and sixth-ranked Tennessee held on to edge No. 10 Kentucky 73-72 victory Thursday night.
Trailing 33-27 just after the break, the Lady Vols' two post players took charge inside to seize control of a game that was tight throughout.
Harrison scored 13 of her 19 points in the second half, while Burdick added 12 of her 16 in the final 20 minutes as Tennessee (18-3, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) earned its first true road win over a top-10 opponent since 2008.
Makayla Epps' consecutive 3-pointers got Kentucky (16-5, 5-3) to 73-72 with 1:16 remaining and the Wildcats had several chances to win it in the final 16 seconds. But Epps and Jennifer O'Neill missed jumpers, Jordan Reynolds blocked Alexis Jennings' shot with 2 seconds left and Andraya Carter blocked O'Neill's jumper as time expired.
Bashaara Graves added 11 points and Harrison had 10 rebounds as Tennessee shot 67 percent after halftime for its 14th win in 15 games that extended its SEC-best winning streak to 15 games dating to last season.
Epps scored a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers for the Wildcats, who made 8 of 19 from long range but lost for the third time in five games. O'Neill and Jennings had 12 points each for Kentucky.
The Lady Vols also ended their two-game slide in Memorial Coliseum while ending Kentucky's 13-game streak on its home floor. But it took weathering a furious final sequence in which the Wildcats had several good chances that bounced off the rim.
Motivated to stay within reach of the SEC leaders, the Wildcats figured to make it tough for their biggest rival. That set the stage for more intrigue in the schools' first meeting since the Lady Vols earned a 71-70 win over the Wildcats in last year's SEC tournament championship.
Considering they've split the last two games by four points, the back-and-forth first half that followed wasn't a surprise.
Momentum seemed to lean toward Tennessee thanks to its 2-3 zone defense that frustrated a Kentucky team that started poorly from the field. The Lady Vols used it to build a 20-15 lead through 15 minutes before Jelleah Sidney's seven points down the stretch, mostly on putbacks, lifted the Wildcats.
O'Neill shook off three initial misses to make three of five attempts for seven points, while Jennings added a putback as Kentucky outscored Tennessee 16-5 en route to a 31-25 halftime lead. Not bad considering the Wildcats shot just 31 percent.
Tennessee wasn't done, drawing within 54-53 thanks to six straight points by Burdick before Harrison and Arial Massengale each added five. The tone was set and the Lady Vols went on to a big win to stay unbeaten in league play.