No. 6 Lady Vols seeking rare road victory over top-10 foe
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Lady Vols are seeking a rare road win over an elite team, looking to end a seven-year skid.
Tennessee hasn’t beaten a top-10 team in a true road game since winning 67-64 at No. 9 Duke on Jan. 28, 2008. The Lady Vols have lost 13 straight true road games against top-10 foes since, a figure that increases to 14 if you include an 80-70 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma in a 2009 game at Oklahoma City, about a half-hour from Oklahoma’s campus.
The sixth-ranked Lady Vols (17-3, 7-0 SEC) will try to end that skid Thursday at No. 10 Kentucky (16-4, 5-2).
”It’s kind of a big deal,” Tennessee guard Andraya Carter said. ”The good teams can win on the road. That’s something (assistant coach) Dean (Lockwood) said before one of our preseason practices. Does your game travel? Can your team travel?”
The Lady Vols already have three wins over top-10 teams this season. Their highest total was eight wins over top-10 programs in 2007-08, their last national championship season. This season, they beat No. 12 Stanford 59-40 when it was ranked seventh, defeated No. 7 Oregon State 74-63 when it was ranked 10th and routed No. 12 Texas A&M 81-58 when it was ranked ninth.
But all those victories came at Thompson-Boling Arena, where they’ve won 16 consecutive games in the last two seasons. In their only two road games against top-10 teams, the Lady Vols fell 72-59 to No. 14 Texas when it was ranked sixth and lost 88-77 to No. 4 Notre Dame when it was ranked sixth.
Carter said the coaching staff mentioned that long elite road drought the Notre Dame game, but Tennessee coach Holly Warlick indicated it hasn’t been a major topic of conversation this week.
”We don’t really address it,” Warlick said. ”We just want to get the job done.”
Tennessee must win to keep pace with No. 1 South Carolina (19-0, 7-0) atop the SEC standings. Meanwhile, Kentucky seeks to remain unbeaten at home this season and looks to beat Tennessee in Lexington for the third straight time in the last three years.
The matchup has emerged as one of the most intense SEC women’s basketball rivalries, thanks to the quality of the teams and connections between the programs. Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell was a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1999-2000. Warlick hired Tennessee assistant coach Kyra Elzy away from Mitchell’s staff in 2012.
”There may be some years where I might have coached the game differently because I might put more emphasis on Tennessee,” Mitchell said. ”We’re really trying to work on what we need to do to be successful.
”The veterans such as Bria Goss, Jen O’Neill, they know it’s an important game, it’s an important rivalry. I just haven’t had a lot of time to work that angle because we’ve got so many things that this team needs to do and improve on.”
The game gives Kentucky a chance to avenge its 71-70 loss to Tennessee in last season’s SEC tournament championship game. It represents the next opportunity for Tennessee to earn that long-awaited road victory over a top-10 foe.
”We need a good challenge on the road, and we need to come out on top,” Carter said. ”I think that would be big for us.”
AP Sports Writer Gary Graves in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.