and told her, 'You should be an All-American.'
Stricklen's reply Sunday afternoon against Ole Miss was equally emphatic. The 6-foot-2 junior endorsed her coach's notion by scoring 14 points by halftime, two more than she had scored in any of her last four games. She finished with 18 and a team-high 13 rebounds, setting the tone for an 86-46 SEC women's basketball victory before a crowd of 14,363 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Meighan Simmons also scored 18 points. Taber Spani had 14 and Glory Johnson 10. The Lady Vols shot 50 percent from the floor (35 for 70), marking the fifth straight game that they had reached or exceeded that percentage.
No. 5 Tennessee (15-2, 3-0 SEC) reasserted itself on the boards, dominating the conference's third-best rebounding team by a whopping 53-31 margin. On defense, UT limited Ole Miss (8-6, 1-1) to 26.6 percent shooting from the floor. While Rebels freshman Valencia McFarland scored 16 points, Kayla Melson, the Rebels' leading scorer, took 23 shots and still finished four points below her season average with 11.
'I thought Tennessee just dominated us for the most part,'' Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said.
And it all started with Stricklen, who recorded her fourth double-double of the season and finished one rebound shy of her career high.
'I didn't know how she might respond,'' Summitt said. 'I just said, ‘You've got to lead by example. You've got to hold your teammates accountable. You've got to be a big-time player. If you're going to play at the next level, right now I couldn't recommend you.' I think she kind of heard what I said.'
Stricklen's teammates picked up on her vibe. Simmons still was running on Stricklen power during the postgame interviews.
'When Strick gets into a flow, she just looks so smooth,'' Simmons said. 'She looks smooth, but she's also getting hyped, and it gets me hyped and I'm like ‘Let's go.'
'That's just how it all starts. I think one person plays to their potential and gets everyone in sync, and it kind of brings everyone together.'
Stricklen indicated that being moved from point guard to forward had caused her to mistakenly downshift on her aggression
'I thought I had a new role since I had started to play inside,'' she said. 'But the coaches told me no things don't change. You still just create and just play hard and look for stuff ...
'Basically they told me I'm on the inside but I can still step out and be a guard.'
Stricklen started out like a forward, setting up her first basket with an offensive rebound. But she also worked in plenty of guard-like moments before halftime, swishing three 3-pointers and dishing out two assists.
'She's really hard to guard,'' Johnson said, 'especially when she puts the ball down on penetration and when she drives to the basket.'
Simmons was Stricklen-like in the second half, converting 7 of 8 field-goal attempts and scoring 16 of her points. She recovered nicely from picking up two early fouls while trying to shadow McFarland,
'(Simmons) knows what defense is now, that it isn't something that you put up in the backyard,' Summitt said. 'I had to explain that to her.'
Based on the final outcome, the Lady Vols' performance rated as par for the season's course. Their average victory margin for the last five games is 39.6 points. No matter, Summitt gave Sunday's play higher marks.
'I think this is one of our best efforts from beginning to end,'' she said.
Ole Miss had rallied from double-figure deficits to win three times this season. The Rebels recouped an 18-point deficit last Sunday against Vanderbilt. There was no semblance of a comeback against Tennessee.
'I was sad that we didn't bring the same fight,'' Ladner said. 'But maybe we were fighting and Tennessee was just too much for us.'