Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen (40) and center Kelley Cain (52) try to block the shot of Vanderbilt's Hannah Tuomi, center, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE — Shekinna Stricklen scored 14 points and Lauren Avant added 11 off the bench and No. 4 Tennessee rallied from one of the Lady Vols' worst first halves ever and beat Vanderbilt 65-57 Sunday for their 15th straight win.
The Lady Vols (24-2, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) played their third game in seven days and were sloppy scoring only 15 points in the first half, the third-worst scoring performance for 20 minutes in Tennessee's history.
They came back with a 50-point second half keyed in part by Avant, who scored all her points in the final 20 minutes. Glory Johnson also added 10 points.
Vanderbilt (17-8, 8-4) snapped a four-game winning streak that had moved the Commodores from fifth in the SEC to second, just three games back of Tennessee. The Commodores couldn't hold on for what would have been only their eighth victory all time against Tennessee, blowing an 11-point lead with 13:52 left.
Jence Rhoads had 15 points for Vanderbilt, and Stephanie Holzer added 10.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt stared stonily at her Lady Vols through the first half when they scored a measly 15 points, shooting 20 percent (5-of-25). That is the third-worst scoring half ever behind the 13 scored against Rutgers on Jan. 3, 2009, and 14 against Virginia in an NCAA tournament regional championship March 25, 1996.
She ripped them heavily at halftime, probably just as she did in those other games.
The Lady Vols won both of those, and they came back to win this one too despite being so cold in the first half that even when Taber Spani stole the ball from Jasmine Lister, her pull-up jumper off the fast break hit off the front rim for Tennessee's 15th miss of the half.
Tennessee didn't score a point in the final 5:33 after a fast-break layup by Kamiko Williams pulled the Lady Vols within 24-15.
Vanderbilt didn't take advantage of the Lady Vols' woes. The Commodores led only 28-15 at halftime because only Holzer scored on a layup, and Elan Brown added two free throws while Tennessee couldn't score down the final minutes.
Vanderbilt led 39-28 when the Lady Vols finally got going with a 16-3 run. Avant, hobbled by injuries and illness this season, came off the bench and provided a spark. She scored on a driving layup and converted the free throw and then hit a 3-pointer to pull Tennessee within 42-41 with 7:31 left.
Meighan Simmons, who had been 1-of-8 from the floor, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key that capped the spurt with 5:55 left and put Tennessee ahead 44-42 — the Lady Vols' first lead since 5-2.
The teams went back and forth with Vandy last leading at 49-47 before Williams' layup tied it up, and Simmons hit a jumper that put Tennessee ahead to stay at 51-49. The Lady Vols led by eight three times down the stretch.