KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Beating No. 19 Kentucky by 26 points would normally be a reason for a giddy celebration on Rocky Top.
But after Sunday’s 84-58 Southeastern Conference victory, No. 5 Tennessee was somewhat subdued and cautious about the future rather than elated about the present.
Rae Burrell scored 11 of her 14 points in the second quarter and Keyen Green battled inside for 14 points and seven rebounds for the fifth-ranked Lady Volunteers (17-1, 6-0). Tennessee is the only team still unbeaten in the SEC.
It was a second-quarter right ankle injury to 6-foot-6 standout Tamari Key, however, that dampened the win.
“There’s something about this team,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “When adversity is in front of us, we don’t flinch.”
The Lady Vols, off to their best start since a national championship run in 2007-08, weathered a dozen games without Burrell after she sustained a knee injury.
Harper had no indication on how long Key might be missing, but she’s looking for Green, a 6-1 fifth-year player, to fill a void.
“Whenever Tamari would go to the bench, we’ve got a player (in Green) who can be a go-to player,” Harper said. “She is so explosive. She’s a different look than Tamari. She plays aggressive and very strong.”
Green had six of Tennessee’s 21 offensive rebounds to grab an edge on Kentucky (8-5, 1-2).
“Offensive boards (a 21-6 Lady Vols edge), they hit some (3-pointers) — game over,” Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said.
The Wildcats led 17-11 after the first quarter. Burrell hit three 3-pointers and the Tennessee defense held Kentucky to just 33 percent shooting as the Lady Vols went ahead for good at 38-27 by halftime.
“We played with better energy,” Harper said of the second quarter. “We got to the boards and started making shots.
“Rae is an offensive threat as soon as she steps on the floor.”
Said Burrell: “Coming off the bench, I can see what we’re (playing) like.”
“I see how I could fill in the gaps,” she said.
Jordan Horston scored 11 points to help make up for Key’s absence. Jordan Walker contributed 10 points.
Alexus Dye, Green and Horston each had seven rebounds. Even without Key, Tennessee dominated the boards, 50-29.
Rhyne Howard led the Wildcats (8-5, 1-2) with 24 points and Jazmine Massengill added 13 points.
WE BACK PAT
All 14 Southeastern Conference schools will play home games this week supporting the “We Back Pat” initiative. The special festivities are in conjunction with The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund’s mission to combat early-onset dementia, the disease that claimed the famed Tennessee women’s basketball coach. Harper and Elzy, who both played for Summitt, gave donations of $10,000 to the cause.
Kentucky: The Wildcats’ Jan. 6 win over No. 15 Georgia was the first time they had the entire squad healthy and available to play since mid-December. … Former Tennessee player Kyra Elzy (1999-2001) is in her second year as Kentucky’s head coach.
Tennessee: Little by little, Burrell is increasing her role since missing most of the first half of the season after a knee injury in the opener. … The Lady Vols came into the game giving up the fewest points per game (52.5) of any team in the league.
Kentucky: Thursday’s home game with Florida will be a welcome relief for the Wildcats. Because its game with Mississippi State last Thursday was postponed because of COVID-19 issues, Kentucky ended up playing back-to-back Top 5 opponents — No. 1 South Carolina and No. 5 Tennessee.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols have a week off before returning to action at No. 15 Georgia next Sunday.