Maci Morris scored 27 points and Ogechi Anyagaligbo added 13 as the 16th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team topped No. 13 Tennessee 73-71 on Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. It was Kentucky’s first win in Knoxville since February 16, 2014, and just the fourth time ever, in 27 tries, that Kentucky has won in Knoxville.
Jaida Roper added 10 points for Kentucky, including six huge points down the stretch as the shorthanded Wildcats held off the Lady Vols. For the final 4:19 of the game, Kentucky was without its three leading scorers on the season (Morris, Rhyne Howard and Taylor Murray). Morris fouled out at the 4:19 mark, Howard had previously fouled out after scoring just six points in 14 minutes and Murray was injured in the first half.
Kentucky (15-2, 2-1 SEC) got off to a quick start, scoring the game’s first seven points and establishing a lead inside the first two minutes of the game. Tennessee would cut the advantage to five, 9-4, before Kentucky went on a 13-1 run to take a 22-5 lead with 4:27 still remaining in the first period. Morris had six points, on a pair of three-pointers, during the run and Anyagaligbo added five.
Tennessee would cut into the lead, but the Cats would still hold a 27-16 advantage after one period. Morris had 11 points in the period and Murray had nine as Kentucky hit 11 of 20 from the field while forcing seven UT turnovers.
The Lady Vols continued to chip away at the Wildcats’ lead in the second quarter. Tennessee twice got within nine points before eventually cutting the lead to eight, 33-25, with 5:40 left in the half. But Kentucky held strong and the Cats took a 38-28 advantage into the half. Morris had 14 points in the first 20 minutes and Murray, who was injured and forced to go into the locker room just before the half, had nine points.
In the third period, Tennessee got even closer, cutting Kentucky’s lead to 40-33 with 9:04 left in the period. But, as they did in the second quarter, the Wildcats answered again. Kentucky went on an 11-3 run to stretch the advantage to 15 points with 3:59 to go in the third. Tennessee chipped away, but Kentucky held a 58-46 lead with 10 minutes to play. Morris led UK with nine points in the period.
Tennessee (12-3, 1-2) continued to get closer in the fourth quarter, eventually cutting Kentucky’s lead to two, 66-64, with 1:43 to play. That’s when, with the shot clock winding down, Jaida Roper hit a deep three-pointer to give the Cats a bit of breathing room. Roper would continue to be clutch down the stretch, scoring six of Kentucky’s final six points, including three huge free throws late to hold off the Lady Vols.
With her effort on Thursday, Morris moved into 10th place on UK’s all-time scoring list. The senior from Bell County (Ky.) High School now has 1,495 points during her four years in Lexington. She needs just eight points to move into ninth place on that elite list.
Murray added nine points for Kentucky before leaving the game with a knee injury just before halftime. Murray moved into a tie for 22nd on the UK career scoring list with 1,180 career points.
Tennessee got 20 points from Evina Westbrook.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, hosting Ole Miss in SEC action. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.
‑ GO CATS –
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