Lady Vols devour Gator gals
Posted: Saturday, January 15, 2011 2:47 pm
By: By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference was supposed to pose challenges for No. 5 Tennessee. Instead, the Lady Vols are steamrolling the league.
Angie Bjorklund scored 16 points, Meighan Simmons added 14 and No. 5 Tennessee drubbed Florida 83-40 on Thursday night.
The 43-point margin was the third-most lopsided game in series history. It also was Tennessee’s third consecutive one-sided affair, following a 55-point rout against Alabama and a 40-pointer against Mississippi.
“I know they’re very good, and our team in particular learned a lesson about how far we have to go to be able to contend for a title against a team like that,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “Clearly, they are out in front. Are they beatable? I think everyone’s beatable.
“They did a tremendous job of coming on the road and really being ready for anything we handed them. That’s probably the most impressive part of what they did. They didn’t do this in Knoxville. They did this in Gainesville.”
The Lady Vols (16-2, 4-0) dominated every aspect of the game, building a double-digit lead early, getting out to a 32-point advantage at halftime and coasting the rest of the way.
“The past few games our team has done a great job of just coming right from the start with a lot of intensity,” Bjorklund said. “We’ve been playing together a lot better.”
The Gators (12-6, 2-2) trailed 47-15 at the break and didn’t make it any closer down the stretch. Florida shot 20 percent in the first half and had more turnovers (eight) than baskets (six).
Glory Johnson finished with 12 points and nine rebounds for the Lady Vols, who have won 41 of 44 in the series. Shekinna Stricklen added 11 points and 12 boards.
The Lady Vols shot 48 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range and finished with 16 offensive rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Bjorklund set the tone early, hitting three 3-pointers and a jumper in the first six minutes of the game.
“She is truly a difference-maker,” coach Pat Summitt said.
Bjorklund finished 4 of 9 from 3-point range. Simmons was 4 of 7 from behind the arc. That kind of outside shooting opened things up inside for the Lady Vols, who had 20 more rebounds than the Gators.
It was a much different result than Tennessee’s last two trips to Gainesville. Florida upset Tennessee in 2009 and lost a back-and-forth game last year 66-64.
Summitt said she was surprised her team was able to separate itself so early and made it clear that this team could be headed for something special.
“We can’t have letdowns and we’ve got to have a purpose,” Summitt said. “You’ve got to be on a mission. If you’re not on a mission, don’t expect to win the championship. ... The maturity of this team gives us a lot of reason to believe that they finally have realized what it does take to win every game, game in and game out, and we’ll see if we have what it takes to win the national championship if we’re fortunate enough to be in that position.”
Brittany Shine led the Gators with seven points. Leading scorer Jordan Jones took just four shots and finished with three points. Deana Allen missed 16 of 19 shots and had six turnovers. The Gators shot 21.4 percent from the field, the third worst outing in school history.
Tennessee’s length and athleticism had a lot to do with it.
“It’s got to be a feel-good game,” Summitt said. “We’ve just got to take this and know we’ve never arrived and wait for the next one. It’s going to be a challenge for us. It always is. We get everyone’s best shot.”