Holly Warlick pleased with UT's win over UNC
Highlights can become blurred in a performance like the one Tennessee delivered against North Carolina on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
But amidst the avalanche of baskets and rebounds, coach Holly Warlick had no problem extracting a play of the game in a 102-57 victory over the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels.
And the player who made it was as significant as the play itself.
The game's outcome was already obvious when North Carolina freshman Xylina McDaniel drove the lane in hopes of cutting Tennessee's 27-point advantage to a mere 25 with just more than nine minutes to play. Sophomore center Isabelle Harrison wasn't resting on the comfortable lead, though.
Harrison slapped the shot away with ease; then, seconds later, got the ball back at the other end of the court for a layup.
"That's just effort and heart," Warlick said. "That exemplified what our program should be about."
It also demonstrated how far Harrison has come from her first season to her second.
"It was kind of hard sitting back and watching," said Harrison. "At times, self-confidence was an issue."
The final game of her freshman season didn't help. When eventual national champion Baylor swatted Tennessee aside by 19 points in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament, Harrison had five fouls in just six minutes. She looked so distraught in the postgame locker room, you would have thought she missed the game-deciding shot.
But even when her frustration was most visible, Warlick kept reminding her, "Izzy, your time's coming."
Her time is now. UT's 6-foot-3 center had a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds against the Tar Heels, boosting her season averages to 11 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while adding three more blocks for a team-high total of 20 in the 16th-ranked Lady Vols' 6-1 start.
The game wasn't as easy as the final score or Harrison's stat line looked. The bruise below Harrison's right eye was a visible reminder of the game's physicality and her inside competition against 6-6 center Waltiea Rolle, who often looked overmatched against the smaller Harrison.
"Izzy has grown tremendously," senior teammate Taber Spani said. "The presence she has defensively — to know we have a shot blocker back there — that gives us confidence to know Izzy is back there."
Harrison's knack for shot-blocking was evident in her first game as a Lady Vol. The rest of her game has been a work in progress.
"Last year, you saw (her potential)," Warlick said. "She played in spurts. She was not in good shape.
"We've made her fight through fatigue. We've made her understand that this is the tempo we're going to play. And she gets it."
Harrison's transformation began in the offseason and was probably accelerated by the depleted roster. No Johnson. No Baugh. No one to take away all those minutes in the post.
Harrison worked on every facet of her game — offense, defense and especially conditioning — during the summer.
"She made an effort to get better," Warlick said. "Now, you're seeing the results."