No. 18 Kentucky rallies past No. 8 Lady Vols 75-71

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm •  Published: February 16, 2014
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kentucky finally is playing the way it was expected to perform all season.

Jennifer O'Neill scored 24 points and sparked a late comeback as the 18th-ranked Wildcats rallied for a 75-71 victory over No. 8 Tennessee on Sunday, earning the Wildcats' first win in Knoxville since 1985.

After winning its first 11 games and being ranked as high as fifth in mid-December, Kentucky (19-6, 7-5 SEC) split its next 12 contests. The Wildcats have bounced back in the last week by trouncing Mississippi 108-78 and snapping the Lady Vols' six-game winning streak.

"We have a good team," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We knew we had a good team. What we've tried to focus on the last couple of weeks is trying to make sure our players knew we had a good team."

Kentucky had lost to Tennessee (20-5, 9-3) in its last 16 trips to Knoxville since a 76-72 overtime victory on Jan. 23, 1985, at Stokely Athletics Center. Kentucky had never beaten Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena, the Lady Vols' home floor since 1987-88.

O'Neill had Kentucky's first six points during a 7-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 73-69 lead in the closing minutes. She started the run by banking in a jumper as the shot clock was about to expire.

"We kept losing games and... we were questioning ourselves," O'Neill said. "But we came down here and played a good game and got the victory, so that's all that matters."

Kentucky led 73-71 with 13.4 seconds remaining when Janee Thompson missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Tennessee one last chance.

After the Lady Vols called timeout with 5.4 seconds left, they threw an inbounds pass to Isabelle Harrison, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds. DeNesha Stallworth knocked the ball away from Harrison to cause Tennessee's 22nd turnover. Kastine Evans grabbed the loose ball and sank two game-clinching free throws.

"We were trying to get the ball inside to Izzy," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We got what we wanted. They just knocked the ball out of our hands."

Stallworth had 17 points and nine rebounds for Kentucky, which beat Tennessee for the third time in their last four meetings overall. Kentucky's previous two wins during that stretch had been in Lexington. Thompson added 15 points and seven assists.

Bashaara Graves had 20 points and seven rebounds for Tennessee. Meighan Simmons had 13 points but missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt with 38 seconds remaining.

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