Practice didn’t make perfect for Tennessee, but it wasn’t for lack of effort or accuracy.
The Lady Vols shot a season-best 67.2 percent from the floor Wednesday night and scorched Old Dominion 102-62 before a crowd of 12,503 at Thompson-Boling Arena. Forty-three baskets on 64 attempts added up to the seventh-best single-game shooting performance in UT women’s basketball history.
No player for the Lady Vols shot worse than 57 percent from the floor. Eight players scored at least four baskets and five scored in double figures for No. 4 Tennessee (11-1). Guard Angie Bjorklund led with 19 points in 20 playing minutes.
“Coach ( Pat Summitt) really emphasized getting in the gym after the Stanford game and everyone took it seriously,’’ Bjorklund said. “Everyone has been getting in the gym and it really shows.”
The only Lady Vol who didn’t get in on the scoring act was Shekinna Stricklen. The sophomore guard came down awkwardly on her right knee less than three minutes into the game and had to be helped to the locker room.
She returned to the bench a few minutes later, however, after her knee checked out fine. UT’s starting point guard will undergo further treatment and Summitt listed her as day-to-day. Summitt also indicated that Stricklen could be back on the court as early as today’s practice.
“The weird thing is that is the third time that has happened in that area, almost the same place on the court,’’ said Summitt, referring to the left side near the east-side basket. “. . . I’m going to tell her to go right.”
The medical report was a relief for Tennessee. Old Dominion (2-8) wasn’t as fortunate against UT’s onslaught. Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry joked about requesting some unusual relief from Tennessee’s smoking shooters.
“I asked Pat for a fire extinguisher at halftime,’’ Larry said.
At that point, the Lady Vols were firing at a 70.3 percent clip (26-for-37) and had scored 57 points, the most in a first half since scoring 59 in the 2006 season opener against Chattanooga.
Despite playing the reserves, UT’s accuracy never dipped below 60 percent in the second half. Tennessee’s bench actually lent a huge hand to the outcome, accounting for 58 points.
Can a few days and few extra shots make such a difference?
Bjorklund quantified her team’s investment as more than a few.
“Just getting 200 to 300 shots before or after practice really helps,’’ she said. “It helps mentally, too. In your head you think about how you’ve been in the gym and that builds confidence, both in each other and your own shot.”
Since Summitt has been pressing this agenda, she wasn’t going to minimize its impact. She referred to her son in saying, “I know with Tyler, they’ve blown his phone up. He meets them over there. He just said ‘Mom all they want to do is get in the gym.’ I said, ‘Go son.’ ”
Johnson, who had been shooting 31 percent during the past four games, made six of eight shots. The sophomore forward had added incentive after being benched for a sub-par practice effort on Monday.
Johnson had made it clear before that she prefers starting. She stated her case again rather emphatically.
“I feel like I can help start off the game right,’’ Johnson said. “If not, I still think even coming off the bench, I can be a significant player.”
Johnson was starting again by the start of the second half.
Said Summitt: “I’m very proud of Glory.”