John Adams: Best of Isabelle Harrison too good for Tar Heels

John Adams
Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison gets to the basket over North Carolina's Megan Buckland at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison gets to the basket over North Carolina's Megan Buckland at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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.

Her freshman season was one long struggle. She struggled for minutes behind senior post players Glory Johnson and Vicki Baugh. And she struggled to perform in what minutes she had.

"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."

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 18

voloffaith writes:

No sacrifice...no championships potentially....good team victory that I thought with all the tar heel hype would be a loss....

VFL70 writes:

This team is shaping up as an exciting group of young ladies which bodes well for the future. I like their chances in the the SEC race.

underthehill writes:

Total Team Effort..TTE..never expected Harrison to come so far so soon....Holly using all her roster kept the Lady Vols fresh and NC was bushed the 2nd half..with the depth this team has..I think Holly will keep em running..

chaos001 writes:

Izzy looked so much better than last year. Simmons seems like she's settled down and matured. Graves has come in without looking like a freshman. They're going to be good.

and next year, and the year after...

Razor784 writes:

I had no idea Harrison was this good, she was a beast today, future looks bright for the Lady Vols.

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

A fantastic game , fun to watch .
Thanks , lady VOLS

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Izzy the 1st game you played in last year I predicted this of you but as the season went on I sort of forgot about you. Continue to work hard and I will re-predict you will be one of the best post players of UT's rich History. Thank you for keeping the tradition.

dvhill100 writes:

Nice job ladies. Keep the pedal down. Love to see all of your opponents with tongues hanging out, hands on hips, and calling time out to try and catch their breath.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Razor784:

I had no idea Harrison was this good, she was a beast today, future looks bright for the Lady Vols.

Hope papa the former vandy player and nfl also doesn't read this.....his daughter was awesome today....this "Beast" thing is way over the top...

jdcdjc writes:

If Izzy continues to play at the level she did against Carolina, the Lady Vols are in for a great season. It was a great team effort but we really needed this from our post player.

RockyMtnVol writes:

Hey John, this is more your speed, stick to the girl sports, it fits you.

Go Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

Harrison and Simmons were awesome yesterday. The whole roster contributed. The only negative I saw was some bad passing by Massengale. Several times she tried to pass through two and three defenders. I don't know how many turnovers she had, but too many of them were simply the result of poor judgment, IMHO. Here's a hint for any would-be PGs: if the person you are trying to pass to has two or three defenders on him/her, somebody else is wide open; pass it to that person or take it back out and start over. It's not necessary to make a "hero" play every time; trying to do so will get you beat in most games. I'm sure the coaches will point this out to her in film study this week. She is too experienced by now to be making errors like that.

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

Give her 3 more inches and she would be Candace Parker-like

Theo writes:

So proud for Izzy. You could tell last year was hard for her. Great to see her smile.
Ace those finals girls. On to Texas.
Go Lady Vols!

use_your_words writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Harrison and Simmons were awesome yesterday. The whole roster contributed. The only negative I saw was some bad passing by Massengale. Several times she tried to pass through two and three defenders. I don't know how many turnovers she had, but too many of them were simply the result of poor judgment, IMHO. Here's a hint for any would-be PGs: if the person you are trying to pass to has two or three defenders on him/her, somebody else is wide open; pass it to that person or take it back out and start over. It's not necessary to make a "hero" play every time; trying to do so will get you beat in most games. I'm sure the coaches will point this out to her in film study this week. She is too experienced by now to be making errors like that.

Ariel had
-three rebounds
-one steal
-seven assists
-and only two turnovers
She made three of four free throws. Sounds good to me.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to use_your_words:

Ariel had
-three rebounds
-one steal
-seven assists
-and only two turnovers
She made three of four free throws. Sounds good to me.

Well, I said I didn't know her stats, and I guess I fixated on her only two turnovers, but it was because those two were bad. I distinctly remember that she threw one pass to Harrison, I think, who had three defenders around her. She tried to pass between two defenders on another occasion. Those are just not passes an experienced PG should EVER make. I thought the LVs played great up and down the roster, but as many great coaches say, you have to play against the game itself, not just play the score.

ps11824 writes:

RockyMtnVol writes:
Hey John, this is more your speed, stick to the girl sports, it fits you.

Go Vols!]]]

maybe you should stick to the little boys game too. Seems you are not fond of the ladies although you did log in. Hummm, strange how that happens.

johnlg, I agree about Massengale, her couple of turnovers looked uncharacteristic of her. Hopefully she will have great games in the next few matches. We surely will need her to be spot on.

clvolfan writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Hope papa the former vandy player and nfl also doesn't read this.....his daughter was awesome today....this "Beast" thing is way over the top...

My gosh!have we reached a point where we cannot say "ANYTHING"?

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