Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy's Tigers advanced to the third round of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament after receiving a first round bye.
Jacksonville, Fla.--Desperately needing a win to position themselves for a possible NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament bid, the Auburn Tigers did that with a 47-45 victory over Missouri in round two of the SEC Tournament on Thursday.
The Tigers won with defense, forcing 20 Missouri turnovers while holding Mizzou to 34.3 percent shooting.
With the victory the Tigers advance to an 11 a.m. third round game vs. the SEC regular season champion South Carolina Gamecocks, a team that has lost just one game this season.
Auburn improved to 19-11 and ended a three-game losing streak that included a 69-55 loss to Missouri, which saw its record drop to 21-9.
In a game that featured 15 lead changes, neither team could pull away. Missouri’s largest lead was seven points in the first quarter and Auburn’s biggest margin was five points in the second quarter.
Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said that she didn’t talk to her team about the game being a must-win situation for the Tigers to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. “I really think we put too much pressure on them going against Missouri the first time, Texas A&M and Florida,” she said of Auburn’s final three regular season games. “This isn’t a group that can play tense like that.”
Williams-Flournoy said that she wanted the pressure on her. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, win a game.’”
Sophomore forward Jazz Jones led the Tigers in scoring with 10 points as she hit 5-6 field goals. Junior guard Brandy Montgomery added nine points for the Tigers while another junior guard, Katie Frerking, led the Tigers in rebounds with eight while adding six points.
Auburn shot 41.7 percent from the field and hit 1-5 threes and 6-10 free throws. Missouri hit its first four three-pointers and finished 9-22 behind the line for the game while making 6-7 free throws.
Each team pulled in 25 rebounds. The Tigers outscored Missouri 24-12 for points in the paint and came through with 14 steals to just three for the losers
"We were just playing Auburn basketball," Jones said. "Whenever we do that, we turn teams over. That's a big factor in our defense."
Auburn's point guards, Janiah McKay and Khady Dieng, eached scored eight points. McKay, a freshman, contributed four assistants while Dieng added two.
"It was a tough, hard-fought game by our young ladies," Williams-Flournoy said. "We just continued to work, work. That was the message. You can see I still don't have my voice. I lost my voice at Florida. We told them we had to work. Our focus now was Missouri from the day we found out we were playing them. We just had to work for 40 minutes."