The No. 8 Lady Vols saw their six game win streak come to a close Sunday afternoon as the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats beat UT at Thompson-Boling Arena, 75-71.
Despite solid contributions from post players Bashaara Graves and Isabelle Harrison, who combined for 40 points and 23 rebounds, Tennessee simply couldn't hold on to the ball and execute when it needed to most.
The Lady Vols (20-5, 9-3 SEC) had four of their 22 turnovers in the last six possessions of the game and were unable to get a shot up after they had a chance to tie with 5.4 seconds remaining in the game.
"Down the stretch we were throwing the ball away," UT head coach Holy Warlick said. "We threw it away on transition, we had an illegal screen called and we threw it over our post players' heads at one point.
"I'm sure (Kentucky's) defense had something to do with it, but it had more to do with us not executing."
While the Lady Vols shot 46.3 percent from the field, they were just 1-of-5 on 3-point shot attempts and had three players commit five turnovers.
"They are very strong post players," Kentucky senior forward DeNesha Stallworth said in reference to Graves and Harrison. "Their guards do a great job of looking for them. I think our guards did a great job on ball pressure, which helped us.
"We played tough in there and came out with a victory."
Graves scored 20 points (8-of-11 FG) and came up with seven of her team's 37 rebounds.
"We knew our post game would be at an advantage against Kentucky, so we definitely wanted to go inside a lot and that's what we kept doing," Graves said. "Izzy was in there hitting shots, and I was hitting mine, and we just both happened to score 20 points."
The scoring output from the Clarksville, Tenn., native was the highest she's poured in since her 23-point outing in a win against Georgia Tech. on Nov. 17.
"I just came in this game and tried to play as hard as I can," Graves said. "It really doesn't matter how many points I score."
UK head coach Matthew Mitchell and his team have now defeated three top 10 teams this season with the help of junior point guard Jennifer O'Neill and Stallworth.
O'Neill led scorers with 24 points, and Stallworth finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Whenever the Lady Vols made an effort to fight back and take the lead near the end of the game, O'Neill answered right back.
She scored six of her 11 second-half points in the final three minutes of the game as she hit a corner jump shot that banked in and found the bottom of the net on two pull-up jumpers.
"My coaches are being positive with me, but it's more so my teammates," O'Neill said. "To stay consistent, it's just a matter of coming out strong and playing for my teammates."
The win for the Wildcats (19-6, 7-5) at Thompson-Boling Arena was their first since Jan. 23, 1985.
"The team believed in themselves today," Mitchell said. "I'm happy whenever we haven't done something in a long time. These players have worked really hard over the past few weeks in order to get to where they could win a game like this."
The Lady Vols next game will be next Thursday at home against the Auburn Tigers.
With just four games until the SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga., the Lady Vols will look to start a new win streak and possibly even clinch the SEC regular season title in their last game of the regular season against South Carolina, who sits atop the conference.
"We didn't come out and defend very well," Warlick said. "Kentucky came out and hit big shots. Defense wasn't important today."