Dec. 20, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -
The Auburn women's basketball team (8-3) will wrap up the 2013-14 non-conference schedule this weekend as the Tigers travel to Minneapolis, Minn., for the Subway Classic. Auburn will face UCLA (4-5) Saturday before taking on host Minnesota (9-2) on Sunday.
The Tigers capped off a four-game homestand on Wednesday with a 64-27 win over Presbyterian. The 27 points for the Blue Hose were the fewest for an Auburn opponent in nine years.
"Defensively, especially in the second half, I thought we came out and played a lot tougher," said Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. "One of our goals was to limit them to 10 3-point attempts because they have been shooting them a lot. The more of those you give up, the more opportunities you give them to make it. That was one of our goals we did not achieve and something we have to continue to work on."
Gearing up for Southeastern Conference play in January, the Tigers will be challenged this weekend. UCLA was an NCAA Tournament team a year ago, but has been ravaged by injuries and a schedule that features four top-25 teams so far.
"UCLA has had some injuries, but even with those, their starting five is really good," said Williams-Flournoy. "They have some really good guards that can shoot the ball, some that can put it on the floor. They have a great inside presence as well. They have a very good point guard that can run the team, they are just a very good NCAA-caliber team."
UCLA's losses have come to Nebraska, North Carolina, James Madison, North Carolina State and Notre Dame. Wins have come against Pepperdine, then-No. 10 Oklahoma, Grand Canyon and San Diego State with the one against SDSU the lone win away from home.
Atonye Nfingifa leads the Bruins with 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while Thea Lemberger and Nirra Fields average 15.6 points per game each. Lemberger and Feilds also account for 28 of UCLA's 35 3-pointers on the season.
Host Minnesota is undefeated at home this season and features the top 3-point shooting team in the country. Facing the Gophers and Bruins in back-to-back days will be a big challenge for the Tigers.
"Minnesota is another NCAA-caliber team, these are two very tough teams that will help prepare us for the SEC season," said Williams-Flournoy. "Minnesota is tough at home, that is going to be a tough game. Both of these games will show if our defense is moving in the right direction. Offensively, we really want to get our offense from our defense. Both of these teams, I feel like we can pressure them, but at the end of the day we have to rebound and be able to get back in position because they will push the ball in transition."
Minnesota returns four starters and seven letterwinners from last season's team that went 18-14 and advanced to the WNIT. The Gophers have continued that run into the 2013-14 season and are 9-2 heading into the Subway Classic.
The Gophers are the top 3-point shooting team in the NCAA at 45.1 percent on the season. Rachel Banham leads that charge as she has 30 treys on the season, hitting them at a 58.8 percent clip. Banham averages 22.2 points and 2.5 assists per game. Amanda Zahui averages a double-double with 13.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
Minnesota's two losses have come on the road, at Creighton and at Hawaii. The Gophers are 6-0 at home this season, including a 63-62 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga, a team Auburn struggled with on the road.
Four Tigers are averaging double figures, led by Tyrese Tanner with 16.2 per game and Hasina Muhammad with 15.0. Freshman Brandy Montgomery averages 12.0 per game while Tra'Cee Tanner averages 10.5. Tyrese Tanner pulls down a team-high 7.3 boards per game.
The Auburn defense is averaging forcing 19.8 turnovers per game and 10.0 steals per game. Junior Kiani Parker leads the team in steals this season with 23 while Tyrese Tanner and Muhammad have 17 each.
Action for the Tigers begins at 2 p.m. CT, Saturday against UCLA. Auburn will also tipoff at 2 p.m., Sunday against Minnesota. Saturday's game will air live on 94.3 WGZZ in Auburn while Sunday's will be on 98.7 WANI. Both games, along with live stats, will be available online at AuburnTigers.com.