24-7 (11-5 SEC)
30-2 (16-0 SEC)
It's best on best for the SEC crown this year, as the #2-seeded Wildcats ousted Vanderbilt 69-56 on their way to face the #1-seeded Lady Vols in a rematch of last year's championship game. A win tonight guarantees a #1 seed for Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, while a win for Kentucky would give them their first SEC tournament title since 1982 and end Tennessee's 32-game conference win streak. The home-jerseyed Lady Vols will have a near-home crowd on hand for a matchup of size versus speed.
Kentucky relies on full-court pressure and creating turnovers, and they're very good at it. Last night, they forced a very smart three-seed Vanderbilt into seventeen first-half turnovers and rolled up a 33-11 halftime lead that proved insurmountable. The pressure defense also gave Tennessee some trouble in their only meeting in Lexington, where Tennessee scrapped out an exciting-but-ugly 73-67 win over the team that may become the top contender to the SEC throne over the next few years.
Kentucky hasn't always been a women's basketball power in the conference, but the program has been revitalized first under Mickie DeMoss, then Matthew Mitchell, the current head coach. Both are from the Summitt coaching tree, and both have helped Kentucky become the team they are today. DeMoss was responsible for the recruitment of Victoria Dunlap, who is the team leader in fouls drawn and all things defensive. Mitchell institute the all-pressure, all-time style of play that, while costing Kentucky a couple of games in the season, has placed them in the Sunday billing against Mitchell's former mentor.
These are the two teams that run the deepest benches in the conference, and they likely have the most talent of any teams as well. It's best on best, with the intriguing matchups of Dunlap vs. Tennessee's Hydra-Center rotation, Mathies vs. Simmons, and Summitt vs. Mitchell. This is the game the neutral observer would have wanted.
Still, Tennessee is just rolling right now. Tennessee 85, Kentucky 69
BassWatch™: 2 minutes left in the second half