Tyrese Tanner plays her final regular-season home game on Thursday against Alabama (Anthony Hall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - It's Auburn versus Alabama, but it's more than that for Auburn's women's basketball team. It's a chance to take a significant step toward an elusive goal.
The Tigers (15-12, 6-8) and the Tide (13-14, 6-8) meet Thursday night at 6 at Auburn Arena. They are locked in a three-way tie for eighth place with Georgia, one game out of a three teams tied for fifth and one game ahead of a three-team pack tied for ninth.
Coming off a 67-59 victory over Georgia, the Tigers could get into the NCAA Tournament picture with wins over Alabama and at last-place Ole Miss in the regular-season finale.
"If we do that, we'll be on the board," second-year Auburn coach Terri-Williams Flournoy said.
Winning those three was the mission Williams-Flournoy put in front of her team after a 93-63 loss at Tennessee.
"As much as this is a rivalry game, it is more important than that when you are looking at the SEC standings," Williams-Flournoy said. "We and Alabama and Georgia are right there together. We have to take this game into our own hands. We can't worry about what every other team out there is doing."
On Jan. 16, Auburn went to Tuscaloosa and battered Alabama 61-39, running away to a 41-14 halftime lead. It won't, Williams-Flournoy said, be so easy this time.
"We definitely have a different Alabama team coming in than the one we played at Alabama," Williams-Flournoy said. "They are playing much better. They are shooting the ball well. ... It's going to be a tough game. We definitely have to be ready and understand it's not the team we played at Alabama."
It will be the final regular-season home game for Auburn seniors Tyrese Tanner and Peyton Davis. Williams-Flournoy said both bought into her program and her pressing, running style of play from the start.
"I think they both did a very good job of grasping the new coaching staff and understanding what we wanted to do," Williams-Flournoy said. "I am very proud of both of them."
Tanner leads Auburn in scoring at 16.7 points per game and shares the rebounding lead with her sister, Tra'Cee, at 6.2.
"She is one of the top five players in this league," Williams-Flournoy said. "If you talk to any coaches in our league, they understand what she's done. She has worked to be one of the top players in the SEC. It's not anything that has been given to her."
Freshman Brandy Montgomery averages 11.2 points per game, Tra'Cee Tanner 10.5 and junior Hasina Muhammad 10.1. Freshman Ashley Williams averages 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Alabama broke a two-game losing streak Sunday with a 72-64 victory over Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. Shafontaye Myers leads the Tide with 14.2 points per game.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: