Harrison, No. 7 Lady Vols trounce No. 9 Texas A&M 81-58
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison avoided the fouls and frustration that marked her previous two games and showed she’s one of the Southeastern Conference’s top players as long as she stays on the floor.
Harrison had totaled five points in Tennessee’s last two games while playing limited minutes due to foul trouble. But the 6-foot-3 center committed only two fouls Thursday night and responded with 21 points and eight rebounds as the seventh-ranked Lady Vols trounced No. 9 Texas A&M 81-58 for their ninth consecutive victory.
”That was my game plan, to stay level-headed,” Harrison said.
Harrison scored Tennessee’s first eight points and Tennessee (13-2, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) never trailed. Cierra Burdick added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Ariel Massengale also scored 14.
Tennessee earned its third win over a top-10 team this season. The Lady Vols also beat Stanford 59-40 when it was ranked seventh and Oregon State 74-63 when it was ranked 10th last month. Oregon State is 11th and Stanford 15th in the current rankings.
It marks the first time Tennessee has beaten three top-10 teams in one season since 2007-08, when the Lady Vols had eight top-10 victories on their way to a national championship.
”We’re a Final Four team,” Burdick said. ”That’s our goal. I know myself, Ariel and Izzy B (Harrison) are going to do everything we can to lead this team to Tampa because that’s what we want. That’s what we think we’re capable of doing.”
Tennessee shot 33 of 63 against a Texas A&M team that was leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.323).
”Too many of the points were too easy,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. ”All of a sudden, we’d be in front of them, and they’d go up and shoot an uncontested 15-footer and we’d be late with a contest. We’ve got to do better than that. We’ve got to limit some touches. We’re supposed to be a decent half-court defensive team, but if you don’t have the effort, the X’s and O’s don’t work.”
Courtney Walker scored 25 points and Courtney Williams added 11 for Texas A&M (14-3, 2-1).
Although Harrison got Tennessee off to a fast start, she had plenty of help.
Burdick shot 7 of 9 and had six assists without a turnover. Massengale scored eight points during a 14-0 run that put the game away.
The most surprising contribution might have come from reserve center Nia Moore, who had nine points and five rebounds – all in the first half – while making each of her four shots. Moore totaled two points in the six games leading up to this one.
Texas A&M: Sophomore center Jada Terry made her ninth start of the season and first since Dec. 21. She had eight points and two rebounds.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols earned their 14th straight home victory. They haven’t lost at Thompson-Boling Arena since falling 75-71 to Kentucky on Feb. 16.
PLAYING WITH A HEAVY HEART
Tennessee guard Andraya Carter played one day after learning her grandmother died. Carter had six points and four assists without a turnover.
”Obviously, that’s one of the toughest phone calls you can get,” Burdick said. ”Myself and Ariel were actually there when she got it. Draya’s one of our sisters. This is a family, and when one of our family members loses a member of their family, it feels like we lose (one) as well.”
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick has 900 wins as a member of Tennessee’s staff. She owns a 69-16 head coaching record in her third year on the job after spending 27 seasons as an assistant under Pat Summitt. ”It’s good to be an assistant under Pat Summitt,” Warlick quipped.
Texas A&M hosts LSU on Monday.
Tennessee plays at Arkansas on Monday.