Nov. 15, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt could tell her young Lady Vols squad was having a hard time working the jitters out in its first game.
"I went into the locker room and said, 'Ladies, you just need to calm down.' They were about to hyperventilate," Summitt said.
The Hall of Fame coach must have had some sort of soothing effect. After a sluggish first half, No. 7 Tennessee beat San Francisco 68-39 on Saturday.
Tennessee celebrated last year's national championship by raising its eighth NCAA banner to the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena, already crowded with banners commemorating titles and retired numbers. Player of the Year Candace Parker carried the trophy out to the floor, drawing cheers from the fans.
Summitt thought the reminder of the pressure to win championships might have been a little too much for some of the six freshmen to handle.
"I think our whole team was excited," Johnson said. "I would say the upperclassmen finally getting to play with us in a game that counts and us freshman watching the banner go up gave us motivation for the next four years."
With sophomore Angie Bjorklund - the only player with regular starting experience - sitting out because of back problems and Vicki Baugh still recovering from knee surgery, Tennessee started two freshmen.
By the second timeout, the Lady Vols had an all-freshman lineup on the floor.
Tennessee missed its first five field goals before Alex Fuller sank a jumper with 17:21 left in the first half. San Francisco missed its first eight before a 3-pointer by Shay Rollins with 14:09 left.
The Lady Vols shot a mere 38.2 percent from the field in the first half while the Dons could manage only 25.7 percent.
Rollins stole the ball twice, hitting a fast-break layup and setting up a basket by Danesha Wright to cut the Tennessee lead to 15-14 with 8:59 in the first half. Rollins sank a 3 less than two minutes later to tie it at 17.
"We came here and I think we got accomplished what we wanted to accomplish," said San Francisco coach Tanya Haave, a former Lady Vols All-American. "It's very rare that you get to sit here and say that you're happy with a 30-point loss but you have to be realistic, too."
Rollins finished with 17 points for the Dons, and Necolia Simmons had 10 rebounds.