Terri Williams-Flournoy disappointed but proud after season-ending loss (Anthony Hall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
STARKVILLE, Miss. - When Brandy Montgomery hit a jumper to put Auburn up 39-25 with 15:53 left Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum, the Tigers seemed headed to the WNIT semifinals. But over the next 7:33, they didn't make a field goal.
Fueled by Auburn fouls and turnovers, Mississippi State came rushing from behind to take the lead. Auburn Hasina Muhammad tied it at 54 with 1:44 left, but the Bulldogs took advantage of more fouls and more turnovers to score the last five points of the game and celebrate a 59-54 victory.
Just like that, Auburn's season was over.
Disappointment was in Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy's, but she was proud, too, of a team that started the season with six true freshmen and two junior college transfers.
"I'm very proud of this team," Williams-Flournoy said. "When you think about how we started the season with eight newcomers, you have no idea how your season is going to come out. We finished tied for sixth in the SEC with six freshmen and brand new point guards, two of them being freshmen. If I'd looked in a crystal ball to see how the season was going to turn out, I don't know if it would have been like this."
Tanner, who became one of Auburn's top 10 all-time scorers, was called on to lead the team full of newcomers. She, too, was proud.
"I'm proud of how far we came," Williams-Flournoy said. "I'm proud of my teammates. It is sad that my season is ending, but you have to move on."
Auburn had beaten Mississippi State twice in the regular season. Williams-Flournoy wondered why the only two Southeastern Conference teams in the tournament met in the quarterfinals.
"The SEC is one of the best conferences in the country," Williams-Flournoy said. "It seems like we should have met in the championship game, not in the third round."
Auburn finished with a 19-15 record. Mississippi State improved to 22-13 and moved onto the semifinals.
Tyrese Tanner got her second foul three minutes into the game and sat the rest of the half. It didn't seem to matter. Muhammad scored 10 points and Auburn ran out to a 28-19 lead. Nothing changed early in the second half. Then everything changed.
"It's just like we tell our players," Williams-Flournoy said. "That's a lot of time left in the game. I thought Mississippi State made their run. They hit some big shots and got some offensive rebounds that allowed them to get back in the game."
Auburn finished with 26 turnovers to 23 for Mississippi State and was called for 27 fouls to Mississippi State's 17.
"Lots of turnovers and lots of fouls," Williams-Flournoy said. "We were down 7-1 on fouls at the start of the game. When we forced turnovers, we didn't convert them into points like we needed to do." She shook her head but said no more.
Tanner was 4-for-12 from the field and scored 11 points in her final Auburn game. Muhammad scored 13 points, but just three in the second half. Montgomery had 10 points. Davis had 10 rebounds.
Auburn held Martha Alwal, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, to 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. But Alwal had 11 rebounds, eight crucial ones on the offensive end. Kendra Grant hit big shots down the stretch and finished with 20 points.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: Follow @PMarshOnAU