KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Texas had a strong shooter, tough defense around the basket and plenty of other tools to beat eighth-ranked Tennessee. The No. 21 Longhorns just ran out of gas along the way.
Texas trailed by just six points with under 8 minutes to go but got sloppy with turnovers and fouls, and the Lady Volunteers pulled away for the 73-57 victory on Sunday.
"I felt good when we cut it to six. I felt like we were at a good spot, but I felt like we ran out of gas a little bit," Longhorns coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We started fouling and had a couple of turnovers. With a great team like Tennessee, you've got to take advantage of every opportunity that you have."
Texas had been whittling down a 14-point Tennessee lead. Chelsea Bass hit a 3-pointer that cut the Lady Vols' lead to 59-53 with 8:50 to go, and it took nearly two minutes before Tennessee answered with a layup from Glory Johnson.
Longhorns sharpshooter Chassidy Fussell had the ball on the next possession, but was smothered by Vicki Baugh and couldn't get the ball in the air before the shot clock buzzed.
Goestenkors called a timeout to keep Tennessee from gaining too much momentum from the play, but it didn't make a difference. Shekinna Stricklen drained an NBA-deep trey for the Lady Vols, firing up the crowd, and Baugh stole the ball from Ashley Gayle on Texas' next possession.
Gayle fouled Johnson on the other end of the court, the first of three quick fouls by the Longhorns. Johnson hit three free throws on two trips to the line, capping a 10-0 run that put the game out of reach.
"I think we felt good, but then when I look at the stat sheet and I see we fouled three times in a row — that's fatigue," Goestenkors said. "To me, that's fatigue when you foul, and I think when Shekinna hit that really late, big 3 that was so far out, I think that took some wind out of our sails."
Tennessee (4-2) turned a 49-38 rebounding advantage into 17 second-chance points and got 21 points off 16 turnovers by the Longhorns (5-2). The Lady Vols also drained 11 of 21 from the arc.
Stricklen led Tennessee's scorers with 20 points and Ariel Massengale and Meighan Simmons each scored 10. Baugh scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Johnson had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Ashleigh Fontenette became the Texas' 36th player to score 1,000 career points with her first made basket of the game, and her team-high 22 points put her at 1,020 total. Fussell added 14 points.
"I didn't even know I was close, so I'm kind of shocked right now," Fontenette said. "I think we did good as a team today, we just couldn't put it all together."
Fontenette was the hot hand during the first half and gave the Lady Vols fits as the teams traded the lead five times and tied twice before halftime.
Tennessee used an 11-0 run to take a 38-27 lead with 1:28 to go in the first half. Simmons hit a 3 and Baugh and Johnson got back-to-back layups on the break during the stretch.
The Lady Vols have now won three in a row in the streaky series against their longtime rival, and they hold a 21-12 overall advantage. Coach Pat Summitt, who announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, is now 8-6 against Goestenkors in her time at Texas and Duke.
Texas, which hasn't beat a top 10 opponent since a win at No. 4 Baylor on Feb. 1, 2009, has faced three ranked opponents now this season, but likely won't face another until they meet the Lady Bears, who are currently No. 1, on Jan.15.
In the meantime, Goestenkors thinks there's plenty to build on from the loss to the Lady Vols.
"I saw some great things, and I also saw some things that we need to work on, and we will, and we'll get better," she said.