Tennessee rummaged around at halftime, sorting through the statistics and some worthwhile advice to find what it was looking for: another gear.
"Something we talked about at halftime was having that constant high energy at all times, and we just got committed to that,'' guard Briana Bass said. "We came out on fire."
The fire burned the brightest for about nine minutes, long enough for the Lady Vols to muster a fast-paced scoring surge in their women's basketball season opener and overwhelm Pepperdine, 89-57.
Senior forward Glory Johnson's interpretation of UT's marching orders boiled down to two UT staples.
"I think one thing that we tried to focus on was to forget about scoring, forget about forcing shots and to just work on our defense and rebounding,'' she said. "Everything else will come easy."
Sure looked easy and fun as No. 3 Tennessee entertained the 12,147 in attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena, turning a 15-point halftime lead into a 65-30 bulge with 11:02 remaining. UT scored 18 consecutive points within that run and pulled off the game's prettiest play: Taber Spani's behind-the-back pass in transition to Johnson for a layup. The Lady Vols also connected on four of their 10 3-pointers during that span.
"I think we just got a little too anxious,'' Pepperdine coach Julie Rousseau said. "Quick shots create an imbalance, which hurt us in transition, and that's where they got all their threes."
Even after cooling off, Tennessee finished with 53 points in the second half and shot 54.5 percent (18 for 33) from the floor.
Johnson's team-high 17 points and 13 rebounds reflected Tennessee's dominance on both fronts. The Lady Vols had five double-figure scorers. Shekinna Stricklen and Meighan Simmons scored 13 apiece. Spani had 11 and Bass 10. Pepperdine had just one with Jazmine Jackson scoring 17. UT also had five players with six or more rebounds. Pepperdine had just T'Keyah Shealy, who had six.
These differences weren't reflected by the postgame critiques. With an eye toward Tuesday's showdown with No. 7 Miami (Fla.), UT associate head coach Holly Warlick faulted UT's one-on-one defense, saying the Lady Vols "weren't very good." She wasn't happy with their 22 turnovers either. UT coach Pat Summitt also was looking past the final result.
"You look at the box, see the score and think it was a blowout,'' Summitt said, "and it wasn't that kind of game at all."
Pepperdine, on the other hand, sounded ambitious beyond last season's 18-12 record and was buoyed by its effort, despite shooting a chilly 28.4 percent (19 for 67) from the floor.
"I think there's a lot of confidence that we leave here with,'' Rousseau said. "We turned them over 22 times; that's who we are."
The Lady Vols hope they are the team that bolted from the locker room to start the second half. And they want to be quick about it.
"We're proud of our players for finishing, but we've got to get better,'' Warlick said. "We've got to get a whole heck of a lot better before Tuesday."