Jan. 9, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Big Orange has started off SEC play undefeated, as UT defeated South Carolina on the road, 73-53, and beat Georgia at home, 79-66. The schedule heats up as the Lady Vols dive deeper into league action.
BRING ON THE TIGERSThe Lady Vols welcome new SEC member Missouri to Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday for an 8 p.m. contest. Tennessee is 2-0 in league play thus far, but will face a new challenge in the Mizzou Tigers.
"Obviously they're a great shooting team, making 18 threes against Auburn," senior forward Taber Spani said. "I think 47 percent of their combined shots during their season have been threes, so we understand that. They're a little bit different than the previous two SEC teams that we've played, so they're going to be a great challenge for us."
"We haven't really played against teams like that, that have been great shooting teams," sophomore center Isabelle Harrison said. "It's going to be a challenge for us to really defend and not rely so much on stopping. We have to defend outside the paint and that's what we've been so great at doing."
Although Tennessee hasn't encountered an SEC team like Mizzou yet, Spani sees comparison in the Tigers with a previous opponent.
"Looking back, there have been different shooters and honestly, this team is a lot like Chattanooga and obviously no one wants to look back to that game but they're great shooters," Spani said. "Anytime you live and die by the three, you can always be in a game, so we're going to have to really understand that and attack that and like I said, everyone is going to have to know where everyone is on the floor."
HARRISON STEPS UPWith fellow sophomore teammate Cierra Burdick out with a fractured metacarpal, sophomore Isabelle Harrison has kicked her game up a notch. The 6-foot-3 center is averaging 12.5 points per game in league play, after racking up 18 points against South Carolina, tying her career-best.
"Honestly, ever since she came in, all the players knew she had all this potential and we saw it day in and day out in practice," Spani said. "When you play behind Vicki Baugh and Glory Johnson, two players that get drafted very high in the WNBA draft, that's kind of hard to get minutes. They are just going to be limited. I think we all knew that she had this potential and she's worked hard in the offseason and so I'm glad for her that she's getting that pay off right now."
"It was hard for me to understand to be on a team that didn't really need me as much," Harrison said. "It's a blessing. If I didn't go through what I did last year, I don't think I'd be the person I am today for this team. To make it better for what it is right now, I really had to humble myself and understand that those players are there to help me, even the coaching staff. No matter what was going on so I'm glad that happened to me."
"I think you have seen a very much improved Isabelle Harrison," head coach Holly Warlick said. "I think she sat and watched Glory Johnson, Vicky Baugh and had to play a role. She was playing behind the seniors. They did some things for her as far as teaching her on and off the court, those types of things. I think you are seeing the results of Izzy going to work in the summer and making a commitment. It is her spot down low. She has seniority down there, she is the oldest. If you say sophomore is the oldest, she is the oldest in the post area and she has taken a hold of that and taken off with it."
Harrison ranks ninth in the SEC in rebounding with 103 total boards, and is second with 33 blocks, averaging 2.5 blocked shots per game.
SECOND HALF SURGESSecond-half surges have been key for UT in the first two SEC games of the season. In the second 20 minutes of play against South Carolina and Georgia, the Lady Vols outscored their opponents 80-46. League foes have shot just 24.6 percent from the floor in the second half (17-of-69).
Despite Tennessee's dominance in the second halves, the Lady Vols are looking to come out strong from tipoff.
"Definitely I think it's on us as the players," Spani said. "Coaches shouldn't have to motivate us to especially start a game out. I think the defensive intensity that we've seen in the second half of both of these games needs to be implemented into the first half. Our defense is really creating kind of our offense and getting us kind of into a flow of things. We need to focus on playing defensively for forty minutes and hopefully that will fix our problem."
"I just know what they can do and what their potential is," Warlick said. "It is frustrating watching the first half when they don't play the way I know they are capable of playing. I think teams get up for us and we match their intensity and we go into halftime and settle a little bit. We have to play our style regardless of what everybody else is doing."