Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy (above) is hoping her next game is in the NCAA Tournament.
Jacksonville, Fla.--Struggles in the second quarter were the difference as the Auburn Tigers fell 57-48 to regular season champion South Carolina in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday.
Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy’s Tigers will now wait to see if they will receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina, which improved to 29-1, is likely to be a No. 1 seed for the tournament. Auburn, which defeated Missouri 47-45 on Thursday, dropped to 19-12.
Foul trouble in the second quarter was a major issue for the Tigers, who were outscored in that period 19-5 after Auburn led much of the opening quarter.
Auburn outscored South Carolina 32-25 in the second half, but the second quarter deficit was too much for the Tigers to overcome.
Junior guard Brandy Montgomery, who did not score in the first half, led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points. She hit 8-19 field goals while pulling in six rebounds. "My coach was just telling me to calm down, relax," Montgomery said of her slow start. "I got open looks. I just need to knock down the shot. I didn't want it to discourage me, the fact I was missing my shots. I just wanted to make sure I calmed down.
"My teammate, Tra'Cee talked ,to me at halftime," Montgomery pointed out. "They got me to calm down. I think that helped me the second half. I wasn't overthinking, I was just playing and shooting."
Brandy Montgomery drives to the basket on Saturday in Jacksonville.
Senior center Tra’Cee Tanner scored 10 points while adding six rebounds for the Tigers. Freshman point guard Janiah McKay added 10 points.
"I thought our kids continued to fight and play hard throughout the whole game," Williams-Flournoy said. "It was a tough game, very physical game.
"South Carolina is a very good team," the Auburn coach added. "They are undefeated in conference for a reason. That's tough to do. It's a very tough conference."
Auburn’s defense kept the game relatively close as the Gamecocks hit just 31.4 percent of their field goals while Auburn made 35.7 percent. Auburn was 3-13 on threes while the Gamecocks hit 3-12.
South Carolina made 22-29 free throws while Auburn was 5-9 at the foul line.
Despite a major height advantage, South Carolina held just a 36-35 edge in rebounds. The Gamecocks had 16 turnovers, one more than Auburn.
Williams-Flournoy said she believes the Tigers are worthy of an NCAA bid. "We play in one of the toughest conferences in the country. "We finish 8-8 in the conference. We win the first SEC tournament game. We only lose by nine against one of the best teams in the conference. We've played well throughout. Really, when you look at it, what an improvement in this team. Something has to be said for the work.
"When you really look at us, the defense that we play, when we hold South Carolina to 57 points, they average almost 72 points a game," the coach added. "We're a very good defensive team that deserves to show what a great defensive team we are in the NCAA tournament."
The Tigers, who entered the South Carolina game with an RPI of 56, have 19 wins vs. RPI Top 50 teams and just one loss to a team outside the Top 100 (103 Virginia).