The Tigers will advance to a round of 16 game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Auburn Arena vs. Tulane.
Offensively, the combination of sophomore guard Hasina Muhammad and junior guard Tyrese Tanner sparked the Tigers on Sunday. Muhammad hit 11-19 field goals, 5-6 free throws and added nine rebounds on the way to scoring a career-high 27 points.
Tanner was 10-20 from the field, 3-4 at the foul line and added nine rebounds as she scored 24 points. She scored her career-high 29 in AU's first-round win. Tannker, like Muhammad, was effective defensively in Auburn's press.
The Tigers finished the game with 20 steals. Senior forward Blanche Alverson had six of them to go with nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
"Our defense was awesome," Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We forced them into 26 turnovers. The thing about our defense when everybody gets to clicking and you can get your back line involved...it becomes a whole different ball game." The coach said Alverson having six steals showed the backline was effective on the press.
Tyrese Tanner pressures the Hilltoppers.
The Tigers improved their record to 18-14 while Western Kentucky's season ended at 22-11.
"I love it when Hasina plays like this," said Alverson. "She is aggressive, getting steals, getting hands on the ball, getting touches, getting easy finishes, getting tip-ins on the glass. When she does that kind of stuff it just fuels us and gives us energy."
Western Kentucky was led by 23 points from Alex Govan. Chastity Gooch added 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Auburn hit 35-76 field goals for 46.1 percent. The Tigers were 5-17 on threes and 9-14 at the foul line. Western Kentucky made 23-65 field goals for 35.4 percent. The Hilltoppers made 10-31 threes and 10-16 free throws.
Auburn took command of the game in the first half and was never seriously threatened even though the Hilltoppers shot well in the first half, particularly from three-point range. The Tigers made defensive assignment changes, switching to man to man defense in the second half and the Hilltoppers were 0-6 on treys in the final 20 minutes.
"This is definitely one of our better games," Williams-Flournoy said.
Auburn out-rebounded WKU 47-40. "You always hope that you can when you look at the size, but we knew Western Kentucky was a scrappy team," Williams-Flournoy said. "They were going to double us in the post. They were a very good offensive rebounding team themselves. You think you have an advantage because of height, but you just never know really until the outcome of the game."
At the Half: The Tigers led 49-38 at intermission. Auburn hit 19-41 field goals (46.3 percent), 5-11 threes and 6-10 free throws. WKU hit 13-30 field goals (43.3 percent), 8-15 threes and 4-6 free throws.
Auburn led in rebounds 26-16 at the break and forced 14 turnovers while turning the ball over nine times.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn used its height advantage to outscore the Hilltoppers 44-16 in the points in the paint. The Tigers also outscored WKU 25-8 in second chance points.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn outscored Western Kentucky 16-0 in fastbreak points.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Tulane advanced to the third round game vs. Auburn with a 60-48 victory over Arkansas. Auburn defeated the Green Wave 70-65 on November 28th in New Orleans despite trailing 39-23 at halftime.
Worth Noting, Part 4: Jet Ouardad struggled to shoot going 0-9 from the field, but her backup freshman Chadarryl Clay, scored 10 points hit 4-5 field goals. Clay added two assists and two steals before fouling out in 21 minutes of action. Ouardad did contribute with seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Worth Noting, Part 5: With 26 forced turnovers the game marked the 10th game the Tigers have forced 25 or more this season. For the season the Tigers have forced 678 turnovers, the third most in an AU single season. Auburn's 385 steals are the fourth most for an AU season.
WESTERN KENTUCKY 66)
Govan, Alexis 8-19 5-7 23; Gooch, Chastity 7-17 2-3 19; McGee, Bianca 5-14 1-2 16; Woods, Ciera 1-4 0-0 2; Wright, LeAsia 1-2 0-0 2; Johnson, Ileana 0-1 2-4 2; Means, Chaney 1-3 0-0 2; McClain, Jalynn 0-2 0-0 0; Jones, Micah 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 23-65 10-16 66.
Hasina Muhammad 11-19 5-6 27; Tyrese Tanner 10-20 3-4 24; Chadarryl Clay 4-5 0-0 10; Blanche Alverson 3-10 1-2 9; Peyton Davis 3-8 0-0 6; Tra'cee Tanner 2-3 0-2 4; Cabriana Capers 2-2 0-0 4; Pascale West 0-0 0-0 0; Najat Ouardad 0-9 0-0 0. Totals 35-76 9-14 84.
W. Kentucky 38 28 66
Auburn 49 35 84
3-point goals--Western Kentucky 10-31 (McGee, Bianca 5-13; Gooch, Chastity 3-5; Govan, Alexis 2-7; Johnson, Ileana 0-1; Means, Chaney 0-2; McClain, Jalynn 0-1; Jones, Micah 0-2), Auburn 5-17 (Blanche Alverson 2-7; Chadarryl Clay 2-3; Tyrese Tanner 1-1; Najat Ouardad 0-6).
Fouled out--Western Kentucky-None, Auburn-Chadarryl Clay.
Rebounds--Western Kentucky 40 (Gooch, Chastity 12), Auburn 47 (Blanche Alverson 9; Hasina Muhammad 9; Tyrese Tanner 9).
Assists--Western Kentucky 16 (Govan, Alexis 6), Auburn 25 (Blanche Alverson 7; Najat Ouardad 7).
Total fouls--Western Kentucky 15, Auburn 15.
Technical fouls--Western Kentucky-None, Auburn-None.