Into the locker room went one Tennessee team at halftime Tuesday night and out came another.
Although turning a tie score into a quick 10-point lead out of the break against Miami (Fla.) didn't duplicate Sunday's scoring surge against Pepperdine, the sudden burst reaffirmed the Lady Vols' knack for being quick-change artists.
Suddenly they were playing with more resolve. Ultimately they were rewarded with a hard-fought 92-76 women's basketball victory in the State Farm Tipoff Classic before 12,151 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick passed the first bit of credit for UT's renewed effort to a familiar source.
"If you ever doubt if Pat Summitt is still coaching," said Warlick, referring to Tennessee's head coach, "look at how our team responds coming out in the second half. She got on them pretty hard.
"We all did as a staff about our rebounding effort, our hustle plays that weren't there. So we challenged them. We challenged them for 20 minutes, and I think they responded."
Junior guard Taber Spani led the response for No. 3 Tennessee (2-0) with 20 points. Her step-back 3-pointer over Miami's Morgan Stroman with 6:32 left and the shot clock winding down was a welcome boost to UT's dwindling five-point lead. Spani's clutch basket followed the miss of a wide-open trey attempt by Riquna Williams, who led No. 7 Miami (1-1) with 24 points.
"I thought that was a huge turning point,'' Miami coach Katie Meier said.
Four other Lady Vols also scored in double figures. Meighan Simmons came off the bench to score 18 points. Glory Johnson had 16 and Shekinna Stricklen added 15 points. Freshman point guard Ariel Massengale just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine assists.
Overall, Tennessee achieved a favorable balance between assists (19) and turnovers (13) against the ball-hawking Hurricanes.
Johnson and Stricklen, meanwhile, combined for 16 rebounds to help whittle a shocking double-figure rebounding deficit to five (44-39) in the end.
"I think it was once again us picking up our defense and just really focusing on crashing the boards,'' Johnson said. "They were hitting shots, and they weren't missing really in the first half. We were hitting shots. So something's got to change."
Miami established its ambitious intentions in the first half, playing Tennessee to a 42-all standstill.
Despite foul trouble that shelved their pressure tactics, the Hurricanes stole UT's trademark with a 28-15 rebounding advantage. Led by 6-foot-6 reserve center Shawnice Wilson, who finished with a game-high 11 rebounds, the Hurricanes forged an early 9-2 edge in second-chance points.
The Lady Vols' first halftime adjustment resulted in All-American Stricklen playing the role of spectator.
"I think the power of the bench says a lot,'' Warlick said. " We need more out of Shekinna Stricklen. She's our All-American."
The Lady Vols got more, as evidenced by Stricklen's 12 second-half points on 5-for-7 shooting once she returned.
The other strategic move that paid huge dividends was UT using a 3-2 zone defense. With post players stationed across the top of the alignment, the Hurricanes couldn't find the range from long range, missing all nine of their second-half 3-point attempts.
"I don't know what position Glory Johnson plays,'' said Miami All-American guard Shenise Johnson, who scored 17 points but was 1-for-5 from long range. "She's a beast; she's a monster. We are a lot smaller than them, and we wanted to try and squeeze it in there and get inside the lane and we weren't able to do that with the size and length they had."
In the second half, the Lady Vols weren't just bigger, they were better.