March 26, 2014
Auburn's Tyrese Tanner scored 45 points in two Auburn victories over Mississippi State (Anthony Hall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
Auburn's women's basketball team is three wins away from the WNIT championship game, but danger lurks Thursday night. Auburn (19-14) plays Mississippi State (21-13) in the third round at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville.
Auburn swept the Bulldogs in the regular season, winning 82-73 in Starkville and 51-43 at Auburn Arena. But it took second-half rallies in both games.
In their Southeastern Conference opener in Starkville on Jan. 5, the Tigers trailed 36-33 at halftime before scoring 49 points in the second half to win 82-74. On Feb. 9 in Auburn, the Tigers trailed 28-20 at halftime before pulling away in the final minute to win 51-43.
Senior All-Southeastern Conference performer Tyrese Tanner led the way in both games. In Starkville, she scored 24 points, 16 in the second half. In Auburn, she scored 21 points, 17 in the second half. And her teammates will look to her again. Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy says Tanner welcomes the challenge.
"You can see that at practice," Williams-Flournoy said. "She's constantly talking to them, letting them know that she wants her last game to be in the championship game."
Auburn romped past Furman 79-64 and Old Dominion 82-59 in the first two rounds. Mississippi State beat Tulane 77-68 and beat Southern Mississippi 74-66 in double overtime before a crowd of 1,642.
"We have to get our kids to understand - and we've explained it to them - that this is a brand new season," Williams-Flournoy said. "We'll look at what we did well and look at things that they do against the press, but at the end of the day it's a whole new season."
Tanner averages 17.2 points and 6.5 rebounds to lead the Tigers. Freshman Brandy Montgomery averages 11.6 points and 3.9 rebounds. Sophomore Tra'Cee Tanner averages 10.7 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer's welcomes the opportunity to play Auburn again.
"This is an exciting time for us at Mississippi State," Schaefer said. "We are looking forward to another great challenge. Obviously, there is some familiarity with (Auburn). They've done a good job in two games against us. They are very talented, long and athletic, and they play very hard defensively, very similar to how hard we play defensively.
"We are excited to have this challenge here at home, and we're looking forward to another great game and another great crowd."
Martha Alwal, a 6-foot-4 junior, leads Mississippi State with 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Kendra Grant, a 5-foot-11 junior, averages 11.1 points per game.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: