KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell is surprised the seventh-ranked Wildcats didn't get docked two losses for the way they played against No. 13 Tennessee on Monday night.
Even with the poor shooting and defensive struggles, the 91-54 loss to the Lady Volunteers only counts once. That means Kentucky will remain in control of the Southeastern Conference.
"It probably should count as more than one loss, but it only counts as one," Mitchell said. "We are leaving town in first place, and we need to find some way to get it together and see if we can earn a victory. We'll have to see what we're made of and see if we can bounce back."
Tennessee (18-7, 9-3) never trailed. The Lady Vols shot 59 percent while holding Kentucky to 33.3 percent and held a 45-27 rebounding advantage.
Meighan Simmons hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 10-2 and blocked a 3-point attempt by Keyla Snowden at the other end, one of six rejections by Tennessee in the first half.
The Wildcats (21-4, 10-2) pulled within 21-16 on a steal by Azia Bishop and a transition layup by Bernisha Pinkett with 9:20 in the first half, but they wouldn't get any closer. The loss marked the first time this season Kentucky has lost consecutive games.
Vicki Baugh scored on a putback and was fouled by Bishop. She missed the free throw but charged through the lane and converted the rebound that put Tennessee up 29-18.
Those baskets launched a 14-0 run by the Lady Vols across a 3:21 stretch. During that time, Kentucky missed two free throws and two shots from the field and turned the ball over four times.
"When the ball wasn't going in the basket, I feel like as a team we got discouraged," guard Bria Goss said. "We needed to see that as adversity, which we go through every day, and fight back stronger. We just needed to bounce back."
Tennessee led 46-28 at halftime after shooting 60 percent. Both teams had 10 turnovers in the first half, but the Lady Vols had scored eight more points off giveaways than the Wildcats.
The 18-point halftime deficit was Kentucky's largest of the season, but it only grew worse in the second half, with Tennessee's lead reaching 40 points with 4:37 to play.
Simmons led Tennessee with a season-high 25 points. Shekinna Stricklen scored 18, and Glory Johnson added 10.