Auburn plays a full-court pressing matchup zone and now that the Tigers are in the 4th year of Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, they've been able to master it well enough to be #2 in the SEC and #10 in the country in steals. To try to counter the zone, Coach Blair talked about needing to get contributions from 3 point threats Danni Williams and Taylor Cooper. However, he also mentioned that Cooper has been recovering from a dislocated shoulder that happened in practice. So Blair went to a new starting lineup with Danni at the 3, CWill at the 4, Khaalia Hillsman, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones. Unfortunately, Danni went 0-3 from behind the arc early and Blair subbed in Chelsea Jennings less than halfway into the quarter.
The Auburn D and some missed opportunities combined to frustrate the Ags. Fortunately the Ags held the Tigers to 13 so that another single digit quarter only meant a 7 point deficit. The Ags had twice as many turnovers (6) as field goals (3), The Ags shot 25% from the field.
13-6 Auburn after 1.
The Ags mixed some zone into the defense and cut the lead to 3 early in the quarter. It fluctuated between 3 and 5 until Brandy Mongomery hit a 3 pointer to give Auburn it's largest lead with 3:35 remaining in the half. The Ags were able to cut the lead back down to 4 with 1:22 remaining, thanks to aggressive moves by Jennings and Cwill. But neither team could score again after that.
27-23 Auburn at halftime. The Ags raised their shooting to 40.7% for the half, while holding Auburn to 29.7%. The Ags only turned it over 2 more times in the second quarter. Rebounding was even, but 13 of Auburn's came on the offensive glass, relecting how the Ags were getting outhustled. Khaalia led the Ags with 8 points and had 7 rebounds. Montgomery led Auburn with 7, while Tanner, who was giving the Ags trouble inside, had 6.
The Ags started the second half going inside. Khaalia got into double figures by posting up on the first possession. Khaalia was wide open on the second Aggie possession, but missed a hook. Khaalia got a feed from CWill for another layup on the third possession. Walker heated up after that and scored 2 in a row. But Auburn answered on their end so it was still a 2 lead when Rachel Mitchell got an inside layup on a nice feed from Jones with 5:58 to go in the third.
But then suddenly neither team could hang onto the ball Jennings drew as charge on Frerking. Jones travelled. CWalk forced Montgomery to throw a bad entry pass over the baseline. Media timeout at 4:49. Rachel got called for an offensive foul hitting Frerking in the mouth while trying to post up. Jennings stole the ball on the defensive baseline... and then turned it over after getting trapped. Walker stole the ball and triggered a fast break ,but Rachel travelled trying to finish.
Jones finally broke the ice by stealing the ball from Janiah McKay with 3:53 remaining and hit Jennings for a fast break layup to tie the score at 35. Jennings was fouled but missed the FT, but CWIll tied up the rebound and the Ags kept the ball. A classic inbounds play to Walker in the lane gave the Ags the lead for the first time since early in the 1st quarter.
Frerking got a steal for a fast break to Tanner. A series of steals by Frerking allowed Auburn to regain the lead. Frerking basically plays the free safety in the Auburn pressure D and jumps into passing lanes. The Ags tied it back up and the teams traded buckets. It was tied at 41 with 20 seconds to go when Walker missed. It looked like Auburn would either take the lead or go into the final period tied. But Khaalia blocked Montgomery's jumper in the lane to Jones, who ran it out to take the lead.
The Tigers weren't done, though. They moved the ball well to get Jasmine Jones post position on CWill to tie it up on the opening possession. McKay regained the lead on a kickout from Tanner with 7:42 to go. The Ags went back to Walker to tie it up again and after a Montgomery turnover Jennings found Khaalia for another post up layup to regain the lead at 47-45. Auburn called a timeout after CWill missed a point blank putback attempt.
Coming out of the timeout, the Ags were in a small lineup with Anriel, CWill, Walker, Jennings, and Jones. The A&M defense forced a miss with the shot clock down to 2 seconds. Jones used the majority of the clock before penetrating the lane, drawing the D, and feeding Anriel for a layup. The 49-45 lead was the largest for the Ags to that point. Jennings got a steal and Walker was fouled by Auburn on an offensive rebound before the media timeout at 4:11.
Coming out of the media timeout, Jennings threw up on the court and had to be subbed out for Danni. Jennings apparently had been dealing with an illness but played anyway. After things were cleaned up, The Ags gradually stretched the lead. Auburn cut it a couple of times, but they were only able to score 4 points in the final 4 minutes. Auburn didn't go to a deliberate quick foul strategy like Vandy did, but the Ags were still able to draw fouls and go to the FT line (although they did commit 2 shot clock violations). Jennings was able to return to the floor with 2:12 to go.
In the midweek presser, Coach Blair talked about how February is when Coaches earn their pay. Blair certainly had to try a lot of things to get the Ags to do just enough to get out of town with the win.
Ugly is beautiful in Texas right now
- Coach Blair, after the game
- Khaalia and CWalk each had 16 points. Khaalia was unstoppable if the Ags were able to get her the ball in good position; she shot 8-11. Walker became the third Women's Bouncy Baller to score 1900+ points for her career. She's also leading the SEC in scoring. CWill had 7 but was only 2-8 from the field. But she had 5 assists.
- Jones had 7 assists and made several outstanding defensive plays.
- The Ags asserted themselves on the boards in the second half to win the rebounding battle 40-33. The Ags turned it over 20 times, but Auburn turned it over 17.
- Montgomery led Auburn with 16 points. Katie Frerking had 5 steals.
- The win clinches second place and the 2 seed in the SEC tourney. The key is clinching the double bye and avoiding S. Carolina until the final. As the 2 seed, our first game would be vs the 10 seed. If the season ended today, that would likely be Arkansas, a team we lost to in Fayetteville. The 3 seed gets the winner of 6/11/14, which is likely to be Kentucky, Florida, or Georgia, who are currently tied for 4th.
- Elsewhere in the SEC, S. Carolina d Ole Miss, MSU d Vandy, UK d Mizzou, Georgia d Arkansas, Florida d LSU, and Alabama d Tennessee (!!!).
Up next: Senior Day vs the Cats
- Kentucky Wildcats
- 3PM CST Sunday February 28, 2016
- Reed Arena
- TV: ESPN Radio KZNE 1150AM/102.7FM
Kentucky had a disappointing start to SEC play but has won 5 in a row after a loss at S Carolina capped a 3 game losing streak. Two of those 5 were against ranked opponents (Miss State and Mizzou). What is striking about looking at the coverage of the wins, not having actually watched all of them, is how different players have led Kentucky in different wins. On Thursday it was Evelyn Akhator. Maci Morris and Makayla Epps vs Miss State. Alexis Jennings vs Vandy. Janee Thompson against LSU.
Starters are not always important at Kentucky. Matthew Mitchell uses a lot of players and 7 are averaging 20+ minutes per game. Nevertheless, the starters have been the same for the last 5 games, which is easy to determine, since the UK website for shows stats from the last 5 games (the stats there are weirdly focused on the last 5 games, so all the stats are just for those 5):
- #25 5-10 Jr G Makayla Epps (11.6 ppg) is the main star. She's on the Naismith who will finish second behind Breanna Stewart watch list. She's their version of Walker in some ways. Scores well, defends well, doesn't shoot many 3s.
- #13 6-3 Jr F Evelyn Akhator (11.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg) has been leading the team in rebounds.
- #3 5-7 Sr PG Janee Thompson (14.4 ppg) has been shooting a lot of 3s. She has 21 assists to 7 turnovers in the last 5.
- #1 6-2 Fr F Batouly Camara (5.4 ppg) has blocked 7 shots in the 5 game streak
- #4 6-0 Fr G Maci Morris (10.0 ppg) is another deep threat.
Kentucky will play pressure D and wants to run. I think the two teams each match up pretty well with each other, with the Ags having some height advantage in the post. But we've seen how Khaalia and Rachel can have trouble with quicker but smaller centers. Turnovers are likely to be important.
There's also the question of whether the emotions of the last regular season game at Reed, with Seniors being honored, will help or hurt the Ags. Kentucky also has more to play for, as they have not clinched a double-bye seed. There are still lots of possibilities for what could happen to the 4 seed on Sunday, but most of the possible scenarios should be resolved before the Ags and Cats play at 3.
A good turnout of vocal fans would be great - unfortunately, I will be in the Tucson airport at game time.