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Puckett scores 22, Lady Vols pull away in second half to top Kentucky 76-62 in SEC second round

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Sara Puckett scored 22 points, Tess Darby had her first double-double and fifth-seeded Tennessee pulled away from 12th-seeded Kentucky in the second half for a 76-62 win in the SEC Tournament on Thursday.

The Lady Vols (18-11) face fourth-seeded Alabama in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Darby, a senior, came off the bench and scored all 10 of her points in the second half to go with a career-high 10 rebounds. Jewel Spear also had 10 points.

Saniah Tyler had 17 points for the Wildcats (12-20). Ajae Petty scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her 18th double-double of the year and 20th for her career. Eniya Russell added 11 points.

Darby hit a 3-pointer to cap a 10-0 run through the middle of the third quarter for a 45-35 lead. Spear also had a 3. Darby added another 3 and had eight points in the quarter for a 53-44 lead heading into the fourth.

The Lady Vols got the lead to 14 but Tyler scored five points to cut the deficit to 63-54 with 4 1/2 minutes to go. Rickea Jackson and Jillian Hollingshead answered and the lead stayed in double figures.

After a horrible shooting first half, Tennessee shot 61% in the second half (19 of 31), including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. Kentucky finished 4 of 17 behind the arc and shot 35.5% (22 of 62).

The first half was a bit of a struggle for both teams, with neither leading by more than five or having a run longer than five. The Lady Vols led 19-18 after one quarter and 28-26 at halftime. Puckett was the only player with more than six, scoring 12. She was 4 of 7 from the floor, 2 of 3 behind the arc, while her teammates were 4 of 24, 1 of 8.

Kentucky shot 34% (11 of 32) with two 3s and just 2 of 2 at the line in the first half. Tennessee shot 26% (8-31) but had three 3s and was 9 of 10 from the foul line.

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