SAN FRANCISCO — Pat Summitt sat down with each of her players in recent days, trying to gauge who is invested in doing the extra work to maintain Tennessee’s status as a top program.
Her challenge to Angie Bjorklund sure worked.
Bjorklund scored 19 points in 17 minutes and moved into third place on Tennessee’s all-time 3-pointers list with 165, and the fourth-ranked Lady Vols bounced back from a tough loss with an 89-34 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday night.
“The team did the work. They can critique themselves,” Summitt said. “It showed me that they’re taking ownership. As coaches, when that happens, it’s amazing what a team can do.”
Kamiko Williams had a breakout game with 14 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks for the Lady Vols (10-1), who stayed in the Bay Area after a 67-52 loss to No. 2 Stanford on Saturday at Maples Pavilion. Glory Johnson added 13 points and nine rebounds for Tennessee, down one spot in this week’s poll.
“I thought we did really well and responded to the loss,” Bjorklund said. “I think the game was very important to see where we’re at. We took two days to say, ‘Hey, this is where I need to improve,’ and we had an opportunity two days later to go back and apply that.”
For the first time in 10 years visiting the area, Tennessee had time to do some sightseeing, such as visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf — not to mention shopping downtown.
“Oh, I love this city, so much fun,” Bjorklund said.
San Francisco (4-10), of the mid-major West Coast Conference, is coached by Lady Vols Hall of Famer Tanya Haave and Summitt always works to schedule games against her former players who have become head coaches. Haave was a three-year starter for Tennessee from 1980-84 and reached three Final Fours during her time in Knoxville.
Dons assistant Abby Conklin also played at Tennessee, where she was a four-year letterwinner and helped lead the Lady Vols to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1996 and ’97.
Rheina Ale scored 11 points to lead USF. Tennessee forced 10 first-half turnovers and 18 in all and outrebounded the Dons 52-32 in front of a crowd of 3,255 at Memorial Gym.
“It was an exciting atmosphere tonight. We’ve never had that 3,200 in our gym,” Haave said. “Tennessee’s size, skill and athleticism was too much for us. No question, you’ve got the eight-time national champion, all that they are and all that they have been, there’s going to be some intimidation.”
Bjorklund’s 3 at the 11:56 mark of the first half started a 26-6 run that gave Tennessee a comfortable 48-17 lead at the break. USF matched its lowest halftime score of the season, shooting 24.1 percent and going 3 for 13 from long range.
Bjorklund, a junior, went 7-for-10 with four 3-pointers and also had four assists and two steals. She came into the game tied with Brittany Jackson with 161 3s. Shanna Zolman’s 266 career 3-pointers are the most in program history, followed by 256 from Kara Lawson.
Tennessee had only four assists in the loss to Stanford—a number Summitt believes is a record low for the program—but finished with 17 on Tuesday, already doubling its Saturday total late in the first half. The Lady Vols scored only 18 points in the first half Saturday to match their sixth-lowest halftime total.
Summitt wasn’t about to stand for another slow start. She quickly called timeout after her team fell behind 4-2 and let her players have it.
“I got a pit in my stomach when I saw they lost,” Haave said. “You don’t want to play them after they lose. She knows exactly what to do after a loss and she hates to lose with a passion.”
USF, which lost for the seventh time in its last eight games, hosted a top-five team on the Hilltop for only the third time in school history. The Dons are 2-5 at home against ranked teams since 1995.
Tennessee took last season’s meeting in Knoxville 68-39, the only other matchup in the series.
USF appreciates getting to face such a quality opponent.
“I think it’s good for us,” Ale said. “We need to play against better teams to get better ourselves. I like our schedule. I like playing against big teams.”