UT Lady Vols lose fifth in a row, falling to Arkansas 80-79 after dropping out of AP poll
Malica Monk made the most out of what little time was left to her Monday night.
Arkansas' senior guard went the length of the court in less than seven seconds against Tennessee, hitting pull-up jumper inside of 15 feet with 3.6 seconds left. The timely basket was the difference in the Razorbacks' 80-79 victory before a crowd of 7,259 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"In this game, there were just too many times where we did not stop the ball," UT's Rennia Davis said. "(Monk) got too deep in the lane and pulled up."
From there, she capped another installment of Tennessee's deepening plight. The Lady Vols (12-6, 1-5 SEC) didn't stop their losing streak either. It grew to five games, one short of UT's 0-6 season in 1970.
The previous four losses resulted in Tennessee falling out of the Associated Press' weekly top 25 poll earlier on Monday for the first time since the end of the 2016-17 season.
Along with the setback, Tennessee lost Meme Jackson after the senior guard tumbled to the court while driving to the basket during the third quarter. UT coach Holly Warlick said that Jackson suffered a left ankle injury and listed her status as day-to-day.
Tennessee hosts top-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday
Monk's basket capped a dramatic turn of events on "We Back Pat" night that featured three lead changes in the final 23 seconds. Evina Westbrook, who scored a game-high 24 points, gave UT its final edge by hitting two free throws with 10.2 seconds left. The sophomore point guard missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Monk led Arkansas (14-5, 3-2) with 23 points. The Razorbacks, who had three double-figure scorers, hit 12 3-pointers in 32 attempts from long range.
"I thought they were timely," Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said of the treys. "It was what they were giving up. We have a 17- or 18-make night in us."
Neighbors said that Arkansas' intention was to set a fast tempo and try to make the Lady Vols' recent struggles work against them.
"The way we played in the first half," he said, "I had to be creeping in the back of your mind."
The Razorbacks overcame an early seven-point deficit by tearing through the Lady Vols' defense, racing to a 38-25 lead before halftime. Monk said UT's press "really wasn't anything to us."
"Press and zone; they looked like they didn't know what to do," said teammate Chelsea Dungee, who scored 19. "And that opened up the 3-point (line). We started to take notice."
The Lady Vols whittled away at their deficit by scoring 28 points in the third quarter, shooting 11 for 16 from the floor (68.8 percent). Yet they trailed 63-58 entering the final 10 minutes.
Finally, Tennessee surging ahead by five points in the fourth quarter and led 74-70 with 2:42 remaining. But Arkansa took advantage of two UT turnovers that followed by hitting two 3 pointers. Overall, the Razorbacks converted the Lady Vols' 16 turnovers into 20 crucial points.
"We're in a tough situation," Warlick said. "I told the players what I learned from Pat (Summitt) is, "Look, when times are tough, you lean on each other.' I thought we did that today.
"The losses are tough. Everything right now is tough on this team. But we've got to come together because we're the only ones who can fix it."
UT drops out of AP poll
Tennessee was second to BYU among the teams receiving votes on Monday, with 23.
UT was No. 20 in last week's poll and was ranked No. 10 three weeks ago before the losing streak started.
Meanwhile, Tennessee dropped to a No. 10 seed in ESPN's latest NCAA tournament projection.
Charlie Creme, who projects the field for the website, wrote that UT will need to go at least 2-1 against Arkansas, Notre Dame and LSU this week to avoid needing help to stay in his 64-team field.
Backing Pat with funds
Checks totaling $102,779 were presented to Summitt's foundation as part of the night's festivities to bring awareness to the former Tennessee coach and the fight against Alzheimer's disease.
UT LADY VOLS:One of Pat Summitt's favorite sayings is suitable for the occasion