KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Pat Summitt didn’t like what she saw with Shekinna Stricklen’s play early against Oklahoma, so she benched her for a few minutes.
“When she took me out she told me I wasn’t playing like a point guard and that I needed to step my game up to another level,” Stricklen said. “I just said, ‘Yes ma’am, and I responded.’ ”
She responded by posting the second triple-double in Tennessee history, finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in the fourth-ranked Lady Vols’ 96-75 victory over No. 14 Oklahoma on Sunday night.
Stricklen said she noticed she was close to a triple-double at halftime when her line was nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists. She completed it with her 10th rebound with 8:58 left.
The only other Lady Vol to accomplish the feat was Shelia Collins, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals against Florida State on Feb. 8, 1985.
“I think she was sleeping,” Summitt said about Stricklen’s play early. “She just wasn’t attacking. Sometimes players just need a reminder.”
Angie Bjorklund led Tennessee with 25 points, hitting 5 of 8 3-point attempts. Alyssia Brewer added 13 points, and Kelley Cain had 10.
Tennessee (12-1) led 47-43 early in the second half, then slowly pulled away, helped by two early 3s by Bjorklund. Stricklen hit a layup with 11:18 left to give the Lady Vols a 10-point advantage at 64-54 lead. The Sooners (10-3) would not get any closer.
Amanda Thompson led Oklahoma with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Nyeshia Stevenson had 17 points, Carlee Roethlisberger added 14, and Danielle Robinson had 10.
Oklahoma jumped out to a 14-4 lead early in the first half, helped by a pair of 3s from Roethlisberger and Stevenson. Tennessee went inside to keep up and grabbed a 27-22 lead with 8:50 left in the first half after a 13-2 run.
“It was a great game for women’s basketball,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. “Shots were going in on both ends, and it was pretty clean. Great effort, great athleticism, up and down the floor.”
Coale kept her rotation short, substituting her seventh and last player with only 1:23 left in the game. The Lady Vols played 10, wearing the Sooners out in the fast-paced, physical game.
It showed on the boards, where Tennessee pulled down 48 rebounds, Oklahoma 31. The Lady Vols put up 21 second-chance points and finished with 44 points in the paint.
“Once we settled down, especially after halftime, we played with a lot more composure,” Summitt said.
The Lady Vols now hold a 4-1 lead in the series that dates to 2002. Tennessee revenge for an 80-70 loss to the Sooners last season.
“They’re older and wiser,” Coale said. “They are more experienced. Last year they were so young, I don’t think they had an identity. Now I think they know who they are and how they have to win.”
The Sooners have played well this season considering the graduation of post powerhouses Courtney and Ashley Paris and the loss of shooter Whitney Hand, who tore a knee ligament in November. Still, the 2009 Final Four team has lost all three of its games this season against ranked opponents.
Stevenson said the Sooners are trying to not let the absence of the Paris twins and Hand hold the rest of the team back.
“Basically we made a pledge and honor to each other that we were going to give a little bit more. We had great post players leave, and we’re trying to make up for that. As far as the guards go, it’s just a matter of everybody giving a little piece of what Whitney did.”