KNOXVILLE (AP) -- Alexis Hornbuckle sank two free throws with 13.8 seconds remaining to seal top-ranked Tennessee's 83-79 win over No. 4 North Carolina on Sunday night.
North Carolina (9-1) was poised to make a last-minute comeback after Italee Lucas stole the ball from Tennessee (6-0) and hit a layup to bring the Tar Heels within 79-78.
Rashanda McCants fouled Hornbuckle with 13.8 seconds left and she hit both free throws to restore the three-point edge. Hornbuckle finished with 25 points.
North Carolina had one last shot as Rebecca Gray was fouled by Hornbuckle while attempting a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left. Gray made her first free throw and missed her second. She then intentionally missed her third, but didn't hit the rim causing a violation and giving the ball to Tennessee.
The Lady Vols inbounded the ball to Hornbuckle, who added one more layup to put the game away.
The dramatic end capped a physical game in which both teams went on hot and cold streaks, but each time the Tar Heels made a run for the lead, the Lady Vols responded.
Tennessee held its largest lead at 74-61 with 6:28 left before North Carolina went on a 17-5 run capped by Lucas' layup. It was the second time in the second half that the Lady Vols' had built a double-digit lead only to see the Tar Heels respond.
Tennessee shot 42.2 percent from the field and North Carolina made 43.8 percent.
The Lady Vols used an 11-2 run in the first half that ended on Alex Fuller's 3-pointer with about 8 minutes left to take a 29-21 lead. But Tennessee's shooting went cold, and the Tar Heels responded with a 9-0 run to pull within a point at 35-34 with about 4 minutes before the half.
Erlana Larkins tied it at 40 on a layup with about a minute before the half, but Fuller sank a layup off a pass inside from Candace Parker with seconds remaining that gave Tennessee the 42-40 lead at halftime.
North Carolina dominated in the paint, scoring 62 points under the basket and 28 second-chance points. The Tar Heels also controlled the boards, outrebounding the Lady Vols 57-39.
Larkins led North Carolina with 22 points and 15 rebounds. McCants finished with 19 points, Jessica Breland had 14 and LaToya Pringle added 10.
Candace Parker had 21 points and 16 rebounds for Tennessee and Shannon Bobbitt added 10 points.