Lady Vols down Old Dominion

Angie Bjorklund connected for a career-high 19 points Wednesday in the 83-51 win over Old Dominion, but it was her defense and board work that really popped out on the stat sheet, as she put together a solid game on both ends of the court.

"She really did," Coach Pat Summitt said. "She had some great post feeds. I thought she had a lot of composure. She has to play the way she played tonight when we're playing in big games that are really close. That's when Angie can really show us and help us, show us what she can do in big games and help us. But obviously her stat line was pretty impressive."

Angie Bjorklund added career highs in rebounds with eight and steals with four to go with the points. She also had three assists and a block.

The results came after a film session with Summitt on Monday afternoon.

"We looked at my shot, number one, and also she really made it a point that I needed to rebound and be more consistent in rebounding on both ends," Bjorklund said. "We looked at where I could crash, where I needed to get back, just everything, and that definitely helped."

The offensive production flowed with her comfort level on the rest of the court, the 6'0 freshman shooting guard said.

"I think what helped this game is I went in focused on defensive rebounding, and the offense just came," Bjorklund said. "That was the point of emphasis Pat made, like Vicki (Baugh) said right from the beginning, and the shot sort of fell."

Summitt and the staff met Tuesday with the players to underscore how Tennessee teams win titles – with board play, defense, paint points and free throws.

The Lady Vols responded with a 45-35 edge on the glass, a 19-23 performance from the free throw line, 12 steals and seven blocks. Tennessee got 59 of its 83 points either in the paint or off of turnovers. Another 18 came from second-chance points.

The rebounding margin was impressive to Summitt, especially the 13 offensive boards with a shooting percentage of nearly 50 percent at 49.2.

"That's encouraging if you can shoot the ball as well as we shot it and still come up with 13 offensive boards," Summitt said. "I like the fact that Angie was involved in that. She's been a player that has (been a spectator) a lot on the boards, and for her now to get more involved in the rebounding is definitely going to help us."

No. 1 Tennessee, 7-0, now goes into the exam break – the next game is not until Dec. 13 against Middle Tennessee – unscathed on the young season. Summitt had made it clear after the close call against North Carolina, a game in which Tennessee got dominated on the boards, that she expected a different result, starting with the Old Dominion game.

"The message is: We don't rebound, we run," Vicki Baugh said. "After the last game, we had a statement to make that we can rebound. We know that we can be the best rebounding team in the country so we have to start now. We're going to need it later."

Tennessee also will need considerable contributions from it first-year players in Bjorklund, Baugh and Sydney Smallbone. Tennessee jumped out to a double-digit lead over No. 24 Old Dominion, 6-3, within the first eight minutes, and Summitt turned to her bench, which accounted for 20 points led by six from Alberta Auguste, five apiece from Smallbone and Alex Fuller and four from Baugh.

Baugh, once again, showed her knack for rebounding the ball with six boards in nine minutes of play. She would have accumulated more minutes, but she fouled out in short order. As she plopped down on the bench in the second half with Summitt, the coach said something to Baugh, which at least made her smile.

"She called me a hacker, I believe, and I had no choice but to laugh," Baugh said to much laughter in the post-game press conference. "I've never got more than three fouls in a game. It's different for me fouling out, but it happens from aggressiveness.

"I shouldn't have reached. There's no excuse for the fouls. The main thing I learned is to be smart, when to go full speed and when to go slower and change up speed. We've been working on it, though."

Baugh had five turnovers, but she wasn't the only Lady Vol squirting loose of the ball. Tennessee had a season-high 23 with 15 turnovers coming in the first half.

"I didn't think we started out with a good rhythm offensively," Summitt said. "We just didn't play well together. We were running a lot out of our triangle, but the ball got stuck in people's hands, and we forced the high-low. I thought we were trying to really thread the needle to get the ball inside to Candace. We had to be more patient and have better ball movement. Once we started reversing the basketball I thought we started to open up our options to go inside and play off the dribble."

Candace Parker had a quiet 14 points and made 8-10 from the free throw line in her 23 minutes of play. She also added four rebounds and two steals.

Other double-digit scorers for Tennessee were Bjorklund with the aforementioned 19 points, Nicky Anosike with 13 and Shannon Bobbitt with 10. Anosike also had seven rebounds with four on the defensive end and three on offense.

"I thought Nicky was very, very active," Summitt said. "She finds a way to score. It's good to see her have the balance and going to the glass at both ends."

All nine Lady Vols played, and each one scored at least four points. Bjorklund logged the most minutes at 33. Alexis Hornbuckle, who had seven points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals, played 32 minutes.

"I thought we did a lot of good things tonight," Summitt said. "I was very pleased that we were more committed going to the glass at both ends of the floor. I thought our defensive intensity was pretty solid. We played better in the second half than we did in the first half, a little more focused in those two aspects of the game.

"We managed to really share the ball and get players a lot of quality minutes, and that's exactly what I wanted to do, particularly our bench. With the exception of Vicki getting into foul trouble I think we managed to do that. We challenged Alex Fuller to rebound, and it was good to see her come up on the defensive glass and do a much better job."

Fuller had five rebounds, all on the defensive end. Of Bjorklund's eight rebounds, five came on defense.

"That's one thing coming off our last game and watching tape with her she recognized the fact that she did not go to the boards in the North Carolina game," Summitt said. "She didn't attempt to go to the boards, quite honestly. She watched film, and she saw it. A lot of players can see it but they don't necessarily go out and make it a priority. I thought it was a real priority for Angie tonight."

Bjorklund cited that film session as instrumental to her output Wednesday.

"On the defensive boards when I'm blocking out a guard, Coach talked about turn and block your player out, but at the same time you need to crash the boards," Bjorklund said. "Everyone is blocking out, and there're openings. We looked at the gaps inside and also on the offensive end. Little gaps, just crashing hard every time."

Old Dominion is also a team that likes to crash the boards, but they ran into a Lady Vol team that wanted to make a statement about its commitment to rebounding. The Lady Monarchs also were dealt a blow when starting shooting guard T.J. Jordan was pulled from the lineup Wednesday because of a stress reaction and pain in her left foot. She was on crutches on the sideline and is listed as day to day.

"It's unfortunate that T.J. couldn't play," Summitt said. "When you go on the road and you lose a great player, a player that they depend upon on both ends of the floor, they were handicapped. I told Wendy after the game it was just a shame that this happened and the timing of it because you don't have a lot of time to adjust and certainly when you're on the road and playing a team of this caliber."

ODU Coach Wendy Larry said as much, but she didn't let her team use it as an excuse.

"When you come into ‘The Summitt,' I think you have to be on your best game and you have to make free throws, and you have to finish through contact, and you have to take care of the ball, and we did none of the above," Larry said.

"I'd like to think that there is enough fortitude on the team that we could pick up some of the pieces (with Jordan out), but unfortunately that wasn't the case."

Old Dominion was led by Tiffany Green with 14 points and nine rebounds. Jazzmin Walters added 10 points, and Shadasia Green contributed 10 points from the bench. But the Lady Monarchs were hurt by turnovers (20), 42.1 percent free throw shooting (8-19), and 32.3 percent shooting (20-62). Larry said the only solution on offense is repetitions.

"Just got to get them up more," Larry said. "We have to continue to do it over and over and over again. We make shots with our eyes, and we've got to get our eyes on the rim."

Walters got her points from outside – two three-pointers – and with dribble penetration.

"I think that's her strength," Larry said. "If she finishes we're really happy."

"I was just taking what the defense was giving me and looking for the back door," Walters said. "I've been doing that a lot lately in practice. My coaches have been telling me that I need to score and attack more, so I just told myself that I was going to start in today's game."

Walters and Bobbitt had some friendly exchanges during the game, and it wasn't just because they're the same size, which is about 5'2.

"We've been pretty cool since the last time we played," Walters said. "She's a cool person. It does help to see eye to eye."

Old Dominion, which was coming off an upset win over Michigan State, can take some positives from their play, namely their defense in the first half. Tennessee led 37-24 at the half, but had trouble getting in sync.

"It's hard to look through some of this right now, but I thought there were a couple minutes that we not only put good pressure on the ball, but we also rebounded the basketball as well as we could," Larry said. "When we rebound we can run. Transitionally, unfortunately we just didn't finish today, but we did push some tempo. Tennessee is so athletic and so big it's difficult sometimes for us to score in the half court because we are very small with the exception of two players."

Tennessee, on the other hand, can bring size off the bench with the 6'3 Fuller, a junior post player, and the 6'4 Baugh, a freshman. Baugh got some repetitions in the second half with Parker and some other veterans on the floor.

"It makes it's easy but hard, because I have to keep up with them, know what to expect from them," Baugh said. "They're top players in the country. It can do nothing but complement us, and it helps me get better, push me to another level, and I'm expected to do better.

"The short amount of time that I stayed in definitely helped, and it taught me a lesson to stay out of foul trouble. That's what I learned today."

To Baugh's credit, she handled the post-game press conference with aplomb and a wry sense of humor.

"I don't get embarrassed," Baugh said of her court time. "I don't get shy anymore so I think I'm definitely getting used to it."

"Every day it's gotten better," said Baugh, the other freshman who handled post-game duties, of acclimating to Tennessee's system.

Tennessee had plenty for the highlight reel after the game. Three of Hornbuckle's five assists came off pinpoint passes. She drove the baseline and fired a pass from under the basket to Bjorklund, who was just inside the arc near the top of the key. Bjorklund stepped back and drained the shot. Hornbuckle found Bjorklund in transition behind the arc by penetrating and then wrapping a pass around the defender. She whipped a 35-foot pass to Parker that bent like a soccer kick from the right side of the court to the left side, where Parker was waiting under the basket.

With one more assist Hornbuckle will become the only Lady Vol in history to amass more than 1,000 points, 550 rebounds, 275 steals and 400 assists.

The first points of the game came from Bobbitt with a coast-to-coast drive. Bobbitt wanted to pass the ball to Parker, but she had had a contact knocked out on the previous offensive possession when she missed a jumper, and Parker told the point guard that she couldn't see. So Bobbitt went unimpeded to the hoop. Baugh also went the distance once after pulling down a defensive rebound and finishing with a finger roll bucket.

Bjorklund, who was 3-4 from behind the arc and 6-7 overall started off the second half with a three-pointer. The Lady Vols were up by 20 points two minutes into the second half and never looked back. When Baugh ran the floor again with the ball – she moved with both grace and force – but barely missed the layup, Hornbuckle was there to tip it in.

Smallbone also took the ball the length of the court and found Hornbuckle for the basket. She made good use of her 19 minutes with some solid play on both ends.

"The one thing I was pleased with was that she was much more aggressive on the defensive end, did a little bit better job of keeping her player in front of her," Summitt said. "That's probably been her biggest challenge, not on the offensive end of the floor but more on the defensive end. Much better effort tonight from Sydney. She only had that one turnover. Sometimes she gets overanxious when she gets picked up in the full court, but she settled down and played better in that area in particular."

Larry was asked to compare this Tennessee team to some of its past ones, and her assessment was that the Lady Vols are still evolving.

"That's a tough question because I've seen an awful lot of them," Larry said. "Pat always has a great deal of talent on her basketball teams. Some of the intangibles make the very, very special teams – how well they play together, how well they connect, and Pat's had quite a few of those.

"Certainly, this is a very talented team, led by Parker, Anosike, Hornbuckle and some of the gifted young players that she has. I think they're a work in progress still. I think that they will continue to work to get better together and even connect more."


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