Auburn women stun No. 4 Tennessee
AUBURN, Ala. – It had been 23 months to the day since Auburn last won an SEC women’s basketball game. It had been almost 25 years since they beat a top-5 opponent.
Both streaks: over.
The Auburn Tigers shocked the women’s college basketball world Thursday night, pulling one of the season’s biggest upsets with a 71-61 win over No. 4 Tennessee, earning their first league win of the season and knocking the Lady Vols from the ranks of the unbeaten in league play.
Auburn (9-10, 1-7 SEC) forced Tennessee into 22 turnovers, converting those into 25 points, and never faltered in the face of several Lady Vol runs in a game that featured nine lead changes, six of those in the second half.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said. “We’ve been right there in so many ballgames. We’ve been talking to them about finishing. Once you experience what it feels like to break through and win that ballgame, to give everything you have for four quarters, then you understand that it’s not insurmountable.
“For them to finally be able to get through and persevere, I’m so happy for them. I’m happy for our fans that were here. Our coaching staff has been amazing through a tight stretch, so to be able to put all those games together in a short amount of time … they’ve been working around the clock. It takes what it takes. That was the mindset we had going in.
“We were not afraid. We didn’t want them to be afraid. We wanted to go out and have fun, but we wanted to go to war. We wanted to put pressure on them, we wanted to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like we did that.”
Aicha Coulibaly led four Tigers in double-figures with 26 points, and she also pulled down seven rebounds to lead the Tigers. Sania Wells scored 13 points, Jala Jordan added 11 points and six rebounds in her second SEC start, and Annie Hughes scored 10.
Freshman Mar’Shaun Bostic was a beast on the defensive end, swiping four steals and finishing with nine points and three assists off the bench. In the 15 minutes she was on the court, the Tigers were plus-25.
Auburn shot 39 percent (25-64) from the field but matched a season-high with seven made 3-pointers, two apiece from Jordan, Hughes and Coulibaly. Tennessee, the nation’s top rebounding team, out-rebounded Auburn 43-30, but points in the paint were even at 30-30 and Auburn had 11 second-chance points to Tennessee’s nine.
Tennessee jumped out to a 17-7 lead midway through the first quarter. But the Tigers ended the period on a 9-0 run, then took the lead on a Jordan 3-pointer early in the second. That Auburn run would extend to 20-4 over an eight-minute stretch, and the Tigers would ultimately take a 39-28 lead at halftime after another Jordan trey right before the buzzer.
But the Lady Vols stormed back early in the third, opening the second half on a 14-2 run of their own to move back into the lead with just over five minutes to play. The teams would trade buckets down the stretch, but Bostic would take advantage of a late UT turnover and go coast-to-coast as the clock wound down to sink a layup as time expired, cutting the Lady Vol lead to one at 51-50 after three.
Two more UT turnovers put Auburn in the lead. Honesty Scott-Grayson took advantage of a UT shot clock violation to hit a go-ahead layup, then Bostic stole the ball just seconds later and scored in transition to put Auburn up 54-51.
After Auburn extended its lead to 60-55, UT cut it down to one with 4:32 to play. But a Coulibaly offensive board led to a second-chance layup, then a dagger 3-pointer from Hughes with 2:27 to play put the Tigers ahead 65-59. From there, the Lady Vols never scored until the final seconds as Bostic and Wells salted the game away at the free-throw line in the final minute.
Jordan Horston, who made the game-winning shot to beat Auburn by 1 in their last trip to Auburn Arena, led Tennessee with 21 points. Jordan Walker added 17.
Auburn will be back in action on the road Sunday afternoon when they travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt. Game time is 2 p.m. CT at Memorial Gym with a broadcast on SEC Network +.