The Auburn Tigers ended the regular season on a 3 game winning streak that got them out of the SEC cellar and into the #13 seed. On Wednesday they bounced the #12 seed Florida Gators for their 4th straight SEC win. The Autigers were suddenly winning convincingly with double digit margins in 3/4 wins (18 at Georgia, 12 at Vandy, 7 vs Bama, and 22 vs Florida), there was a sense that Auburn was a young team that had started to get their act together. Combine that with the Ags late loss of Jordan Jones (named SEC defensive PoY earlier in the week) and terrible performance at LSU, and there was a sense that this game could be an upset watch.
On the other hand, the Ags losing the double bye had the silver lining of giving the team one more game to get used to playing without JJ before the NCAAs start.
I knew I would be in class for the 2:30ish tip after the end of Arkansas vs Ole Miss, so I set the DVR to the SEC Network and am blogging based on replaying the game.
A&M started Hillsman, Ade, Williams, Walker, and Knox. Auburn countered with Tra'Cee Tanner (19 pts 8 rebounds vs Florida), Katie Rerking, Khady Dieng, Neydja Petithomme, and Brandy Montgomery (22 vs the Gators). Auburn presses a lot and went into a press off the opening tip, which was won by Hillsman. But after the Tigers scored the first bucket of the game the two Courtneys grabbed the lead for the Ags. Auburn was shooting bricks, allowing the Ags to stretch the lead to 22 a couple of time. But after Chelsea Jennings made it 26-14 with 4:55 to go in the half, the Ags went scoreless until the break. A combination of turnovers on ill-advised passes vs the break and missed shots allowed the Tigers to make it a game by going on an 8-0 run.
Halftime score Ags 26 Auburn 22
The Ags scored first on an Ade putback, but when when Kaiie Frerking hit a 3 the lead was down to 3. The lead stayed between 3 and 5 for the next several minutes. Coach Blair inserted Rachel Mitchell at the 16:05 timeout. Immediately after the break Williams drew a 3rd foul on Tra'Cee Tanner, who went to the bench. Williams FTs made it, and the Ags increased their defensive pressure. Curtyce got a deflection and then pressure forced an over and back. Defensive full court pressure and Mitchell's intimidation in the paint let the Ags go on a 10-0 run to make it 42-29 when Walker hit a long J from the left corner. Timeout Auburn, but that run basically sealed the game just as Hullabaloo and the Dance Team made it into the Arena after weather made a 2 hour trip into a 6 hour ordeal.
At one point Auburn had a chance to cut the lead below 10, but at 10:01 Tanner made a lazy pass to the right wing and Jennings jumped the passing lane for a breakaway and a layup. They did manage to briefly get the lead below 10, but that was with just 1:48 left and the Ags answered by drawing a foul and restoring double digits on the next possession.
Final Score A&M 57, Auburn 47
- Jones was with the team on the sidelines. It was good to see that she is off crutches already and is getting around with just a big brace on her knee... but I believe she is still expected to need surgery in the offseason.
- This was a solid win and the Ags played well overall with the exception of the stretch at the end of the first half.
It was like rec-center ball... we were trying to break a press on one pass. We were supposed to reverse it twice and then hit the player...We looked like Tony Romo trying to complete a pass and we didn't have Dez Bryant
- Coach Blair on the SECN on first half turnovers
- The Ags were led by CWill's 14 points. She added 6 boards and 6 assists. You could see Williams trying to distribute off of penetration in the middle of the lane. Ade and Walker each added 10 points, as did Chelsea Jennings off the bench. A&M shot 42.1% for the game.
- In the first win since losing Jones, Curtyce played 35 minutes and had 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. She did have 5 turnovers. In the post-game Coach Blair talked about improvements to make in handling the trap, as we expect to see the same approach from LSU.
- Defense was generally good as the Ags held Auburn to 36.7% and only 1-13 from 3. The Ags edged the Tigers on the boards 39-36 with Hillsman grabbing 8 rebounds.
- Jennings and Mitchell were outstanding off the bench. Although Rachel didn't score, she blocked 3 shots and had 2 steals in 14 minutes
Mitchell, she's a fine kid because I never know what's coming. Tomorrow she might dunk one, okay? But she might miss the backboard on the next one. But she loves the game and we love our Rachel.
- There's a back door way for the Ags to host the NCAAs despite dropping out of the top 16 teams, and Charlie Creme's bracketology for this week used it. Louisville can't host because their men's team us using the venue to host the MBB NCAAs when the women would need it. That means the L'ville women, who are projected as a #3 seed will have to play on the road and #6 seed would host. That could be the Ags, who have drawn well in the early rounds of the tourney the past few years. So doing well enough in the SEC tourney to move up to a #5 seed but not well enough to get a #4 could kill A&M's chance to host. No, Coach Blair is not going to tank to try to get us a hosting slot.
- The quarterfinal recap is going to be another based on the replay, I fear.
Up Next: SEC quarterfinal
- LSU (again)
- sometime around 2-2:30PM CST depending on how long the first game goes.
- Verizon Arena, Little Rock AR
LSU's last game was their win vs A&M last Sunday, which may have kept the Tigers in the NCAAs as well as giving them a double bye for the SEC tourney. LSU will probably use the same general approach that was good for a 17 point win in Baton Rouge. A&M's 57.1% shooting in that game would be nice to reproduce, but its a number that's inflated by how turnovers reduced field goal attempts to the point where LSU took 18 more shots than A&M in last week's game.
Friday's game vs LSU will be the 4th in a row vs a team called Tigers. The Ags get a chance to ruin the birthday of LSU Coach Nikki Caldwell's 3 year old daughter. Or perhaps we should think of it as giving Coach Caldwell more time to spend with her daughter on Friday night.