LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Candace Parker scored 23 points and No. 2 Tennessee weathered a sloppy start to pull away from Kentucky 65-40 Thursday night.
It didn't look good early, but things were business as usual in the end for the defending national champion Lady Vols (15-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference). Same goes for Parker, who Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell calls the best female player in the country -- college or pros.
Parker made 10 of 14 shots, one below her season-high for baskets in a game. Twice, she put up a highlight-reel left-handed hook shot that the Wildcats' defenders could only watch sail through the net.
The Lady Vols scored just 27 points in the first half -- their lowest total of the season -- but never trailed, largely because Kentucky's shooters were worse.
he Wildcats (8-9, 2-1) connected on 9 of 23 shots in the half, and six of the misses were airballs.
The Wildcats didn't get on the scoreboard until nearly six minutes into the game on a contested layup by Catina Bett. By then, Tennessee had built an 8-0 lead.
Kentucky pulled to within 11-9 with 9:30 left in the half after consecutive driving layups by Amber Smith, but the Lady Vols scored the next six points to pad the lead.
The Wildcats did win the rebounding battle 36-28, welcoming back senior center Sarah Elliott, who had been questionable for the game with a left knee strain. Samantha Mahoney led Kentucky with 12 points.
Tennessee extended its streak to 318 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, albeit barely. The Lady Vols missed their first seven attempts from long range and didn't connect on their lone 3 until Angie Bjorklund made one with under four minutes left.
The last time these teams met in Lexington in 2006, the unranked Wildcats shocked the top-ranked Lady Vols 66-63 at Rupp Arena. Kentucky hasn't beaten Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum, the regular home for the women's team, since 1986.
Mitchell, the first coach to start 2-0 in the SEC in his inaugural season at Kentucky, was handed his first league defeat. Mitchell was a graduate assistant for Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt in 2000.