When the Thomson-Boling Arena PA announcer proclaimed, “This game is over,” after the final horn, it was an understatement.
    
In reality, Monday night’s game between No. 13 Tennessee and No. 7 Kentucky was decided much earlier.
    
The Lady Vols (18-7, 9-3 SEC) never trailed and led by as many as 40 points in a 91-54 rout of the Wildcats (21-4, 10-2) in front of a home crowd of 14,807.
    
“This was a great team win tonight,” UT coach Pat Summitt said. “I can tell you our players needed it, our staff needed it and I’m sure our fans needed this win too.”
   
 The victory avenges a 61-60 overtime loss UT suffered to the Wildcats on Jan. 12, and brings the Lady Vols to within one game of Kentucky in the conference standings.
    
“That’s the type of team that we know can come on the court every night,” UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “I’m just extremely proud of them and their effort tonight.”
   
 Led by sophomore guard Meighan Simmons, UT shot 59 percent from the field (36-of-51), including 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from 3-point range.
    
“I was very confident today in my shot, and I was just able to continue to hit baskets,” Simmons said.
    
Simmons had a season-high 25 points, which is also her career-best in conference play.
    
“When (Simmons) scores, we’re an outstanding basketball team,” Warlick said.
    
Senior forwards Shekinna Stricklen (18) and Glory Johnson (10) were the only other Lady Vols to score in double-figures.
    
UT, usually a man-to-man defensive team, controlled the game’s tempo with a 2-3 zone, holding the Wildcats to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field (21-of-63), and forced 20 turnovers.
    
“When our zone is active, we create turnovers,” Warlick said. “It worked for us tonight. I think the last time we played 40 minutes of zone was Georgia here last year.”
    
UT scored 32 points off UK turnovers, and had 22 fast-break points.
    
“When we run the ball, it gives us a lot of energy, gives us a lot of confidence,” Warlick said.
    
The Lady Vols scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points, and went on a 14-0 run midway through the first half to extend its lead to 39-18 on a Stricklen lay-up with 4:36 remaining in the first period. At halftime, UT led 46-28.
    
The onslaught continued over the final 20 minutes. A jumper by junior guard Kamiko Williams extended UT’s lead to 84-44 with 4:37 remaining.
    
“When we went on the floor after halftime, we were like, ‘it’s 0-0, it’s a new game, it’s a fresh game. Let’s start over. Let’s play as hard as we can. Let’s play as hard as we did from the (opening) jump,’” Johnson said. “I think when you have that mindset, it helps.”
    
UT has struggled more than expected this season, and had lost two of their previous three games, including a 14-point loss at Vanderbilt on Feb. 9.
    
“As a team, we feel like this is a turning point for this team, and it’s not just a one-game thing,” Stricklen said. “It’s time for us to keep it going.”
    
In UT’s annual “Live Pink, Bleed Orange” game, the Lady Vols wore pink jerseys with orange numbers, instead of their traditional white home uniforms, as part of the Play 4Kay campaign, which raises awareness for breast cancer through the Kay Yow foundation, in memory of the former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach.
    
Up next for the Lady Vols is a Thursday night road game at Mississippi State with tip-off scheduled for 9 p.m. EST.