PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Since Tennessee's record book already had been trashed, the Lady Vols figured one more rewrite couldn't hurt.
"You know what,'' said guard Angie Bjorklund, recalling a halftime thought, "it doesn't matter how much we're down. It's a zero-zero game. That's what we always say."
They never meant it like they did Saturday afternoon. No Lady Vols ever have.
Bjorklund and Co. overcame the biggest halftime deficit in program history with the greatest comeback, climbing out of a 20-point grand canyon for a 55-51 women's basketball victory over Rutgers before a stunned crowd of 8,079 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
In trailing 33-13 at the break, No. 8 Tennessee (11-2) also set a team low for first-half points. The Lady Vols didn't reach double figures until the final minutes.
Add in 15 first-half turnovers - seven in succession and 11 on the first 14 possessions - and not scoring for the first 8 minutes, 13 seconds and UT's start was a total disaster. That made the finish even more impressive, not to mention unlikely.
"We've had a lot of comebacks; this one right now stands out as one of the most special ever,'' said UT coach Pat Summitt, who recalled a 17-point rally in the second half of a 1996 NCAA regional final at Virginia. "This group will get in the record book."
Freshman guard Shekinna Stricklen had team highs for points (16) and rebounds (11). Thirteen of her points and six rebounds came in the second half.
Bjorklund was more of late bloomer, scoring all of her 12 points after halftime. Her jumper with 1:28 left, which was set up by a deft crosscourt pass from forward Alyssia Brewer, gave Tennessee its first lead (51-49) along with the lead for good.
"(Stricklen's) and Angie's (baskets) were game changers, every single one of them,'' Brewer said.
Glory Johnson (nine points and eight rebounds) and Brewer (eight points and seven rebounds), meanwhile, helped cover for the absence of starting forward Vicki Baugh, who was out with a knee injury.
"It's all about players making plays and a commitment,'' said Summitt, who won her 994th career game.
While the Lady Vols were jubilant, No. 15 Rutgers (8-3) was understandably crestfallen after leading by as many as 23 points in the first half and savaging UT on both ends of the court.
"I thought we were crazy mad in the first half,'' Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "In the second half, we played not to lose."
The Scarlet Knights thought that their big advantage gave them a false sense of security.
"I think we got too relaxed with our lead,'' said guard Epiphanny Prince, who scored a game-high 25 points. "I guess we figured our defense would keep our lead. We didn't stop them from scoring."
The CBS national broadcast showed a calm Summitt talking to her team at halftime. Apparently the camera didn't capture her mood, so much so that she joked: "Oh good. Thank you CBS. I might never get another recruit.''
She raged about UT's first-half meltdown and rebuked Bjorklund for having only one shot attempt. Her parting thought actually was a threat.
"You don't want to go home with me tonight having played this way,'' she said. "You better at least show up and play with some Tennessee pride. And they did."
First, the Lady Vols used a combination of zone defensive alignments to slow down Rutgers. Prince, who had 16 first-half points, said that she became too passive.
"I think it confused them on what to do on the offensive end at first,'' Stricklen said.
On offense, freshman point guard Briana Bass, who got a quick hook in the first half, pushed the basketball up the floor and helped get UT into an attack mode. The team that literally didn't have a shot for nearly five minutes in the first half started knocking them down, hitting at a 51.9 percent clip (14-for-27) in the second half. Stricklen hit consecutive 3-pointers to pull UT within 40-32 with 11:56 left.
While Tennessee finished strong, Rutgers scored just two points in the final six minutes. On consecutive possessions, center Kia Vaughn missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities. Inside the final half-minute, she missed a contested shot from close range that would've tied the score.
Bjorklund was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and capped the comeback with two free throws with 14 seconds left.
"We came together and thought we could get this done,'' Bjorklund said. "It was one possession after another."