They should have lost this one.
Tennessee played one of the ugliest offensive halves of basketball in program history to start the game, managing a mere 15 total points in the half after scoring the game's first four points in fewer than 90 seconds. Much of the poor offense can be attributed to cold shooting by a lot of players. Perhaps affected by the bizarre layout of Memorial Gym, the team shot a total of 5 for 25 in the half with many of the misses coming on clean looks at the basket and from places on the floor that the shooters normally felt comfortable.
But a lot of the first half was chalked up to very sloppy play, including losing the battle in several key stat indicators: 12 turnovers to Vanderbilt's 11, an 18 to 20 rebounding deficit, fewer points off turnovers, and no made three-point attempts. From the 10:20 mark of the first half until halftime, Tennessee scored all of two whole points on a layup by Kamiko Williams. If it weren't for similar woes on Vanderbilt's end (including a two point run for the final 5:06 of the half), the game may very well have been out of reach.
Yet somehow, a road game in a screwball gym trailing 28-15 against a team that always plays well against Tennessee wasn't enough to stop the comeback and the Lady Vols completed the season sweep of their in-state conference foes for the second year in a row.
It must have been an interesting halftime in the Tennessee locker room.
Pictures can speak volumes; this chart of the scoring history of the game is taken from the GameTracker applet for the game. Even if halftime weren't clearly marked in the image, you could pinpoint exactly when Pat Summitt's proverbial boot was lodged in the Lady Vols' collective proverbial ... target.
For all the scoreless streaks in the first half - and there were many - the second half was the model of offensive consistency. Another way of breaking this down is to look at the comparative stats in the first and second halves. Also from GameTracker (which has become my favorite live stat tracking tool):
In the first half, the only favorable stat - fastbreak points - came at a whopping 2-0 margin for Tennessee.
Someday Tennessee is going to have a slow start like that and not be able to come back. Even though several of the teams in the SEC are really pretty good teams (Georgia, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt in particular), there really isn't a team built like Tennessee in the conference. However, there are a few outside the SEC that will eventually be in Tennessee's way of a national championship. But I've harped on that point enough. It's now time for the ...
The award can go to no other than freshman Lauren Avant. The only true point guard on the team came through in spades in the second half, netting all those pretty stats you see in the second half box above. Moreover, she scored six in very quick succession to bring Tennessee within one point and close the wide-open scoreboard gap for good. Her total stat line reads: 2-3 FG, 1-1 3FG, 6-9 FT, 2 (defensive) rebounds, 1 assist, zero turnovers, four steals, a block a foul, and 11 total points in 20 minutes of action. Her point tally was second only to Stricklen's 14, which was earned in 39 minutes of play.
SWEET MOTHER OF BREADSTICKS, LAUREN AVANT!!!
Let's just leave it there for the night, shall we?