COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A 28-2 run in the second half spurred #12/13 Tennessee to a 73-53 victory at #18/15 South Carolina on Thursday night. In a game that was not separated by more than five points for the first 25 minutes, Tennessee exerted its power on both ends of the floor to secure a win in its SEC opener and move to 10-3 overall. It was Holly Warlick's first win in the SEC as head coach of the Lady Vols.
Sophomore Isabelle Harrison had a monster night, as she scored a career-high tying 18 points and corralled a career-high 14 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.
She also swatted a career-high seven blocks.
Four Lady Vols scored in double-figures overall as Harrison was joined by Taber Spani, who had a season-high 18 points, making 4-of-5 on 3-pointers. Ariel Massengale (13) and Meighan Simmons (10) also tallied 10-plus.
Tennessee has won every SEC opener since 1998.
South Carolina (12-2, 0-1) suffered its second loss of the season as the Gamecocks shot just 29 percent from the floor. Tiffany Mitchell scored 14 to lead USC. Ashley Bruner added 12.
Down 40-39, Tennessee scored 14 points in a row to take a commanding 53-40 lead with 11:30 left in the game.
The teams traded baskets and the lead on four consecutive possessions as Simmons' layup put UT ahead for good, 41-40 with 16 minutes left in the half. A Harrison lay-up and a pair of free throws by Simmons gave Tennessee a five-point lead at 45-40. Spani took a feed from Massengale to move the margin to seven.
A swooping layup and a jumper by Simmons extended the run to a dozen points in a row. Kamiko Williams scored the first bench points of the game -- for either team -- on a runner for UT's 13th and 14th points in a row. Tennessee led 53-40 with 11:33 left in the game.
South Carolina missed 11 field goals in a row as the Lady Vols took control of the game. Tennessee's defense kept USC off the board for 5:06.
The lead continued to grow as Spani finished a fastbreak to put the Lady Vols ahead, 59-42 with eight minutes left.
South Carolina's struggles continued as the Gamecocks made just one of 22 shots as Tennessee's run burst to 28-2 as Spani canned back-to-back 3-pointers to put UT ahead 67-42 with 4:44 left in the game.
Tennessee outrebounded South Carolina, 30-19 in the second half after grabbing just nine rebounds in the first half.
South Carolina opened the second half with consecutive baskets by Aleighsa Welch and Mitchell to take a 35-32 lead, a little over a minute into the half.
The Lady Vols held a one-point edge at halftime, 32-31, as neither team led by more than five points in the first half. Harrison had 12 points in the first half alone as Tennessee shot 55 percent from the floor. But South Carolina dominated the glass early on, holding a 21-9 rebounding advantage at intermission.
Despite the close margin throughout the first half, the game was tied just twice, at 19 and 26.
Tennessee saw its 40-game win streak vs. the Gamecocks end in last season's meeting in Knoxville. The Lady Vols now lead the all-time series 45-3.
Thursday's game was Tennessee's first without sophomore Cierra Burdick, who suffered a broken bone in her right hand on Dec. 31. The Lady Vols had just nine healthy players suited up for the game as Andraya Carter (shoulder) is also sidelined.
Tennessee returns to action on Sunday as Georgia comes calling in Knoxville. Gametime is set for 1 p.m., in a game that will be televised on SportSouth and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.