Vols knock off UVa. women in front of record crowd

Story by Scott German

A combination of two Hall of Fame basketball coaches and free hotdogs and sodas helped the University of Virginia establish a new women’s single-game attendance record of 11,895 here Sunday afternoon in John Paul Jones Arena.

Unfortunately most of fans went home disappointed as No. 6 Tennessee Vols (3-0) rode the sharpshooting of Angie Bjorklunds’ 24 points to a 77-63 victory over No. 12 Virginia.

Bjorklund made the big shots when Tennessee needed them most as the Lady Vols, making only their second ever visit to Charlottesville, avenged last season’s home loss to the Cavaliers.

The 6-foot junior Bjorklund canned six long threes for the contest, many coming from well behind the arc to continually frustrate the Virginia defense.

Tennessee led 40-33 at intermission and pulled away after a brief UVa. rally closed to 42-39, much to the approval of the record-setting gathering. Bjorklund stopped the Virginia spurt and silenced the crowd with a four-point play. Moments later the Vols’ Tabor Spani nailed a three to push the lead back to double digits at 49-39. The Lady Cavaliers’ would get no closer than seven down the stretch.

Preseason All-American Monica Wright led Virginia with 21 points, but Chelse Shine, coming off a 27-point night against South Carolina-Upstate, scored just three. Shine had her first shot of the night convincingly blocked by UT’s center 6-7 center Kelley Caine, and never seemed to recover. The Cavs’ Ariana Moorer added 12 points, while teammate Simone Egwu added 10.

The game was billed as Hot Dog Day, with every fan receiving a voucher for a free hot dog and soda. The turnout broke the previous mark of 11,174, which came on Feb. 5, 1986 against North Carolina across the street in University Hall.

The Lady Vols and Lady Cavs, two of the nation’s premier women’s basketball teams’ have now collided 14 times down the years with Tennessee holding a 12-2 lead in the series.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt (1,008 wins) and Virginia’s Debbie Ryan (703) are two of only seven women’s basketball coaches in the nation to reach the 700-win plateau. Both coaches have been at their respective schools their entire coach careers, Summit her 36th at UT while Ryan her 32nd at UVa.

After the game Ryan commented on the record-setting crowd. “The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. The town and surrounding communities really stepped up today,” praised Ryan. “The crowd didn’t stop cheering the whole game, we really fed off their emotion, we just didn’t have an answer for their shooting and size”.

Tennessee coach Summit also gave accolades to the Virginia crowd. “This was a great environment for women’s college basketball. I thought the arena was awesome, and a game against two great programs could not have had any higher intensity,” said Summit.

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