NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the second time this season, Auburn gave Tennessee all it could handle for 40 minutes. But a banked-in 3-pointer with less than a second to play gave the 12th-ranked Lady Vols a 64-61 win Thursday night in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Auburn (14-15) saw its season come to an end after a game that saw 14 ties, 15 lead changes, a 24-point night from Janiah McKay and a pair of tie-breaking buzzer-beaters.
“I thought our young ladies played extremely hard the whole game,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We kept fighting, kept fighting. The game was right there for us, and our young ladies never gave up, just never gave up the whole game. We were relentless.
“(But) we’re not going to take any moral victories. I think we played well enough to win the basketball game, forced them into 24 turnovers and we scored 23 points off those turnovers. That’s our pressure defense. There were a few times offensively that we weren’t on point, but our ladies kept playing hard and they never even thought they didn’t have a chance to win this basketball game.”
McKay’s 24 points led all scorers on a night when the Tigers shot 41.9 percent from the field and forced Tennessee (24-6) into 24 turnovers. Auburn converted those into 23 points. Daisa Alexander added 16 points and six steals on the night, and Tiffany Lewis added six points off the bench.
Tennessee controlled the boards, getting 34 rebounds to Auburn’s 21. The Lady Vols also made a living at the free-throw line, knocking down 20-of-24 attempts while Auburn was 4-of-5 at the line. Auburn took 17 more shots than did Tennessee and made six more.
With Tennessee leading 61-59 and less than 30 second to play, Alexander got a steal and drove the length of the floor for a layup to tie the score with 11 seconds left. After Tennessee called timeout to advance to the frontcourt, the Lady Vols’ Anastasia Hayes shot an off-balance 3-pointer that banked off the top of the square and through to give UT a 64-61 lead with 0.5 seconds left. Auburn’s desperation attempt at the buzzer fell short.
The Tigers did hit one buzzer-beater on the night – with five seconds left in the first half, Unique Thompson blocked a UT jumper, Jessica Jones got the rebound and passed it ahead to McKay, who made her second half-court shot of the year to give Auburn a 38-35 halftime lead. Auburn had trailed by as many as seven points in the second quarter before finishing on a 16-6 run.
Tennessee would push its lead to as many as six points early in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers kept chipping away, eventually pulling back ahead 59-58 as McKay was fouled on a layup with 2:25 to play.
McKay finished the season as Auburn’s leading scorer with 480 points (16.6/game). Thompson finished with 227 rebounds (8.4/game). Alexander’s six steals tonight gave her 80 for the season; that ties for sixth in Auburn history for a single-season.
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