Alabama’s 3-point shooting on Sunday afternoon proved to be too much for Auburn in the regular-season finale between the two in-state rivals. The Crimson Tide returned to Tuscaloosa in the win column after their 15 made 3s propelled them to a 92-78 victory.
“It’s very hard to win a basketball giving up 92 points,” said head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. “And let the team shoot 15-of-28 from the 3-point line, you’re just not going to win basketball games. Our defense has got to get better.”
From the get-go, Alabama’s offense not only fired shots from nearly everywhere on the court, but it was making them, too. The Crimson Tide opened the game on a 10-0 run, quickly going up double digits and putting Auburn in an all-to-familiar early deficit.
This season in SEC play, the Tigers have been outscored 209-129 in first quarters.
Alabama made 5 3-pointers in the first quarter, with four different players for the Tide getting in on the action. By the time the first 10 minutes were over, Alabama had climbed into a comfortable 12-point lead, up 22-10.
The second quarter was no different, with Alabama opening the second with a trio of 3-pointers to go on a 9-2 run. The pair of Jasmine Walker’s triples and Allie Craig Cruce’s three pushed the Alabama lead out to 31-12. Megan Abrams added a free throw and the Crimson Tide took their largest lead of the day of 20.
“If you’re right there in position, they can’t even get the three off,” Williams-Flournoy said. “But we weren’t even there on the catch, we were a step slow. By the time you got there, for a shooter like Jasmine Walker, if you’re late the shot’s going up.”
Auburn’s leading scorer of the half was Honesty Scott-Grayson, who came alive in the second quarter. Scott-Grayson scored 12 of her 14 first-half points in the second, including a pair of 3-pointers. Despite the transfer’s efforts, Alabama continued to put the ball through the net and led 39-27 heading into the locker rooms.
After Alabama scored three points out of the half, Auburn went on a 5-0 run to bring the game within 10. The Crimson Tide responded with its own run of six straight points, pushing the lead to 48-32 with 7:03 remaining in the third.
Unique Thompson, Keya Patton and Scott-Grayson all worked to bring it within 10 once more with 4:49 remaining in the quarter. Auburn looked to be gaining momentum with a couple of turnovers, but foul trouble quickly took out Auburn’s leading scorer.
Scott-Grayson committed three turnovers in the third, putting her at four fouls with 3:35 left in the quarter. Williams-Flournoy was forced to take her leading scorer out of the game.
“Well it’s huge, [Scott-Grayson] is one of our leading scorers, top scorers,” Williams-Flournoy said. “When you take her out, you’re taking away our scoring.”
As Scott-Grayson hit the bench, Alabama closed the third quarter on a 17-9 run and took a 67-49 lead into the fourth. Thompson began heating up in the second half, scoring 20 of her 24 points in the final 20 minutes.
The senior recorded six rebounds tonight, putting her at 1,109 for her career. She continues to chase Becky Jackson, who holds the all-time career rebounds record at 1,118. Thompson has three more regular-season games and the SEC tournament to reach the record.
Even down 18 points heading into the final quarter, Auburn continued to show fight, going on a few scoring runs. The Tigers opened the fourth on a 14-5 scoring run and brought the deficit within single digits with 6:15 remaining for the first time since it was 13-4 five minutes into the first quarter.
“We just keep fighting hard,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We are getting behind and we’re catching back up. We just have to figure out a way to just keep fighting.”
The scoring run was slowed down and Alabama closed out the game outscoring Auburn 20-15 down the stretch. Alabama’s offense was powered by Walker, who dropped 41 points on the Tigers and made seven 3-point shots, both career-highs.
“We gotta play better defense,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I thought a lot of times our rotation was slow. If there’s anybody you’re gonna guard, it’s going to be [Walker], so there’s no reason we should have been giving her wide-open threes.”
Auburn will now travel to Starkville, Mississippi, to face Mississippi State on Thursday, Feb. 18. That game will tip-off at 8 p.m. CST from Humphrey Coliseum and be broadcast on SEC Network.