KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee will have to continue its chase for a Southeastern Conference title without star center Isabelle Harrison.
Harrison, the sixth-ranked Lady Vols’ leading scorer and rebounder, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee Sunday during a 72-58 victory against No. 11 Kentucky, which was ranked 10th at the time.
“I still want to be there for my team,” Harrison said in a university statement. “This season is not over, and I know my teammates will use this as motivation to pursue the ultimate goal. I will continue to get healthy, and I appreciate all the wishes and support I’ve received during this time.”
Harrison hurt her knee Sunday while battling for an offensive rebound in the opening minute of the second half. She was down on the court for several minutes before team officials carried her off and onto a wheelchair. Players from both Tennessee and Kentucky went to Harrison and offered their support before she left.
The 6-foot-3 senior had been wearing a brace on her right knee since spraining it in Tennessee’s season opener, an injury that caused her to miss five games. Harrison sat out 10 games her sophomore season with injuries to her right knee and right ankle.
When healthy, Harrison has been one of the SEC’s top players. She was averaging 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game this season. Harrison earned first-team all-SEC honors last season and was named the most valuable player of the SEC tournament.
“My heart goes out to Izzy, because I know how hard she has worked to become the player she is,” Warlick said in a university release. “She’s meant so much to our program and is everything I want a Lady Vol to be. She will continue to be a valuable part of this team and provide great leadership for the remainder of the season.
“Our team and staff are extremely sad for her. We all know we need to keep carrying on the fight for her. She has a great future ahead of her, and we’ll do everything we can to help encourage and support her comeback from this injury.”
Harrison’s injury represents the most serious in a series of health problems that have hampered Tennessee’s depth. The Lady Vols (22-3, 12-0 SEC) are tied with No. 2 South Carolina (24-1, 12-0) for the SEC lead and put their 19-game conference winning streak on the line Thursday against Alabama.
Junior forward Jasmine Jones, who started six of Tennessee’s first 11 games, hasn’t played since Dec. 20 due to lingering concussion symptoms. Sophomore guard Jordan Reynolds, who was hit in the nose Thursday in a victory at Mississippi, started Sunday’s game but left after two minutes and didn’t return. Warlick said after the game that Reynolds “got a little dizzy” early in the game.
Tennessee announced before the season that 6-6 center Mercedes Russell would be redshirting after undergoing offseason surgery on both feet.
“We’ve faced adversity before this season,” senior forward Cierra Burdick said after the Kentucky game. “We’ve taken some blows, and we continue to get up. We’ve got to get up together and come together as one and just play tough, play hard and play for our injured sisters. We’ll continue to work. Everyone goes through tough times during the season. You can let it break you or you can let it make you. We’ve just got to let it make us.”
This article was written by Steve Megargee from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.