Jan. 5, 2014
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Auburn (10-4, 1-0 SEC) rallied from 13 points down in the first half to open up Southeastern Conference play with a win Sunday in Starkville, Miss., 82-74 over Mississippi State (13-3, 0-2 SEC). Senior Tyrese Tanner notched an SEC career high 24 points and six rebounds to lead the Tigers in the win.
In a game that featured a pair of defenses that like to pressure the ball and force turnovers, Auburn was able to come out on the better end. The Tigers forced 26 Mississippi State turnovers on 15 steals, turning them into 28 points on the other end. Auburn committed 25 turnovers of its own with MSU converting them into 26 points.
"That first half hurt us with Hasina Muhammad and Tyrese Tanner being in foul trouble," said Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. "Those are your two best players, your two best wings, Tyrese is your best defender. Then Tra'Cee Tanner got in foul trouble and you have her on the bench. It hurts having your starters out of the game, but I thought our subs did a great job of coming in and holding it down for us."
Auburn finished with five players in double figures, led by Tyrese Tanner's 24. Brandy Montgomery added 13 points while Tra'Cee Tanner, Muhammad and Peyton Davis added 10 each. For Montgomery, her 13 points are the most for an Auburn player in their SEC debut since Tyrese Tanner scored 15 against Alabama in her first SEC game in 2011.
Defensively, Auburn was led by Tra'Cee Tanner with six steals and three blocked shots. Montgomery added three steals for the Tigers. The six steals are tied for 12th all-time at Auburn in single-game steals.
"I thought this was the best defensive game Tra'Cee has had in our press," said Williams-Flournoy. "Most of the time she is standing back there, scared to come out, but she did a great job in our press today."
Mississippi State's defense gave Auburn fits in the first half, forcing the Tigers into 15 turnovers. After cutting MSU's lead to four midway through the half, the Bulldogs rattled off a 9-0 run for a 33-18 lead. The Tigers finished the period out-scoring Mississippi State 14-3 to cut the lead to three, 36-33.
Coming out of the break, Auburn's defense jumped on the Bulldogs early, forcing four turnovers to take a 39-38 lead - the Tigers' first of the game. MSU would take a lead again at 42-39, but it was all Auburn after that.
The Tigers pulled away and led by as many as 12 points midway through the half. Mississippi State made a run at Auburn, cutting the lead to two with 4:54 remaining, but the Tigers never surrendered the lead, hitting their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 82-74 win.
Cabriana Capers led Auburn on the boards with seven while freshman Allina Starr totaled a career high eight assists. The Tigers made a big impact on the offensive boards, pulling down 16 offensive rebounds that turned into 21 second-chance points for Auburn.
Martha Alwal led the Bulldogs with 18 points and six rebounds while Kendra Grant came off the bench for 14.
Auburn will return to the court at 6 p.m. CT, Thursday as the Tigers host Vanderbilt (12-3, 1-1 SEC) in their SEC home-opener at Auburn Arena. The game will be broadcast live on 98.7 WANI in Auburn.