Glory Johnson was thinking horse shoes or hand grenades, not hoops.
Just get it close.
“I just saw the ball rolling at my feet and I was like there’s no way I’m going to get this shot off in time,’’ Johnson said. “So I just kind of hooked it, trying to hit the rim and it went in.”
Just like that, desperation became inspiration for the Tennessee forward.
“It was crazy,’’ she said.
She was on the mark with her critique, too.
Johnson’s first career 3-pointer was one of a season-high 13 for Tennessee in an 85-56 SEC women’s basketball victory over Auburn before a crowd of 12,353 at Thompson-Boling. The baker’s dozen also tied a school record. The others were conventional in nature, but no less enjoyable for a backcourt that hadn’t hit much of anything lately.
Guard Angie Bjorklund, who was 13 for 39 from the field the last four games (33.3 percent), nailed 6 of 12 3-point attempts and scored a team-high 20 points.
Fellow guard Shekinna Stricklen, who was 4 for 19 the past two games, was 3 for 5 on treys and 7 for 13 overall for 17 points.
No. 5 Tennessee (18-2, 6-1 SEC) overwhelmed Auburn (11-10, 2-6) by shooting 56.5 percent from long range.
“It felt so good,’’ Stricklen said. “I don’t even know what to say. We’d hit a shot and we’d all smile. It felt like the guards hadn’t had a game like this in a long time.”
The same could be said for all the Lady Vols, whose performance offered a welcome respite from four consecutive grind-it-out affairs. The victory, coupled with Ole Miss’ 64-50 loss at South Carolina, moved UT into sole possession of first place in the SEC. The Lady Vols play at South Carolina on Sunday.
Aside from Johnson’s circus shot, UT coach Pat Summitt attributed the shooting upgrade to the players doing extra-credit work.
“There’s a reason Pratt Pavilion is there and open,’’ she said, referring to the practice facility. “I think they’re committed to getting in shots.”
Bjorklund gave credit to ball movement and teamwork, which also contributed to 19 assists and a relatively low 12 turnovers.
“It really has to do with how well we were working the ball around and setting screens for each other,’’ she said. “We’ve been working on our offense. We’ve been working on it all week. So I don’t think it was necessarily about hitting shots. It was about getting open. Of course, hitting shots always helps.’’
Auburn deserved some credit, too. Tigers guard Alli Smalley, who scored a game-high 21 points, got Tennessee’s attention by hitting the game’s first two treys. The Tigers had 12 points before the first media timeout.
“We knew who their 3-point shooters were,” Summitt said. “It took us that first four-minute segment to realize it.”
Auburn wasn’t so fortunate in covering UT’s sharpshooters. The Tigers favored a fast pace, which worked to the Lady Vols advantage.
“We did a poor job of getting matched up in transition defense, which gave them a lot of really good looks from 3 and they knocked them down,’’ Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. “It was a tough game to recover from when you give up that many 3s.”
Johnson’s hook-shot trey sparked a scoring flurry that gave UT a 43-25 halftime lead.
She spent the rest of her night working on the low block and putting together a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. There was a degree of difficulty to this work as well, considering the 6-foot-3 Johnson often was going against Auburn’s 6-7 KeKe Carrier.
“She’s big, so it was hard to drive in the paint without her getting a piece of it,’’ Johnson said. “We just had to get around her and be quick with it. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.”