ATHENS, Ga. — Ariel Massengale couldn't get a grip on her play, and the basketball wasn't helping matters.
"That ball was pretty slippery," Tennessee's exasperated point guard said. "I don't know what it was."
Twice, the ball got away from her in the first half Sunday night against Georgia. One of her slip-ups set up a Lady Bulldogs basket.
Massengale's plight reflected Tennessee's predicament. They both needed to regroup at halftime.
The result was just one more Massengale turnover and a second-half surge by the Lady Vols for a 67-50 SEC women's basketball victory before a crowd of 10,523 at Stegeman Coliseum.
Shekinna Stricklen led No. 7 Tennessee (16-5, 7-1 SEC) with 24 points. The senior, who returned to the starting lineup at power forward, scored 16 in the second half.
Massengale, who hit two of UT's five 3-pointers, scored 13 of her 16 points after the break. She hit four free throws — part of UT's 17 for 21 shooting from the foul line (76.2 percent) — in the final 1:39.
Stricklen and Massengale were enough to outscore No. 17 Georgia (16-6, 5-4) in the second half. The Lady Bulldogs made just five field goals and mustered 22 points. They finished at 28.8 percent accuracy (17 for 59).
Although guard Meredith Mitchell led Georgia with 13 points, she shot just 2 for 10 from the floor. Jasmine Hassell scored 11.
"We had a great crowd and for a half a great basketball game," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "But we kind of let it get away from us."
Tennessee was facing the same possibility at halftime. Despite leading by as many as eight points, its advantage was a shaky 29-28 at the break.
Massengale wasn't alone in her ballhandling follies. The Lady Vols amassed 12 of their 19 turnovers in the first half, helping set up eight Georgia points.
Stricklen and fellow senior Glory Johnson convened a pep talk with Massengale during the break.
"I just tried to say something to make her laugh, take her mind off that,'' Stricklen said. "I don't know what I said, probably something stupid."
Along with the turnovers, UT associate head coach Holly Warlick harped on Georgia's 10 offensive rebounds, which provided eight more points on the Lady Bulldogs' behalf in the first 20 minutes.
"We were giving up 16 points on turnovers and offensive rebounds," Warlick said. "So we were really concerned and focused on those two things."
They didn't need a revised plan on defense, especially not after Georgia shot 2 for 12 to start the second half. A zone alignment, for the most part, was sufficient.
Having scored a program-low 44 points at Notre Dame last Monday, the Lady Vols knew the damage that a dry spell could do.
"You could tell it was bothering them,'' Johnson said. "Andy tried to sub in different girls it really wasn't working. I was glad it went our way."
Shifting Stricklen inside worked out well, too. Playing the other forward spot mitigated her 21.4 percent shooting on 3-pointers (9 for 42) since the Christmas break. She scored eight of her baskets from point-blank range. Her final basket was her lone 3-pointer in four attempts.
"My outside shot isn't falling at all,'' she said. "So it feels good to be working around the basket."