Jan. 14, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Angie Bjorklund missed her first seven shots, Shekinna Stricklen had more turnovers than baskets, and 6-foot-6 center Kelley Cain spent considerable time on the bench with a hip injury.
On a night when just about everything went wrong for No. 4 Tennessee, the Lady Vols found a way to win.
Bjorklund drained two huge 3-pointers late, then made a reverse layup with 2.3 seconds remaining to lift Tennessee to a 66-64 victory over Florida on Thursday.
"That's how you know that she is a champion is that she had a tough night, yet when her team needed her to make big plays, she hit those 3s and that tough finish at the end," Gators coach Amanda Butler said. "I still don't know how she got that shot off. It was maybe a little bit the grace of God, I don't know. It was a tough play, but that's the kind of plays you expect a player like her to make."
The Lady Vols (15-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) overcame a season-high 25 turnovers, extended their winning streak to six games and won for the 39th time in 42 meetings with Florida.
This one was a come-from-behind performance.
The Gators (9-8, 2-2) were up 50-45 with about 9 minutes to play, then Bjorklund got hot and Cain returned from an injury.
Bjorklund hit two 3s that kept it close, Cain followed a few minutes later with three baskets in the lane and then Bjorklund put Tennessee ahead for good with her biggest bucket of the season. The play, called "Gator," was supposed to have the ball sent inside.
Instead, Florida double-teamed Glory Johnson and Bjorklund made a backdoor cut. She got the ball along the baseline, dribbled and banked it home.
"It's one of those situations where the offense breaks down, you've got to create," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "That was the most creative shot of the night for her."
"Of my career," Bjorklund added.
Bjorklund, the team's leading scorer, finished 3 of 11 from the field and tied a season low with eight points.
"I'm definitely a shooter," she said. "I don't shoot too many layups. I was glad that one went in."
Cain dominated early and late, scoring the first three baskets of the game and then hitting three more big ones down the stretch. She left the game late in the first half after falling on her right hip, but returned after icing and stretching it.
"I know my team needed me," Cain said. "I just felt like I would have been leaving my team hanging if I had to sit this one out, so I had to suck it up and do it for my team."
Florida had a final chance, but Lonnika Thompson's 3-pointer clanged off the rim.
"I think everybody in the gym thought we were going to be on ESPN tonight by hitting that buzzer-beater and pulling the upset off," Butler said.
Steffi Sorensen led the Gators with 12 points, all from behind the arc. Florida made nine 3-pointers, but got outrebounded 46-24. The Lady Vols needed every one of them to overcome all those turnovers. Tennessee finished with just three steals and no blocks.
"Obviously, Florida outplayed us the majority of the game," Summitt said. "I don't know why, lack of leadership, lack of ownership. When the people you count on to make shots don't have the composure, don't make shots, then we get into the little panic mode, which I think we did."