The fashion statement was loud. The competitive response was reassuring.
Tennessee had its say on a number of fronts Sunday night, which translated into a 75-66 SEC women's basketball victory over Vanderbilt.
Shekinna Stricklen led four double-figure scorers with 18 points for No. 18 Tennessee (20-9, 9-5 SEC). Fifteen of her points came in the second half, when the Lady Vols overcame a 3-point halftime deficit to lead by as much as 73-59 with 1:31 left.
After being honored beforehand as UT's lone senior, forward Alex Fuller scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds, leading UT's 48-31 rebounding advantage.
No. 19 Vanderbilt (21-8, 10-4) had three double-figure scorers. Forward Christina Wirth scored a game-high 20 points.
Before a crowd of 14,157 at Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee wrapped up the regular season by extending its streak of 20-win seasons to 33. Normally, the achievement is a foregone conclusion. But that wasn't the case this season as Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt fretted about the program benchmark.
"I don't often set goals but I had a goal of 20 wins," she said. "I didn't talk about it much."
Summitt reached deep into her clothes closet for the game, wearing an orange pants suit. She recruited her assistant coaches to join the color scheme. They wore orange jackets.
"I wasn't going out there with all-orange and them not having something orange on,'' she said, laughing.
An all-orange encore is possible at the SEC tournament, where fifth-seed UT opens against Alabama on Thursday in North Little Rock, Ark. Summitt said as much afterward.
"That's all I'm wearing for the rest of the season,'' she said. "That's all I'm packing."
The players, on the other hand, reached deep into their resolve through seven ties and 10 lead changes. For Stricklen, who was battling a head cold and was coughing in the post-game interview room, drawing a deep breath was a challenge.
"In the first half, I was really having trouble breathing,'' she said. "Coach was on me. That was not an excuse. She was really on me at halftime."
By that point, Vanderbilt had demonstrated that it was capable of repeating its Jan. 11 victory over the Lady Vols. Beforehand Tennessee's plan was to force Vanderbilt to win from 3-point range. After Wirth buried a last-second trey to give the Commodores a 34-31 lead at the break, Summitt conceded: "At halftime we were getting beat by the three."
Despite playing without starting forward Hannah Tuomi, who was out with a stress fracture in her foot, the Commodores' aggressive defense also took a toll. UT had 17 turnovers, which helped Vanderbilt build a 23-6 edge in points off turnovers.
Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb thought that her team accounted for just about everything but the rebounding.
"I think that was the difference in the game because I think we beat them in a lot of other areas,'' she said.
Tennessee center Kelley Cain made a difference as well. The 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman parlayed her height advantage into 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor.
Guard Angie Bjorklund, meanwhile, enabled UT to keep pace on the 3-pointers. She had five of the Lady Vols' 10 treys, which was a season single-game high, and scored 16 points.
"When Angie's playing with confidence and knocking down shots,'' Summitt said, "it takes a lot of pressure off our basketball team.''
After pulling Glory Johnson from the starting lineup for this game, Summitt complimented the freshman forward's play, saying it was one of her better games, "just because she had composure and played within herself."
Johnson scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds before fouling out. She also drew Wirth's fourth foul, which deprived Vanderbilt of its leading scorer for nearly five minutes of the second half.
"We came out and played hard tonight,'' said Cain after UT's first victory over a ranked opponent since beating then-No. 15 Rutgers on Jan. 3. "We know we can do it. We just have to transfer it to every game and play for 40 minutes."