Three takeaways from Tennessee Lady Vols’ SEC Tournament loss to Kentucky

The Tennessee Lady Vols became just the latest team Saturday to fall victim to the red-hot Kentucky Wildcats. One day after upsetting the No. 2 seed LSU Tigers, Kyra Elzy’s UK team, which entered the tournament as a No. 7 seed, shocked the Kellie Harper’s No. 3 seed UT team 83-74.

Rocky Top, ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll and No. 15 in the Coaches Poll, had beaten the Alabama Crimson Tide Friday for their first SEC Tourney matchup. However, they allowed UK to get off to a 14-3 start and were never able to tie it up or take the lead after that. They did cut it to two in the second and one in the third but always allowed big runs after that.

Kentucky advanced to play the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament Championship game with the win, improving to 18-11 overall. UT fell to 23-8 and will wait and see where it lands in the NCAA Tournament. Here are three things we learned from the Tennessee Lady Vols’ loss.

1. Red-hot three-point shooting favored Kentucky.

It’s actually pretty simple. Kentucky won this game with early defense and dominant three-point shooting. The Wildcats shot 12-of-24 from three. UT actually wasn’t horrible, but they shot just 3-of-8. Rae Burrell went 2-of-4 with 16 points, and Tess Darby hit one, only taking two. That big disparity is really the main difference.

Robyn Benton led the way off the bench, going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc with 16 points. Rhyne Howard was the star, though, going 2-of-3 from three and scoring 24 points. Jada Walker was 2-of-5 from three with 16 points, and Treasure Hunt was 3-of-7 with 11 points.

2. There were positive signs but one huge negative in the post.

A forward off the bench provide productive minutes while Alexus Dye leads everybody on both sides in scoring while getting a double-double should be enough for a Tennessee Lady Vols win. Dye had 26 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and an assist, and Karoline Stripline added seven points, two rebounds, an assists, a steal and a block off the bench.

However, Tamari Key didn’t dominate the way she usually does. That neutralized the advantage UT had. They still won the rebounding edge 43-38, but they had the same number of offensive boards with 17. Key had five points, went 1-of-3 from the free throw line, and only had four rebounds. She did have two blocks, but she needed to be more dominant.

3. Defense couldn’t generate enough big plays.

Pat Summitt would be upset with this performance. UT didn’t dominate on the boards, and they didn’t force turnovers on defense. When you add in Kentucky’s shooting, that’s how they won like this. The offense was mostly fine. Heck, ball movement was great. Jordan Walker had 10 assists, and the team only had 13 turnovers.

Defensively, though, the Tennessee Lady Vols only forced seven turnovers. When you’re not generating any game-changing turnovers and the other team is red-hot, you’re going to allow over 80 points in a game. That’s exactly what happened, and it’s why they lost.