Tennessee couldn’t make up for lost scoring time Monday night.
The Lady Vols’ side of the scoreboard got stuck on 28 points for eight minutes, 15 seconds of a women’s basketball showdown against Duke. There was no mistaking this for an electrical glitch. It was an offensive malfunction, one that proved to be insurmountable in Tennessee’s 62-54 loss before a crowd of 16,990 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I don’t think our basketball team gets it,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said.
She was exasperated by Duke’s 49-36 rebounding advantage and the Blue Devils’ overall edge in hustle and determination.
Eventually she got around to chronicling the Lady Vols’ 32.1 percent field-goal shooting (18-for-56) as well as the struggles of their top three scorers — Shekinna Stricklen, Angie Bjorklund and Glory Johnson — who shot a combined 4-for-29 and collectively scored 15 points.
All three took their shots at limiting that second-half drought to a mere dry spell but they misfired.
After Alex Fuller’s jumper pulled the Lady Vols even at 28 with 16:57 left, they missed their next nine field-goal attempts. Add four missed free throws (all by Alyssia Brewer), three turnovers and a block and the meltdown was complete.
“A lot of that was guard play,’’ Summitt said. “It was a combination of Angie, Shekinna and Glory not making shots. If you don’t make shots, you better make stops.”
That wasn’t happening either as No. 7 Duke (21-3) charged to a 44-28 lead, building enough of an edge to withstand a final UT comeback.
Led by Briana Bass’ season-high 14 points, the No. 13 Lady Vols (18-7) rallied to 58-54 with 48.7 seconds left. Seconds later, they were a missed rebound away from a chance to draw closer before the Blue Devils finally prevailed.
Guard Jasmine Thomas scored a game-high 19 points for Duke. Center Chante Black added 18. With the victory, Duke joined Texas and Louisiana Tech as the only teams to win three consecutive games in Knoxville.
“It speaks for excellence,’’ Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We certainly know how excellent Tennessee has been over the years.”
Summitt was left lamenting not starting Bass because of concerns that the 5-foot-2 freshman point guard would be exploited on defense.
“Looking back at how we opened up, it might’ve been a mistake on my part,’’ she said.
Defense wasn’t UT’s biggest worry, not when it opened with six turnovers inside the first six minutes.
Turnovers didn’t turn out to be the biggest problem either. Duke was matching UT’s sloppiness and surpassed it in the end, 22-17.
Finding scorers was the crucial issue as Tennessee’s field-goal percentage hovered around 20 percent against Duke’s sticky defense.
Bass and fellow freshman Brewer arrived off the bench in the first half like the cavalry, combining for 12 points and helping UT overcome a 20-10 deficit.
A Bass trey pulled UT even at 23-all before Duke scored the final five points of the first half.
Center Kelley Cain played a similar role in the second half, scoring eight of her 10 points. She was on the bench for most the drought, however, before finally ending it with a layup with 8:42 remaining.
“I don’t think we got the shots we wanted at all,’’ said Bjorklund, who was 2-for-13. “We should have taken the ball inside more, work the ball more. The ball got stuck in our hands too much and we need to move the ball more to get better shots.”
Bjorklund credited Duke for a lot of UT’s problems and she probably wasn’t alone in saying that this season. The Blue Devils have held 18 of their 24 opponents to 58 points or less.
That adds up to a lot of missed shots — Tennessee’s included.