LEXINGTON, Ky. – Shekinna Stricklen scored 20 points and No. 4 Tennessee overcame major turnover trouble to beat No. 15 Kentucky 73-67 on Monday night.
The Lady Vols (22-2, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) won their 13th straight despite turning it over 24 times in the face of the Wildcats' relentless pressure.
Meighan Simmons added 15 points for Tennessee, including the clinching free throws with 14.5 seconds left.
Victoria Dunlap led Kentucky (18-5, 7-3) with 20 points and A'dia Mathies added 18 points, but the undersized Wildcats were no match inside for the bigger Lady Vols once Tennessee gained its composure late in the second half.
Kentucky took a 59-58 lead with 6:10 remaining but Tennessee went on an 8-2 run fueled by a pair of baskets from Kamiko Williams and held on.
It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty. Kentucky made it that way.
Using the fullcourt pressure that has helped the program rise to prominence in the SEC, the Wildcats pushed the pace at every opportunity, leaving the Lady Vols gassed at times.
Still, Tennessee had enough even with senior guard Angie Bjorklund missing her third straight game with a sprained right foot.
The Lady Vols outrebounded the Wildcats 45-23, held Kentucky to 40 percent shooting and slowed down Dunlap, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, in the second half.
Dunlap scored just four points after the break and while Mathies did her best to keep the Wildcats in it, Tennessee's size proved to be too much.
Mathies hit a pair of free throws to give Kentucky a 59-58 lead but Johnson and Williams alternated buckets on Tennessee's next four possessions to put Tennessee back up 67-61.
Kentucky drew as close as 69-67 on a lay-up by Mathies with 16 seconds to go but Simmons, who committed a career-high nine turnovers, atoned with two clutch free throws. Stricklen added two more free throws after Mathies turned it over and Tennessee escaped.
The Wildcats did their best to fluster the Lady Vols from the outset, forcing Tennessee into playing the frenetic style that has made Kentucky a factor in the SEC.
It worked. The Wildcats rattled Tennessee so effectively even the easy plays proved difficult. Henderson threw a pass directly out of bounds during one sequence and Simmons missed wildly while tossing the ball to a wide-open Alicia Manning at the top of the key.
Still, the Lady Vols hung around thanks to their size advantage. With Bjorklund out, Tennessee opted to pound the Wildcats inside. The Lady Vols got whatever shot they wanted when they managed to hold onto the ball and despite Dunlap's brilliance the Wildcats led just 33-30 at the break.