By Scott Scroggins
AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn women's basketball team ended the regular season with a 60-55 victory over Ole Miss at Auburn Arena on Sunday afternoon. Auburn forced 25 Ole Miss turnovers, the 10th time the Tigers have forced at least 25 turnovers this season, including the fourth time in SEC play.
“For some reason we always get Ole Miss the last game of the year, either there or here, and this is usually how the game looks," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "It’s always a hard-fought game, but I thought our ladies did a great job of holding on. Ole Miss had nothing to lose. They were just playing as hard as they could.”
A strong second quarter was the difference as Auburn outscored Ole Miss 19-4 in the second frame to take a 34-22 lead into halftime. The Rebels scored the first five points of the third quarter, all from the free-throw line, as Auburn didn't score for the first 4:32 of the period, to cut the Tigers' lead to 34-27. Auburn responded with an 8-2 run to push its lead back to 13 at 42-29.
After Ole Miss scored the last eight points of the third quarter, Auburn entered the final quarter leading 42-37. That's when Daisa Alexander took over. The sophomore scored five points during a 6-0 Auburn run to start the final period as the Tigers eventually built an 11-point lead twice in the fourth quarter before holding on for the win.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Happy Senior DayAuburn held Senior Day festivities to honor its five seniors following the game. The group has helped lead Auburn to 64 victories over the last four years and NCAA Tournament appearances in each of the last two years. “(Jessica Jones, Jazmine Jones, Bria Johnson) have been here all four years, and I’m a little biased to the ones that have been here all four years," Williams-Flournoy said. "If you can stay in our system, play in our system, and handle tough practices every single day, you get a little extra check on my part. Tiffany (Lewis) transferred in, she’s done a great job for us. She’s going to work hard every day in practice. She hasn’t shot the ball as well as she would have liked to, but that doesn’t stop her from working. She’s still in the gym every day shooting. She’s still out here early before every game shooting. Sira (Toure) just works hard. She’s a great student. All of them are great students. Three of them have already graduated, two are graduating in May. As a coach, when we talk about graduation, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
The victory was Auburn's fifth win on Senior Day in Williams-Flournoy's six seasons as the Tigers' head coach and was Auburn's 11th home victory this season, including a 5-3 mark in SEC play.
Alexander heating up from long rangeDaisa Alexander led Auburn with a game-high 21 points and made all three of her attempts from 3-point range. In the last three games, Alexander is 10-of-12 from long range.
Alexander scored 10 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter to hold off an Ole Miss rally as the Rebels cut Auburn's 13-point lead to as few as four.
It was the sixth 20-point game of the season for the sophomore, who also recorded three steals on the day. Alexander finished the regular season as the SEC's steals leader with 74, 2.6 steals per game, and was honored as a member of the SEC All-Defensive Team, the league announced Tuesday.
"I thought she hit some big shots," Williams-Flournoy said. "We knew that once we got the ball into her hand if she attacked ... if we just attacked the pressure, that would help us a lot, and it did. It was huge. It was absolutely huge, and we needed every point that she scored for us."
Thompson ends regular season on a high noteUnique Thompson scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the win. It is the 16th double-figure scoring game in her freshman season. Thompson, who is the leading rebounder among SEC freshmen (8.7) and fourth among league rookies averaging 11.8 points per game, was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, the league announced Tuesday. Her seven double-doubles this season tie Auburn's freshman record and her 225 rebounds are the most by a Tiger freshman since the 1985-86 season.
Auburn earned the 10-seed in this week's SEC Tournament and will play seventh-seeded Tennessee on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. The Tigers enter the tournament with a 37-36 record all-time in SEC Tournament play, including a 4-9 mark against the Lady Volunteers. The two teams haven't met in an SEC Tournament game since Auburn defeated Tennessee 78-58 in the 2009 semifinals.