Brandy Montgomery (above) drives to the basket for Auburn.
Auburn, Ala.--Led by 27 points from junior guard Brandy Montgomery, the Auburn women’s basketball team opened the SEC season with a 66-61 upset of previously unbeaten Kentucky.
The Tigers rallied from 17 points down late in the second quarter to improve their record to 11-3 overall. Kentucky, which is ranked No. 7 nationally, fell to 11-1 after Auburn outscored the Wildcats 17-11 in the third quarter and 26-18 in the final period.
Fittingly, Montgomery iced the victory by hitting two free throws with 13 seconds left after she stole a rebound after her teammate, freshman point guard Janiah McKay, missed two free throws with the Tigers nursing a 62-61 lead.
Montgomery, who hit 11-19 shots from the field and 5-5 at the foul line, calmly hit both free throws and iced the game seven seconds later with two more foul shots after the Wildcats missed a three-point field goal.
“I wanted to have her back (McKay) and seal the win for us,” Montgomery said.
Terri Williams-Flournoy liked that play from Montgomery. “She bailed that freshman out, no doubt,” the Auburn coach said.
Williams-Flournoy said she liked the intensity she saw from her players. “I don’t think any word describes our team this afternoon except effort. That is every possession, offensively and defensively. I thought we played we with a great effort, an intensity on the defensive end and just really getting after it.”
It was the first victory for an Auburn women’s basketball team over a Top 10 team since the Tigers defeated Georgia in 2010. Asked if it was her biggest win as Auburn’s coach, Williams-Flournoy said, “I don’t know, I just like this win,” she said with a laugh. “To get this first SEC win is huge because we have got a tough run.”
Senior center Tra’Cee Tanner posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Katie Frerking added 15 points for the Tigers as a crowd of 2,677 watched the action at Auburn Arena.
Auburn managed to win the game despite not shooting the ball well. The Tigers hit just 39.3 percent of their field goals and for a second straight game they did not make a three-pointer. They finished 0-12 behind the three-point line.
Kentucky hit just 39 percent from the field and made just 1-12 three-pointers.
Tanner said that despite the off-day shooting, the Tigers were able to win with an aggressive style of play. “She (Coach Flo) definitely talked to us about attacking them. Early on we got 13 (Eveyln Akhator) in foul trouble and she is one of their big offensive rebounders so that helped us a lot.
“As a team we have talked about not playing the team on the front of the jersey and I think we did a great job of going out there and just playing Auburn’s basketball and not let anybody else affect us.”
Montgomery agreed with Tanner. “Our coaches told us to attack, attack them and that is what we did,” she said. Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell agreed that the Tigers were in attack mode.
“You have to give Auburn so much credit," he said. " They really played harder than we did today, wanted the victory. It was evident they wanted to win worse than we did. That’s a disappointment for us, but a real credit for them. I just thought that they bounced back from being down 17 points and really never lost their spirit and their hope, and they played really hard. I thought for the first real tough adversity we’ve handled this year and that we’ve had to handle this year, that we didn’t handle it so it’s an opportunity for us to learn but you just have to give credit, so much credit to Auburn and those players, I really admire how hard they played. They really got after it today.”
Kentucky out-rebounded Auburn 40-34, but was minus three in turnover margin as the Tigers’ full-court pressure bothered the Wildcats.
Auburn hit 18-24 free throws while Kentucky made 14-20.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Tigers, who will travel to Mississippi State to take on the nation's eighth-ranked team on Thursday at 7:30 p.m CST.