*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy had a message for her basketball team at halftime Monday night. She told them to attack. And attack they did.
After senior Tyrese Tanner hit a last-second jumper to give the Tigers a 30-28 halftime lead, the Tigers swarmed all over Old Dominion on both ends of the floor in the second half and romped and stomped to an 82-59 victory in the second round of the WNIT.
Auburn improved to 19-14 and will play Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi State, a 74-66 winner over Southern Mississippi in double overtime, in the third round Thursday in Starkville. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Auburn beat the Bulldogs twice during the regular season - 82-74 in Starkville and 51-43 at home.
Old Dominion finished its season 18-16.
“I thought our ladies did a very good job coming out ready to play,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I thought ODU did a very good job in the first half of staying in the game. I’m more impressed by our play in the second half. Our ladies came out and just took control of the game.”
Leading 34-31 with 17:50 left in the game, the Tigers went on an 18-5 run to lead 52-36 11:38 left. They had taken control and didn’t let it go. Tanner scored inside and out and fueled the press that dismantled Old Dominion’s offense. Freshman guard Katie Frerking attacked the basket with a vengeance. Sophomore Tra’Cee Tanner and senior Peyton Davis dominated in the post.
The Monarchs had no answer for Tyrese Tanner on either end of the floor. She scored 24 points, had five assists and two steals. Playing at the top of Auburn’s press, she created havoc. The 3-point shots that kept ODU close in the first half largely vanished, and they had no success getting the ball inside. Leading scorer Shae Kelley managed just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting.
“I told them we had to attack,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I thought Katie spearheaded that run and did a great job.”
ODU coach Karen Barefoot said she believed her team had an “excellent plan.” But Tanner took the lead in dismantling it.
“She is special,” Barefoot said. “She competes so hard. She can score in a lot of ways, but defensively she is incredible. They look to her a lot of times, and she makes big plays for them.”
The Tigers had a gaudy 29 assists. Seven players had three or more. The suffocating press forced 20 turnovers and turned them into 29 points. Sixteen fastbreak points, a 44-14 advantage in the paint and a 42-30 rebounding advantage add up to a blowout.
“We came out great the first and second half,” Tyrese Tanner said. “I don’t think we’ve done that in a long time. Our press is really working against these teams. It’s fun. That’s what you want to do. We had 29 assists. It was great we shared the ball.”
As the Tigers romped up and down the floor, scoring 52 points in the second half, the crowd of 1,300 got louder. Bruce Pearl, named Auburn’s men’s basketball coach six days ago, sat in the student section.
“It was great,” Tyrese Tanner said. “He’s a real humble person and fun to be around. I saw him out in the crowd sitting in the jungle section and talking with the students. That’s what we need at Auburn University.”
Pearl visited an Auburn women’s basketball practice in his first 24 hours on the job. After the Tigers beat Furman in the first round, he told Williams-Flournoy he would be in the stands Monday night.
“It was great,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I’m glad he came and brought his fans. We appreciate it. I thought was a great atmosphere. I thought the runs we made were definitely electrified by our fans, which is awesome. I want to say there were other coaches there, too.”
Davis said players did all they could before the game to encourage a large rowd.
“It was awesome,” Davis said. “We worked hard to get our crowd here. A lot of us handed out flyers today. Our arena is smaller, and you can feel every person in it. Our fans were awesome.”
Davis had 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Auburn. Frerking had 11 points and three assists. Tra’Cee Tanner and freshman Brandy Montgomery had 10 points apiece.