Nothing could do Angie Bjorklund justice Sunday afternoon quite like Bjorklund herself.
After the flowers and the video tribute and all the trappings of Senior Day, Tennessee’s senior guard showed what all the fuss was about. She buried 6 of 10 shots, added four 3-pointers to her school record and scored 17 points in UT’s 80-60 SEC women’s basketball victory over LSU before a crowd of 17,473 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I think she knew it was her time to shine,’’ teammate Glory Johnson said. “As a senior it was her day. She had to shoot with confidence and she did. She shot like we all know she can shoot. ... I think we could use that for the rest of the season.”
Bjorklund played a lead role in a 14-for-18 shooting start for No. 4 Tennessee (28-2, 16-0 SEC), which went undefeated in conference play for the ninth time in program history and the first time since the league schedule expanded to 16 games.
The Lady Vols will be the No. 1 seed this week at the SEC tournament in Nashville and will play at 1 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday’s first-round game between No. 8 Florida and No. 9 Arkansas.
Bjorklund shared team scoring honors with Shekinna Stricklen, who grabbed 11 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. Johnson also had her 10th double-double with 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Meighan Simmons was UT’s other double-figure scorer with 10 points.
Courtney Jones scored a game-high 21 points for LSU (18-12, 8-8), which put up a fight but couldn’t recover from Tennessee’s best shots.
“I have been watching Tennessee since 1978 and I have never seen them shoot the ball like they did in the first half,’’ Lady Tigers coach Van Chancellor said. “They just shot lights out in the first half. If they can shoot like that all the way, they are going to be a contender for the big championship.”
Bjorklund didn’t have much preparation for her performance. She’s been back for just two games and 18 total playing minutes after missing six games with a right foot injury.
“I think it started the past couple days in practice,’’ said Bjorklund, whose career 3-point record now stands at 288 after she made all four of her attempts. “It just carried over into the game. It just took a little bit to get back into the flow.”
Whatever it was, Bjorklund played 32 minutes and contributed 12 points to a torrent of first-half baskets. Fellow senior Sydney Smallbone started and also got involved with one of her two 3-pointers.
“Syd just came in with complete confidence,’’ Bjorklund said. “I was so proud of her.”
A Taber Spani jumper completed the Lady Vols’ hot start and gave them their biggest lead at 34-10 with 7 minutes, 12 seconds left before halftime.
Although it wasn’t all downhill from there, the Lady Vols didn’t stay the course, shooting 16 for 43 (37.2 percent) thereafter.
Their overall play was spotty as well. Despite the rebounding efforts of Johnson and Stricklen, LSU broke even on the boards, 43-43. Along with her points, Jones grabbed 12 rebounds.
After a 3-for-20 shooting start, the Lady Tigers made enough baskets to creep within 67-57 with 2:59 left.
Along the way, Johnson and LSU’s Latear Eason got tangled up and exchanged words. Tennessee’s Alicia Manning and Lady Tiger LaSondra Barrett drew matching technical fouls for jousting at the free-throw line.
“We really invested more into our offense than we did our defense,” UT coach Pat Summitt said. “Our defense and our board play is where you win championships, so we have to get our mindset exactly where it needs to be for those two aspects of the game.”
In a final tribute to Bjorklund, UT shot a season-best 56.3 percent (9 for 16) on 3-pointers.
Dan Fleser covers Lady Vols basketball. He may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/fleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser/