KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Angie Bjorklund remembers Tennessee playing well in the first half against Texas last season before unraveling in the second.
What a difference a year makes.
Bjorklund scored 15 points, and No. 6 Tennessee cruised to a 78-58 victory over No. 17 Texas on Sunday night.
“I just think it shows a lot—how hard we worked in the summer, how having a year of experience under your belt helps,” she said.
A year ago, the teams were tied midway through the second half before Texas went ahead with a 10-1 run, and Tennessee never recovered.
This time, the Lady Volunteers (7-0) grabbed a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never let up against the Longhorns (5-3).
Texas coach Gail Goestenkors said it’s the best she’s seen Tennessee play all season and thinks the difference from last season can be attributed to many different things, including Kelley Cain’s dominance in the post and more confident guard play.
“They just have a better flow this year,” said Goestenkors, who is 6-6 against Tennessee coach Pat Summitt in her time at Texas and Duke. “They seem more confident. They trust themselves more, and they trust each other more.”
Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson both added 14 points for Tennessee, which shot 52.5 percent. Kelley Cain, who missed Tennessee’s win over George Washington on Tuesday night recovering from a concussion, was 6-for-6 from the field for 12 points.
Texas shot only 30 percent from the field, the lowest figure by any Lady Vols’ opponent this season.
A 3-pointer by Stricklen with 7:10 left in the first half capped a 14-2 run, and another 3 by Stricklen sent the Lady Vols into halftime with a 41-24 lead. Tennessee led by at least 20 points for most of the second half.
Brittainey Raven led Texas with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The Longhorns did best in creating scoring opportunities, getting 17 points off 18 Tennessee turnovers. They struggled with the easier shots, missing six layups in the first half, six layups in the second half and six of 16 free throws.
“If we would have made those shots, we would have won the game,” Raven said.
Texas is one of only six schools to hold multiple victories at Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena after winning at “The Summitt” in 1987, 2002 and 2003. Only Connecticut has more wins—four.
Even with the recent success by Texas and Goestenkors, the Lady Vols lead the all-time series 19-12.
Summitt won’t let her players rest on their laurels, even with a week off to study for exams. Tennessee faces Rutgers Dec. 13 in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“They’re excited, but this is just one game,” Summitt said. “I expected this game to be closer, but when you play on the road it can be different. It will be different for us.”