LEXINGTON Kentuckys Jenny Pfeiffer calmly sank two free throws with 14 seconds left and the Wildcats came up with a defensive stop in the waning seconds to upset No. 1/3 Tennessee on Thursday night in front of a school-record 13,689 fans at Rupp Arena.
The win was the first for UK Hoops over a No. 1 team in their history, ending an 0-15 skid that included seven losses to a top-ranked Lady Vol team. It also snapped a 24-game losing streak to UT that dated back to 1986.
Tennessee (18-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) lost for the second consecutive outing, something that hasnt happened since 1997. The loss was also the Lady Vols first to an unranked opponent since 2002 and only the second in the last eight years.
Sidney Spencer, the top three-point shooter in the SEC, had the chance to save Tennessee in the waning seconds, but her attempt careened of the front of the rim. Nastassia Alcius sank two free throws for the final margin.
The raucous crowd, which shattered the previous school mark of 10,622, witnessed a classic contest as both teams battled back and forth for the full 20 minutes before the Wildcats ultimately prevailed. The attendance was the seventh largest in nation this season.
The crowd helped Kentucky overcome its Rupp Arena jinx, as the UK Hoops team had lost its previous two contests in the arena this season. It is the second straight year the Wildcats have stunned a ranked foe at Rupp after beating Georgia last season.
Kentucky head coach Mickie DeMoss scored her biggest win in her three-year tenure in the Commonwealth. An assistant for 18 years at Tennessee under head coach Pat Summit, DeMoss became just the second former UT assistant to knock off the Lady Vols.
The game-winning free throws came only after a tremendous effort by every Wildcat on the floor. Trailing 63-62, Carly Ormerod picked Zolmans pocket only to have her fast break attempt swatted by Nicky Anosike. Two missed jumpers and two offensive rebounds later, Pfeiffer found the loose ball and was fouled by Sidney Spencer going up from 10 feet out.
The nations sixth best free-throw shooter buried her two attempts to extend her streak of made free throws to 26. Pfeiffer finished with a team-high 16 points off the bench as UK poured in 37 points from their bench to just 12 from UT.
The effort on the final possession was indicative of the Wildcats performance all night. Kentucky trailed in the rebounding battle 33-32, but that came against a Tennessee team that entered with a plus-eight rebounding margin for the season.
The Wildcats also did a tremendous job protecting the ball, committing just 14 turnovers all night.
After leading for a majority of the contest, the Wildcats found themselves fighting from behind in the final 10 minutes.
Sharpshooter Shanna Zolman broke a 49-49 tie at the 9:41 mark with her second three-pointer of the game. Tennessee kept their lead for the next seven minutes, but could not pull away. Pfeiffer finally pulled UK even at 60-60 with three free throws with just under three minutes left.
Tennessee reclaimed the lead on a Candace Parker layup only to see a Jennifer Humphrey layin bring Kentucky right back. Dominique Redding made one of her two free throw attempts after being fouled to give the Lady Vols the lead, 63-62, heading into the final minute.
Kentucky played a near flawless first half en route to a 35-30 lead at intermission. In the first 20 minutes, the Wildcats shot a sterling 54 percent while limiting the potent Lady Vol attack to a 37 percent clip.
A balanced attack saw six UK players score at least four points in the first half and the Wildcats assisted on eight of their 14 baskets. Conversely, Parker kept UT in the game with 12 first-half points and Tennessee had only two assists on their 11 field goals.
Parker scored 25 points and hauled in nine rebounds, but no other Lady Vol scored in double figures. Alexis Hornbuckle, who averaged 10.6 points coming in, scored just one point while fouling out in 24 minutes.
Tennessee started quickly, gaining a 5-0 advantage. However, Kentucky came back by taking advantage of an aggressive Lady Vol defense to hit two back-door cuts to Nastassia Alcius. Off the bench, Sarah Elliot sparked UK with five straight points to knot the game at 9-9.
Elliot was perfect from the field in the first half while leading the Wildcats with seven points. She did not score in the second half.
Carly Ormerods running jumper at the 11:22 mark of the half resulted in Kentuckys first lead of the game, 13-11. The Wildcats would not relinquish their advantage the remainder of the half. The lead grew as large as six before the break on a Mahoney layup that made it 21-15.
Summit was recognized on the floor before the game by Kentucky for breaking the NCAA all-time wins record last season.
Kentucky returns to action in a week when it travels to No. 15 Georgia. Last season, the Wildcats knocked off a ranked Bulldog squad in Lexington.