As she stepped onto center-court, Meighan Simmons was greeted by a standing ovation from the 14,072 Tennessee fans who came to honor the Cibolo, Texas, native on her Senior Day.
At that moment, Simmons was the star, with every pair of eyes in Thompson-Boling Arena on her.
Once the Lady Vols controlled the opening tip, however, Isabelle Harrison stole the show.
The junior center fired the opening blow and never looked back as her dominating performance surged No. 10 Tennessee past the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, 73-61.
"I thought we played smart and got the ball inside," UT head coach Holly Warlick said. "Isabelle Harrison was just outstanding – and so was Bashaara (Graves). I thought we took good shots and we got them the ball."
Harrison set the tone early by scoring the first six points of the ballgame, and 10 of the Lady Vols' first 12 points.
The Nashville, Tenn., native finished with a game-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting and corralled 15 rebounds, surpassing Candace Parker for second place all-time for most double-doubles by a junior in UT history with her 15th such performance.
"She is very mobile and she's pretty deceptive," South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said about Harrison. "I thought she played with a certain will to win and if you don't come to match that, you are going to have a tough night, and that is what happened to our bigs and our team overall."
For Harrison, that will to win was due to her trying to give Simmons, who scored 16 points, a perfect send-off.
"I was really focused on this game, one, because I wanted to play hard for Meighan – it being her senior night – and we had to protect our house," Harrison said. "That was on our scouting report before the game. I think we did a good job of that."
The battle between the two top 10 opponents was a physical one, as both teams attacked the rim and combined to score 80 points in the paint.
To keep up with South Carolina's intensity, Tennessee turned to pressuring the ball at half-court, choosing to play the press instead of its typical zone defense.
"We pressed the whole game. When we scored, we pressed," Warlick said. "I wouldn't have thought that we would have done that, but it slowed them down I thought. We worked a lot on our zone as well.
"I think our players bought in to what we needed to do defensively, and we were solid."
The physicality of the contest took a toll on the players, forcing Warlick to go to the bench early and often, as Simmons and redshirt freshman guard Andraya Carter were the only players to record more than 30 minutes.
When they were called upon, though, the role players didn't disappoint, allowing Tennessee to keep momentum on its side for most of the contest as the Lady Vols picked up their 11th wire-to-wire victory of the season.
"I think we had to use our bench because it was fast and it was physical," Warlick said. "We got a little tired and I had to give everybody a little breather. Jasmine Jones was just incredible. I thought she was going to hit her head on the rim a couple of times rebounding, but she and Jordan (Reynolds) and Mercedes (Russell), they all came in and did their part.
"They did their part. They maintained what we got off to a great start on."
Tennessee's victory over the Gamecocks clinched the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament, but more importantly, it marked the first victory over a top five opponent for the Lady Vols since they defeated No. 3 Stanford in overtime on Dec. 19, 2010.
Warlick said that a big win like this should inject some confidence into this team heading into the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
"It's huge for us," Warlick said. "We talked a lot about seeding for the SEC tournament. We talked a lot about seeding for the NCAA tournament and we thought it was really important for us to go out and make a statement and I thought obviously we did.
"When we play for 40 minutes like that, we're going to beat some good basketball teams."