Tennessee didn’t leave its shooting touch in study hall.
In the midst of final exams, the Lady Vols aced a big women’s basketball test, beating Texas 78-58 before a Sunday night crowd of 13,434 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
No. 6 Tennessee (7-0) shot a sizzling 52.5 percent from the floor. The Lady Vols were almost as accurate from long range, hitting half of their 3-point attempts (8 for 16).
UT coach Pat Summitt thought the accuracy was the by-product of the team having more leeway with their half-court play.
“I’m more confident with this group and trust this group to make decisions and have more freedom in the half-court game,” she said. “They were really good tonight.”
Bjorklund scored a team-high 15 points, hitting three 3-pointers, and recording four of Tennessee’s 23 assists.
Stricklen had 14 points, six rebounds and a team-leading five assists.
Lady Vols center Kelley Cain complimented the backcourt by attributing its play to a new and improved attitude.
“I think they have a different swagger about them,’’ she said. “You can tell our guards are a lot more confident in what they’re doing.”
Tennessee’s post game strutted its stuff, too. Cain came off the bench to score 12 points, hitting all six of her shot attempts. She scored eight in the first half, establishing the inside game as a prelude to rest of Tennessee’s assault. The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore also had four blocks.
Forward Glory Johnson scored 14.
“I’ve seen all of their games and I thought this was really their best overall game,’’ Texas coach Gail Goestenkors said. “So congratulations to them.”
Tennessee’s accuracy was a stark contrast to No. 17 Texas (5-3), which needed a final scoring spurt to reach 30 percent (21-for-70).
All of the misfiring wasn’t the result of poor attempts. With Tennessee playing man-to-man defense for the game’s duration, Goestenkors counted six missed layups apiece in both halves.
“There’s 24 points we could’ve used,’’ she said.
Reserve guard Brittainey Raven had several of those misses at the rim. She scored a game-high 19 points but took 20 shots.
“We were definitely rushing,’’ Raven said. “Layups are what we make every day in practice and so (Tennessee’s) height and Tennessee altering shots is not an excuse for us.”
Tennessee used a 12-point scoring run to open a 31-18 with 6:58 left in the first half. The lead grew to 41-24 at the break after another trey by Stricklen, who had 12 of her points in the half.
The Lady Vols, who shot 57.1 percent in the second half (16-for-28), led by as many as 27 points during the final 20 minutes. The big lead allowed every Lady Vol to play at least 10 minutes. Nobody played more than Bjorklund’s 32.
Summitt thought the game was helpful for next Sunday’s game against Rutgers in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“We challenged (Texas) with our man-to-man (defense),’’ Summitt said. “That’s good preparation for our next game because Rutgers always plays off the bounce and hunts for paint points.
“This was a good test for us. I think a lot of our defense was how much we rushed them. They had some good open looks but they didn’t shoot the ball well.”
The outcome also provided a good boost for the Lady Vols’ growing confidence.
“Just knowing that we know what we can do,’’ Johnson said, “and what we have to do to beat teams and be successful. When everyone brings their A-game and everyone can contribute during a game, then I think our team will be great.”