By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Senior Tyrese Tanner, last season's leading scorer, was on the bench in street clothes. Junior preseason All-Southeastern Conference choice Hassina Muhammad was serving the second game of a five-game suspension.
But fueled by the inside power of sophomore Tra'Cee Tanner and senior Peyton Davis, Auburn's women's basketball team outscored Jacksonville State 52-14 in the paint and pulled away for a 66-49 victory at Wednesday night at Auburn Arena. The Tigers moved to 2-0 on the season. They play their first road game of the season Saturday at Temple.
Tyrese Tanner, who scored 17 points in a season-opening victory over Georgia Southern, suffered a knee injury in Tuesday afternoon's practice, Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. Her status is day to day.
"It seems like every game some depletion if not allowing us to get somebody on the floor," Flournoy said.
Sophomore Tra'Cee Tanner, Tyrese's younger sister, took up the slack, scoring 15 of her 19 points in the second half. She also had nine rebounds. Davis had 14 points and eight rebounds.
"We have to learn how to come out fighting in the first half and not wait until the second half," Tra'Cee Tanner said. "Overall, I think we did a pretty good job with Ty being out. I got frustrated in the first half and fouled too much."
After Jacksonville State closed to within 43-37 with 10:37 left, Williams-Flournoy took the unusual step of telling her players to slow down the transition game to take advantage of their size advantage in the paint.
"There was nothing Jacksonville State's post players could do Tra'Cee or Peyton," Williams-Flournoy said. "We were running kind of ragged out there, and some bad shots were going up."
Freshman guard Brandy Montgomery, playing for the first time, scored 15 points, 11 in the first half. She had an assist, two steals and frequently disrupted the Jacksonville State offense in Auburn's press.
"Brandy fits us," Williams-Flournoy said. "She does an excellent job at the top of the press, and she still doesn't know what she's doing. She can shoot the ball. You saw flashes of her being a freshman tonight. Once she gets the nerves out of her system, you're going a see a different Brandy Montgomery."
Three Auburn freshmen - Montgomery, Allina Starr and Keanna Farmer- played for the first time. At one time, four newcomers were on the floor together.
"That's scary," Williams-Flournoy said with a chuckle, proclaiming her assistants not to let her do that again.
"You have to get them out there," Williams-Flournoy said, "but I don't think it's fair to have so many of them out there at the same time."
Davis said it's a matter of time before the newcomers begin to pick up speed.
"They try really hard and are doing all they can," Davis said. "Overall, I'm pretty proud of them. Once we all buy into it, we will be great."
A 10-2 run gave the Tigers a 23-13 lead with 4:40 left in the first half, but the Gamecocks quickly cut it to 25-21 with an 8-2 run of their own. Auburn pushed it back out to 31-23 at halftime. The Gamecocks didn't get closer than six points again.
Guard Candace Morton scored 21 points for the Gamecocks, who fell to 0-2 on the season.
The Tigers shot 45.2 percent from the field on 29-of-64, 54.5 percent at the free throw line on 6-of-11 and made two 3-pointers, both by Montgomery, in 10 attempts. They won the rebounding battle 42-29.
Jacksonville State shot just 29.4 percent from the floor against Auburn's pressing defense.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: