Harrison back for Lady Vols’ NCAA tourney opener
Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison is healthy enough to return
to the Lady Vols’ lineup just in time for the NCAA tournament.
Harrison, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, missed 10 games this season with
three separate injuries. She said she feels about 90 percent as the
second-seeded Lady Vols (24-7) prepare to face No. 15 seed Oral
Roberts (18-12) in Saturday’s first round of the Oklahoma City
Regional. She has been practicing this week with a brace on her
”I don’t even notice my brace anymore,” Harrison said. ”I’m
getting really comfortable with it. It doesn’t really inhibit
Post players could be the center of attention Saturday at
While Harrison comes back from her latest injury, all-Big East
center Kayla Alexander tries to give No. 7 seed Syracuse (24-7) its
first-ever NCAA tournament victory against No. 10 seed Creighton
There were times this season when Harrison wondered if she’d
ever get this opportunity.
Harrison underwent surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in her
left knee Feb. 1 after injuring it four days earlier in a 77-67
loss to Notre Dame. She initially feared the injury would knock her
out for the remainder of the season before getting better news the
”It hurt more than anything,” Harrison said. ”I’d never
experienced something like that. I thought I guessed this is what
it feels like when somebody tears their ACL, so of course, that was
in the back of my mind. I was scared more than anything.”
The left knee caused Harrison to miss six games before she
returned Feb. 24 in a 60-54 victory at Arkansas. Harrison injured
her right knee Feb. 28 in an 82-72 triumph over Texas A&M and
sat out the Lady Vols’ regular-season finale and both their
Southeastern Conference tournament games.
Harrison has missed nine of Tennessee’s last 11 games, and she
also sat out a 76-53 loss to Baylor on Dec. 18 with an injured
right ankle. She averages 9.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks
”It’s been hard for her,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.
”To have the will to want to come back is huge. We will definitely
use her and need her.”
Although she likely won’t start Saturday, Harrison will play as
Tennessee attempts to improve to 51-0 in NCAA tournament games on
its home floor.
Harrison’s presence should boost Tennessee’s defense in its
attempts to slow down Oral Roberts guard Kevi Luper, whose 2,847
career points rank 16th in NCAA Division I history. Luper’s senior
season includes a 19-point performance in a 94-56 loss to defending
national champion Baylor.
”We’re not intimidated or scared or anything like that because
we’ve already played the defending national champions,” Luper
While Tennessee seeks its 19th Final Four appearance, Syracuse
is searching for its first NCAA tournament victory. Alexander said
she didn’t know about Syracuse’s lack of NCAA tournament wins until
after the brackets were released Monday.
”That’s when people started telling us we hadn’t won a
tournament game,” Alexander said. ”We took that as a challenge
and an opportunity. As an athlete, you’re always up for a
Alexander is Syracuse’s first 2,000-point scorer ever. The
6-foot-4 senior also owns Syracuse career records in field goals
(729), free throws made (543) and blocks (350). She’s two points
away from the single-season school record of 552 points set last
year by Iasia Hemingway.
”You have to have a go-to player on both ends of the floor,”
Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. ”She’s been that for us for
Alexander could cause a major matchup problem for an undersized
Creighton team. Alyssa Kamphaus, a 6-3 junior center, is the only
Creighton player taller than 6 feet.
Creighton could compensate with its 3-point attack. Creighton
has made 9.3 baskets from 3-point range per game, an average that
ranks behind only Florida Gulf Coast (9.4). The 3-pointer should
play a big role Saturday, as Syracuse is the first Creighton
opponent all season that relies almost exclusively on a zone
”It’s a little bit scary because we’re not the best zone
offensive team,” Creighton guard Ally Jensen said. ”We’ve seen
some zone, and we handle it well about half the time and sometimes
we don’t. They’re a pure zone team, so we’ve prepared for it and we
have offenses put in that we’ve been working on in practice. I
think we’re going to be ready to go, and everybody knows they have
to have it loaded up and be ready to shoot.”