Knoxville, Tenn. – The No. 17 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team dropped its Southeastern Conference opener Sunday, falling 72-65 to Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Sophomore guard Taylor Murray posted a career-high 23 points to lead the Wildcats in the contest and senior forward Evelyn Akhator recorded her eighth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to push Kentucky over the Lady Vols.
Despite Kentucky getting out to a 4-2 lead early in the first quarter, Tennessee would go on a 13-2 run to take a nine-point lead with 4:47 to go in the period. While the Wildcats would come within four, the Lady Vols ended the first quarter with a six-point lead off a jumper from Tennessee’s Diamond DeShields.
Tennessee started the second quarter with two quick baskets, quickly stretching its lead to 10. The Wildcats would battle back, coming within four points on two occasions but would leave the court at halftime seven points behind the Lady Vols.
After Tennessee stretched its lead to as many as 12, Kentucky would make one final push in the fourth quarter, as a layup from Alyssa Rice with 1:27 to go in the game would bring the Wildcats back within four. A missed jumper from Tennessee would give Kentucky a chance to make it a one possession game, but Makayla Epps would then miss a 3-pointer and Tennessee would get the rebound forcing Kentucky to foul with just :34 seconds left in the game. UT’s Jaime Nared would make both and Tennessee would not relinquish its lead.
Mercedes Russell led the Lady Vols with 22 points while DeShields followed close behind with 21.