JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Two late Auburn baskets and a huge defensive stop at the buzzer helped the Auburn women's basketball team to a 47-45 win over Missouri Thursday in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Auburn (19-11), seeded ninth in the tournament, advances to face top-seeded and second-ranked South Carolina (28-1) at 11 a.m. Friday. It marks the third straight season for Auburn to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament.
In a low-scoring affair, sophomore Jazmine Jones led Auburn with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and she was one of three Tigers to post a game-high three steals. Juniors Brandy Montgomery and Khady Dieng also had three steals as the Tigers posted 14 steals on the day.
"Tough, hard-fought game by our young ladies," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We just continued to work, work. That was the message. We told them we had to work. Our focus now was Missouri from the day we found out we were playing them. We just had to work for 40 minutes."
Tied 43-43 with 4:31 to play, both teams picked up defensive stops until Tanner got to the rim for a layup to give Auburn a two-point lead with 2:43 left. Tanner would then block a Jordan Frericks jumper at the other end, leading to a Jones layup to give the Tigers a four-point advantage at the 1:57 mark.
A pair of Lindsey Cunningham free throws made it 47-45 with 1:46 to play. Defensive stops at both ends gave Mizzou a chance for the final shot, but Cierra Porter's attempt at the buzzer was off the rim, giving Auburn the victory.
A high-scoring first quarter saw Auburn take a 19-18 lead, which became a 29-28 lead at halftime. Neither team led by more than seven at any point during the game. After Mizzou scored the first six points of the third quarter to move ahead 34-29, Auburn scored the final six to take a one-point lead after three quarters, 35-34.
While Missouri hit nine 3-pointers - one more than in their 69-55 win in Auburn 11 days ago - Auburn was able to limit their damage elsewhere. Mizzou only made six other field goals and made it to the free-throw line just seven times. Rebounding was even at 25 apiece.
"I told our young ladies, Missouri is a team that shoots the three," Williams-Flournoy said. "That's what they're known for. That's what they do. You're not going to stop it, okay? You might slow it down maybe, but you're not going to stop it. It's like people coming and playing us, against our defense and saying you're not going to turn the ball over. You are going to turn the ball over because that's what we do, that's who we are."
Turnovers were indeed a key stat. One game after turning the ball over 26 times in a loss at Florida, Auburn had just 10 turnovers for the game. Auburn is now 4-0 this season when turning the ball over 10 times or fewer. Missouri, meanwhile, had 20 turnovers - 14 of them coming off Auburn steals.
For the first time this season, Auburn won a game in which its "Big Three" - Montgomery, Katie Frerking and Tra'Cee Tanner - were all held to single-digit scoring. Montgomery finished with nine points and Frerking and Tanner had six apiece. Frerking had a game-high eight rebounds, along with a season-high two blocks. Janiah McKay finished with eight points and four assists.
Missouri was led by Morgan Stock, whose game-high 17 points included five 3-pointers. Lindsey Cunningham added 11. Sophie Cunningham, who had a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds in the teams' earlier meeting, was held to five points and five boards.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Auburn and also a three-game skid to Missouri that dated back to 2014. It was the third-straight season for Auburn to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament. It was also the lowest-scoring SEC Tournament game since the 2012 season.