SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Good thing for Tennessee that Angie Bjorklund didn’t miss curfew and get suspended for the first half Saturday.
Bjorklund’s dead-eye shooting got the No. 3 Lady Vols off to a fast start and they never looked back in blasting No. 14 Notre Dame 87-63 before a capacity Joyce Center crowd of 11,418 and CBS-TV national audience.
“I guess Angie liked this gym,’’ said coach Pat Summitt, “at least on the offensive end.’’
Bjorklund hit all four of her 3-point tries in the first half and finished with seven to tie the school single-game record she shares with former guard Shanna Zolman.
The freshman set an early pace her teammates eagerly followed as Tennessee (12-1) hit seven of its first eight 3-point tries. The Lady Vols finished the first half 8-of-11 when Alexis Hornbuckle’s 3-pointer from the corner bounced in to make it 41-22 at intermission.
“If I was that wide open I’d probably make ’em too,’’ said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “Our inability to guard the 3-point line is killing us.’’
One reason it’s hard to guard the 3-point line against Tennessee relates to who is posted inside it calling for the ball — All-American Candace Parker.
Parker, who was suspended the first half of Wednesday’s victory at DePaul because of a curfew violation, was punctual Saturday. She smoothly assembled 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
Bjorklund finished with 21 points, all on 7-of-9 3-point shooting. She hit her seventh trey with 7:46 to play but never got to launch another one, being replaced by local favorite Sydney Smallbone with UT up 81-51.
Bjorklund, who also hit seven 3-pointers at home against Gonzaga last month, confirmed McGraw’s appraisal.
“I was a little surprised to be that open,’’ she said.
“I remember the first play. They had three people on (Parker) and left me wide open. I just got in a rhythm.’’
Tennessee is 19-0 all-time against Notre Dame.
Nicky Anosike was a rebound short of a double-double with 13 points and nine boards. Hornbuckle added 10 points.
“Definitely, we were intimidated today,’’ said McGraw.
“We tried man, a 2-3, a 1-2-2, we tried pressing. We tried pretty much everything we had and didn’t shut ’em down.’’
Bjorklund swished two treys in the opening minutes but Notre Dame (12-2) was hanging tough at 8-7 until Hornbuckle’s first 3-pointer ignited a 22-3 run that included two more Bjorklund bombs and concluded on another from Shannon Bobbitt.
The Irish staged a mild rally but never got closer than 12 points before Tennessee caught a second wind and re-established its domination.
All told, the northern road swing got a thumbs-up from Summitt, especially contrasted to the overtime loss at Stanford that preceded it.
“At DePaul,’’ she said, “we played 40 minutes with intensity and we had it again today.
“We learned a lot from the loss at Stanford. And, obviously, without Candace (for a half at DePaul) some of our team had to get a sense of urgency. They had to step up and play.
“I’m pleased with how Candace handled it and I’m pleased with how our starters handled it.’’
Notebook: Parker and her family left the arena to rock-star-like squeals from a throng of mostly teenaged girls. Her grandmother, Joan Potter, got to see her play this week for the first time in her UT career. … Summitt took the opportunity Friday to scout 2009 prospect Skylar Diggins at Washington High School. … Smallbone, from nearby Granger, Ind., didn’t have a field goal Saturday but made both her free throws in 14 minutes. … Alberta Auguste had a season highs rebounds (7) and matched her high for points (9).
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.