Lady Vols say Isabelle Harrison's impact is 'huge'

Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison, left, and Bashaara Graves defend North Carolina's Xylina McDaniel on Dec. 2 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison, left, and Bashaara Graves defend North Carolina's Xylina McDaniel on Dec. 2 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Lady Vols react to being named No. 2 seed in NCAA tournament

Isabelle Harrison’s teammates wore out the word “huge” Monday night in describing the Tennessee center.

The Lady Vols weren’t referring to the sophomore’s 6-foot-3 stature. Nor were they describing Harrison’s yardarm-like wingspan.

They were quantifying her mere presence as the Lady Vols prepare to start the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Tennessee (24-7), the No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City regional, plays No. 15 seed Oral Roberts (18-12) at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN2) at Thompson-Boling Arena. No. 7 Syracuse (24-7) and No. 10 Creighton (24-7) open the first-round doubleheader at 11:20 a.m.

The winners play at 7 p.m. Monday.

Harrison has returned to practice after missing Tennessee’s past three games. She suffered an injury to the medial collateral ligament in her right knee during an 82-72 victory over Texas A&M on Feb. 28. She also missed six games from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21 following surgery on her left knee to address the lateral meniscus.

After Monday’s selection show, the tournament prognosis for Harrison generally was optimistic, albeit with some reservation.

“Obviously, we don’t know where Izzy is physically,” senior forward Taber Spani said, “but she’s doing everything possible to get herself ready.”

Head coach Holly Warlick was encouraged by what she saw of Harrison in the two practices before Monday night. But Warlick also said, “She’s not quite there yet.”

Harrison’s outlook on Harrison was matter-of-fact.

“It’s good,” she said. “I mean I have this big brace on but ... I’m feeling good about it.”

Of all the injuries suffered by Tennessee this season, Harrison’s have been the toughest to overcome. She’s established career highs for points (18), rebounds (15), blocks (seven) and steals (six). She leads the team in blocks with 42. The next highest total is Cierra Burdick’s 20. Burdick said that Harrison’s knack for altering shots is important to the team.

“There’s more arc on shots,” Burdick said. “They shoot a floater, whereas maybe they could shoot a layup. She times the ball so well.”

Whenever Harrsion was out, the 6-2 Burdick moved to power forward and experienced the rigors of low-block play. After games, she’d ask fellow post player Bashaara Graves about feeling so sore and Graves would reply, “It’s because they’re hanging on you.”

“You constantly have people hanging on you and grabbing on you,” Burdick said. “When you’re down low, you’re just banging. I have a new appreciation for what Izzy and Bashaara do.”

Counting a Dec. 18 game at Baylor, which Harrison missed with a sprained ankle, Graves has played 10 games without Harrison this season. The 6-2 freshman forward averaged 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds for those games. Her overall averages are 13.8 and 8.3.

“I definitely didn’t want all that pressure on her because she’s a freshman,” Harrison said. “She doesn’t play like one. She’s strong, explosive, everything you need in a post player. So she really has been holding (the position) down.”

No matter, Graves welcomes the return of someone she considers to be a mentor.

“Izzy is like a senior to me,” she said. “I look up to her.”

Just having her back on the court. Well, it’s huge.

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Comments » 7

Volinflan writes:

And and all this respect for a sophomore coming from future All Americans like Burdick and Graves. Come. We may not win it all this year but those girls will have some Championship rings on their fingers. If Spani has a tournament like she had against A&M, and if Simmons does her normal great scoring, we can get a championship.

Putting Izzy back in there changes a lot. With her wingspan and skills the Lady Vols would have taken out A&M again. We are happy with a 2 seed and the chance to take out Oral Roberts, Syracuse, UCLA and Baylor so that we can get at the good teams.

SummittsCourt writes:

Having Isabelle Harrison in the game is like having Kevin Garnett in the game. She is the defensive security blanket that covers up when things break down.

Go Lady Vols!

tonyvick#213307 writes:

The only way "they" could get us in the bracket with Baylor is make us a number 2 seed. I usually don't believe in the conspiracy theory but...

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

The only way "they" could get us in the bracket with Baylor is make us a number 2 seed. I usually don't believe in the conspiracy theory but...

That's exactly what I was thinking T.V.

cheetah-vol writes:

I hope Izzy can play, but I'd rather her be healthy. This LV team has accomplished a lot while being snake-bit with injuries. I think that's admirable. It'll be tough without Izzy, but they'll still make some noise in the tourney.

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

That's exactly what I was thinking T.V.

I thought the same thing! These bracket pairings for the NCAA tourney get worse every year; it is who they want to win or think they can win and put teams where they think those teams can win! It was kinda stupid to send TN all the way to Oklahoma City if they win when their could have sent them to Norfolk; they didn't want them in the same bracket as Notre Dame. And then those big NCAA tourney members get on ESPN explaining how they went about putting teams where they put them! All Big Bunch HogWash out of their mouths!

madrigal writes:

Without Izzy, the Lady Vols are a good team. With her, they are a damn good team. But the most important thing is a healthy Izzy. This team may not go as far as they'd like, but I think they deserve a lot of credit for all they fought through this year. They may well go farther than some "better" teams we've had, but Baylor or not, we all pretty much know this isn't their year. Playing on heart will take you a long way, though. Go lady Vols!

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