By Scott Scroggins
AUBURN, Ala. -- It was a tale of two halves for the Auburn women’s basketball team in its matchup with Vanderbilt Monday night at Auburn Arena as the Tigers held on for a 63-60 victory.
The Tigers (13-11, 4-8 SEC) forced 15 first-half turnovers and freshman Unique Thompson scored 14 points before halftime as Auburn led by as many as 20 before holding a 41-24 advantage at the break.
It was a different story in the second half as Vanderbilt (6-20, 2-10 SEC) opened the half on an 11-0 run and continued to cut into Auburn’s lead as the Tigers shot just 20 percent after intermission, getting as close as two three times in the final minute. Each time the Commodores cut it to a one-score game, Daisa Alexander answered for the Tigers.
“It got real tight because we couldn’t score,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We had good looks at the basket. It wasn’t like they were bad shots. We’re talking about layups and normal pull-ups that we usually hit. And when a team is a 3-point shooting team, they always have a chance to get back in the game. That’s what we told them at halftime that (Vanderbilt) is 3-point shooters…3, 6, 9, 12 back into the game, and they were.”
With Auburn holding a 58-56 lead with 52 seconds remaining, Alexander made two free throws to push the lead back to four. Two Vanderbilt free throws cut the Tigers’ lead back to two, but Alexander responded once again, this time with a jumper from the elbow to give Auburn a four-point lead once again. Vanderbilt again cut the Tigers’ lead to two and Auburn had the ensuing inbounds pass stolen, but with Vanderbilt’s Erin Whalen seemingly driving for the tying layup, Alexander chased her down and stole the ball.
“Even when they got it to two, I think we then made a run to get up again,” Williams-Flournoy said. “They never stopped playing hard. We kept getting after them even when we were making some defensive mistakes, we were still getting after them.”
Auburn wins its fifth straight over VanderbiltAuburn has won five in a row over Vanderbilt after the Commodores had won 21 straight in the series from 2001-2014. Four of the last five games between the two teams have been decided by eight points or less, including a 17-point Tiger comeback in Nashville last season.
“It’s kind of like our game up there last year,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We were down 17 and made the run to come back and win it. We didn’t let them make the run this time and come back and win it.”
Tigers dominate on points off turnoversAuburn outscored Vanderbilt 21-0 on points off turnovers. The Tigers forced 24 Vanderbilt turnovers, the 20th time this season the Tigers have forced at least 20 turnovers, including the eighth time in 12 SEC games. For the season, 36.2 percent of Auburn’s points have been off opponents’ turnovers. On the offensive end, Auburn only had eight turnovers, which is the second-fewest for the Tigers this season.
Auburn earns its 10th home winThe win improves Auburn, winners of two straight, to 10-2 at Auburn Arena this season. It is the most home wins for the Tigers since they won 11 in 2013-14 and just the fourth time in the last 14 years Auburn has reached double-digit wins at home.
The Tigers will look for their third straight victory when they host 13th-ranked Missouri Thursday at Auburn Arena at 6 p.m. CT play in the final game of a three-game homestand.