LEXINGTON, Ky. — Carly Morrow grew up in Chattanooga and is very familiar with the Tennessee women’s basketball program.
Take a wild guess as to what Kentucky’s sophomore guard was feeling Thursday night.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed about,’’ she said.
Morrow’s dream — a 66-56 SEC victory over UT before a crowd of 6,868 at Memorial Coliseum — was the Lady Vols’ nightmare.
Looking listless and overmatched, they fell behind by 17 points midway through the second half. They whittled 10 points off the deficit and held Kentucky (14-12, 4-7 SEC) without a field goal during the game’s final 7 minutes, 39 seconds. Yet they couldn’t prevent their first two-game losing steak since losing to Duke and Kentucky in January of 2006.
Morrow’s teammate, Amani Franklin, is more acquainted with this Tennessee team. She used that frame of reference to explain the outcome.
“We wanted it more, that’s the bottom line, we wanted it more,’’ she said. “We knew we could beat these players.”
There’s no arguing with four Wildcats scoring in double figures, led by Eleia Roddy and Franklin scoring 18 points apiece. Morrow had 13 and Amber Smith scored 10.
They didn’t get enough quarrel from No. 13 Tennessee (18-8, 7-4), which is tied for fourth in the conference standings with LSU. Other than center Kelley Cain’s season-high 16 points, Alex Fuller was the only other double-figure scorer with 13.
“In my 35 years of coaching, this group has had the lowest energy game in and game out of any I’ve coached,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said.
“It was totally a lack of passion. I don’t know if you can give that to a player. They have to decide who they are and what they’re willing to invest.”
No matter how flat-footed her youthful team looked at times, she wasn’t indulging any talk of fatigue — physical or mental.
“Trust me, we’ll have a healthy practice (today),’’ she said.
Summit re-emphasized her viewpoint when asked about freshman guard Shekinna Stricklen, who suffered a knee injury last week and tweaked a groin injury last night, getting beat off the dribble in the second half.
“It’s her (defensive) stance,’’ Summitt said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with a knee or a groin. No stance. No chance.”
Stricklen and UT’s other two starting guards, Briana Bass and Angie Bjorklund, shot a combined 4-for-25 from the floor. Sydney Smallbone and Alicia Manning didn’t offer much relief off the bench. Collectively, they were 1-for-8. Add it all up and Tennessee’s backcourt shot 5-for-33 from the floor.
“It’s hard to win any games when you’re not getting the production from players you’re counting on,’’ Summitt said.
Bjorklund, who battled foul trouble, shot 1-for-9. UT’s final rally fizzled when she fired up consecutive misses inside the final two minutes.
The 6-0 sophomore has shot 3-for-23 for the past two games.
“Throughout the game, I kept telling her we needed her, even when she was on the bench,’’ Fuller said. “When it comes down to it, it’s her head and it’s her hands that are shooting the ball. She knows she’s a great shooter.”
Bjorklund had three assists in the early going as Tennessee bolted to a 10-0 lead. The 6-3 Roddy helped rally Kentucky in the first half by scoring 12 of her points.
Roddy went to the bench with foul trouble early in the second half. With her out, the Wildcats deployed a smaller, quicker lineup and tore through UT’s defense, transforming a one-point deficit (32-31) into a 55-38 lead with 10:10 left.
“They kept penetrating on us and that was hurting us the whole time,’’ Fuller said. “They knew that and they took advantage of it.”
The lead held up for Kentucky’s first victory over Tennessee at the coliseum since 1986.
The loss, meanwhile, added to UT’s mounting growing pains.
Said Cain: “It’s been past time to grow up.”