KNOXVILLE — Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt wanted to keep Brittney Griner’s dunking potential from being a distraction. So she reminded the Lady Vols that a dunk was only worth two points.
“Obviously going into it everybody’s talking about Brittney Griner and the dunk,” Summitt said of the 6-foot-8 Baylor freshman. “So I told them, Angie (Bjorklund) and (Shekinna) Stricklen, ‘If she dunks, just go hit a 3. Now we’re one up.’”
Stricklen ended up with 25 points and 14 rebounds and No. 8 Tennessee beat No. 7 Baylor 74-65 on Sunday in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic.
Griner, the sport’s celebrated recruit this season, dunked in an exhibition game and a few times in warmups. She scored 15 points and had four blocks but never got close enough to the rim for a chance to dunk during the game.
The Lady Vols (1-0) didn’t need many 3s, but instead used a combination of post players — who spent much of the game in foul trouble — to shut down Griner. The freshman found herself with four fouls two minutes after halftime and sat for 6½ minutes of the second half.
“They were petty fouls. That’s part of the learning I’m going to have to do coming from the high school level to the college level, playing with fouls,” Griner said.
Baylor led by as many as seven points in the first half and entered halftime with a 26-24 lead, but Tennessee scored the first 12 points coming out of the break.
Stricklen hit a fast-break layup on a steal and assist from Kamiko Williams to cap a 14-2 run that gave the Tennessee a 52-38 lead with 9:49 left.
“They made a few runs, and Shekinna would come down and make a jump shot,” Lady Vols center Kelley Cain said. “When she makes those shots, it really picks up our team and lets us know that we’re still in it, and that we aren’t going to let them come back.”
Baylor (0-1) got within nine several times but kept sending the Lady Vols to the free throw line, where they shot 85 percent in the second half.
Tennessee was looking for redemption after losing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in March. Summitt has praised her young players for working harder than all her recent teams in the offseason.
“I brought them into a hornet’s nest,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “(Summitt’s) mad at her team. They lost in the first round of the tournament, they got kicked out of their locker room and I’m coming to Knoxville, Tennessee.
“You think I wasn’t sitting there proud as a peacock when we had a lead at halftime and proud at the end of the game? Absolutely, but I’m not into moral victories,” she said.
Melissa Jones led the Lady Bears with 21 points, and Morghan Medlock had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Cain had 15 points for Tennessee, and Bjorklund added 13.
Both teams featured underclassmen, and both teams shot poorly in the first half: Baylor 29.2 percent and Tennessee 28.9 percent.
“With the hype of the game and the large crowd, we were nervous in the first half,” Summitt said. “I told them at halftime, ‘OK, you can settle down now. Most of these people are cheering for you.’ ”
The 2010 women’s Hall of Fame class was introduced as part of the State Farm Tip-Off Classic festivities.
The inductees included Leta Andrews, the winningest high school girls basketball coach; celebrated Team USA basketball player Teresa Edwards; Connecticut star Rebecca Lobo; WNBA standout Teresa Weatherspoon; and former Maryland coach Chris Weller.
“You saw the past, the present and the future,” Mulkey said. “I thought it was a great way to start off the season, except for the loss.”