No. 3 Tennessee beats Louisville 86-56
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The third-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers know they’ll need to create their own energy when they go on the road to play No. 2 Stanford this weekend.
They got some practice putting together some long runs in an 86-56 win over Louisville on Wednesday night.
“Coach emphasized keeping the ball inside and keeping our energy up,” Angie Bjorklund said. “We need a 40-minute game. We’re working towards that. Stanford will be on their home court. Creating our own energy will be huge when we step on their court.”
Three days before Saturday’s showdown in California, Bjorklund made one of the biggest contributions to the Tennessee’s energy, scoring 19 points – all but four on 3-pointers.
Despite jumping out to a 23-3 lead to open the game, Tennessee (9-0) went cold halfway through the first half as Louisville (6-4) shook off six early turnovers in its first meeting with the Lady Vols.
“I’m not saying I’m a really smart coach, but if you don’t shoot, you don’t score,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who led the Cardinals to the NCAA championship last season. “Once we figured out it’s better to throw it to our own team, we did some better things. We started to score.”
It turned out that Bjorklund wasn’t the only one feeling comfortable behind the arc. Becky Burke hit 7 of 9 from behind the arc, the most 3s any player has made against the Lady Vols this season. She finished with a career-high 23 points.
One of Burke’s 3s cut Tennessee’s lead to 31-24 with 5:04 left in the half. Free throws by Shekinna Stricklen and a 3 by Bjorklund gave Tennessee a 43-29 halftime lead.
Bjorklund and Stricklen combined for four 3s in the first 6 minutes of the second half, and Tennessee tied season highs in finishing 9 of 22 from beyond the arc.
Stricklen finished with 15 points, and Alyssia Brewer added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee.
Despite her players forcing the early turnovers by the Cardinals, Summitt wasn’t satisfied with the Lady Vols’ pressing defense early in the first half.
She switched to a half-court approach at halftime, and by the end of the game Tennessee had forced 24 turnovers and outrebounded Louisville 54-37.
“I’m not going to blame anyone except myself, but our staff wanted to extend our defense,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. “Looking back, we shouldn’t have done that against a team as athletic as Louisville.”
Summitt had an early holiday surprise for the Tennessee fans, announcing before the game that she had decided to add the players’ names to the back of their jerseys after having them removed during the 2004-05 season because she was frustrated with the play of her players at the time.
She said she made the decision after considering hundreds of letters and e-mails she’s gotten from fans in the years since – some downright demanding, she said – asking for the names on the jerseys to distinguish the players in the massive Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Merry Christmas,” Summitt said to the fans before the game started.
Updated December 16, 2009