As the final buzzer sounded in Greenville, South Carolina, earlier this month, Auburn women’s basketball made history. Yet there was no one jumping with excitement, no dog piles at midcourt and no nets to be cut down. It marked the end of the worst season in Auburn history.
The Tigers went winless in conference play and finished on a 17-game losing streak on their way to a 5-19 season.
The team met its lone senior, Unique Thompson, near the Auburn bench at the end of the game. She was surrounded by her teammates and embraced by freshman Romi Levy, as the Tigers suffered a 69-62 loss to Florida in the first round of the SEC tournament. With her jersey in hand, Thompson walked off the court and through the tunnel for the final time as an Auburn Tiger.
It was also the final game that Terri Williams-Flournoy coached as the head of the program, she was fired following the conclusion of the season.
The season began with slight promise, as the Tigers opened the year 5-2 on the young season. With a team with about half the roster being made up of transfers and freshmen, there was a level of uncertainty as to what this team was capable of accomplishing.
Beginning the season on a winning note was in the right direction, but everything soon came crashing down. What then ensued was the 17-game losing streak to finish out the season.
There were some high points throughout the season, though. Thompson chased down Becky Jackson’s all-time rebounding record and broke it with two games left in the regular season. Honesty Scott-Grayson scored 30 points against Missouri and Auburn almost upset a handful of ranked teams.
Let’s recap this past season, starting from the beginning.
Flashback to Nov. 25, 2020, opening night against USC Upstate.
vs. USC Upstate (W 82-41)
After an offseason filled with roster turnovers and navigating a global pandemic, Williams-Flournoy opened the season with eight new faces on the Plains. Four of them were freshmen and four of them were transfers.
Williams-Flournoy’s defensive-minded coaching style was at work in the opening night victory. Auburn allowed two points in the first quarter and led 40-9 at halftime over USC Upstate. It opened its season with a win for the third straight year.
vs. Samford (W 66-64)
After the Tigers went up double figures at the halfway point, Samford put together a second-half surge of offense. The Tigers held on, though, and won their second game of the season behind Thompson’s first double-double of the season.
vs. Gardner-Webb (W 97-61)
The Tigers’ offense exploded against Gardner-Webb, nearing the century mark in points. It tied the most points scored in a game during Williams-Flournoy’s tenure at Auburn. The Tigers shot over 50% from the floor in all four quarters and Thompson was the leading scorer with 21 points.
at. Houston (L 61-71)
Facing their first road test of the season, the Tigers weren’t able to get it done in the Lone Star State.
Thompson put up one of the best games by an Auburn player in a couple of decades, scoring 26 points and 23 rebounds. It was the first 20-20 game by a Tiger since 1993. Houston went on to lose in the first round of the Women’s NIT Tournament.
vs. South Alabama (W 74-66)
After falling behind in the first half and trailing at halftime, the Tigers rallied for a second-half comeback to claim their fourth victory of the season and advance to 4-1. Thompson once again had a double-double, leading the team with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
vs. Stephen F. Austin (L 54-67)
The Ladyjacks came to Auburn Arena with a record of 5-2, looking to bounce back from a loss to Houston. Auburn looked to stay unbeaten at home and through three quarters, the game was notched in a tie.
That was until Stephen F. Austin outscored Auburn 22-9 in the final 10 minutes, advancing to 6-2. It was the first win of what became a 19-game winning streak for the Ladyjacks. They finished as the Southland Conference champions and earned a bid as a No. 12-seed in the NCAA tournament. They lost to No. 5-seed Georgia Tech by two points in the first round.
vs. North Florida (W, 94-81)
Scoring in the 90s for the second time this season, the Tigers bounced back from its loss to Stephen F. Austin with a win against North Florida.
Annie Hughes dropped a career-high 17 points in the win while Thompson notched another double-double. It was the final time the Tigers were in the win column for the season.
vs. Belmont (L 57-78)
Thompson recorded career rebound No. 1,000 on her way to posting another 20-point, 20-rebound performance. It wasn’t enough though as the Bears jumped out to a lead early and never looked back.
Belmont earned a bid to the NCAA tournament by winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and was named a No. 12-seed. The Bears upset No. 5-seed Gonzaga in the first round, but lost to No. 4-seed Indiana in the second round.
at. LSU (L 43-56)
Jumping out to a halftime lead, the Tigers’ hopes to open conference play were spoiled by a strong second half by LSU. The hometown Tigers outscored Auburn 37-16 in the second half.
Thompson did not play in the game.
vs. Georgia (L 76-44)
Another NCAA tournament-bound team, Georgia’s offense came to play. The Bulldogs grabbed a lead early and continued to extend it quarter after quarter. Thompson was not in the lineup for the second straight game.
Georgia entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 3-seed but lost to No. 6-seed Oregon in the second round.
at. Ole Miss (L 58-62)
Despite outscoring the Rebels 22-14 in the final quarter, it wasn’t enough for Auburn to overcome a strong first quarter from Ole Miss. Honesty Scott-Grayson dropped 23 points in the effort. It was the closest the Tigers came to winning a conference game all season.
at. Florida (L 54-68)
The Tigers traveled to Gainesville, Florida, with just eight scholarship players and one walk-on, after COVID-19 protocols limited the roster. Once again, Auburn was plagued by the first quarter, this time being outscored 21-8 in the first 10 minutes. Unable to come back from the early deficit, Auburn dropped another one.
vs. Kentucky (L 71-76)
Kentucky came into the game ranked No. 12 in the country, kicking off a stretch of games where five of Auburn’s next seven opponents were ranked. Auburn gave the visiting Wildcats a solid fight considering it was a winless team dwelling at the bottom of the conference, but it was not enough.
Kentucky went on to be a No. 4-seed in the NCAA tournament, where it was eliminated in the second round by No. 5-seed Iowa.
at. Alabama (L 55-67)
The road trip to face in-state rival Alabama for the first time in the season looked similar to Auburn’s other contests. Auburn fell behind early and the Crimson Tide pulled away for the win.
Alabama made the NCAA tournament as a No. 7-seed, defeating No. 10-seed North Carolina in the first round. The Crimson Tide exited in the round of 32 after suffering a loss to No. 2-seed Maryland.
vs. Texas A&M (L 69-84)
Ranked No. 8 in the country at the time, Texas A&M took care of business when it traveled to Auburn Arena. The Tigers knocked down 10 3-pointers against the Aggies, hanging around until the fourth quarter, when Texas A&M pulled away. Thompson and Scott-Grayson combined for 39 points in the loss.
Texas A&M, now a No. 2-seed in the NCAA tournament, knocked out No. 7-seed Iowa State in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The Aggies are still dancing.
at. Arkansas (L 67-77)
Auburn jumped out to an early lead for the first time in several games, leading 18-9 after one-quarter of play. It was a quick turnaround for the Razorbacks in the second quarter, who outscored the Tigers by 14 to take a five-point lead into halftime. Thompson had another double-double and nearly another 20-20 game, but the No. 19 Razorbacks were too much for the Tigers to handle.
Arkansas was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 4-seed by No. 13-seed Wright State.
vs. South Carolina (L 77-58)
One of the top teams in the country playing the bottom dweller of the SEC went exactly as can be expected when No. 2 South Carolina made the trip to Auburn. The Tigers gave up 26 points in the first quarter while only scoring six points in the first 10 minutes. Any chance of the upset of the year practically evaporated with Auburn’s first-quarter performance.
The Gamecocks are still dancing in March as the No. 1-seed of the Hemisfair Region in the NCAA tournament. They’ve won their first two tournament games by an average of 21.5 points.
vs. Missouri (L 75-85)
It was an all-too-familiar start for the Tigers in their contest against Missouri. They fell behind early, giving up a season-high 31 first-quarter points. Trailing by 14 at the start of the second half, it looked as if this game could get ugly.
But Auburn stormed back, cutting the deficit to three by halftime. Out of the locker room, Missouri made its adjustments and was able to finish the game off. Scott-Grayson had a career-day, dropping 30 points in the loss.
at. Georgia (L 54-74)
Different venue, same result for the Tigers in its final matchup against Georgia of the regular season. Auburn fell behind early and as history repeated itself, never caught up to the Bulldogs. At this point in the season, it was the second loss of 20-plus points in conference play.
The home game against Georgia earlier in the season was the first loss of 20-plus points in conference play.
vs. Alabama (L 78-92)
A historic performance from Alabama’s Jasmine Walker, who scored 41 points, demolished any hopes the Tigers had of grabbing a victory over their rival school. It was Auburn’s best night offensively in conference play. Thompson and Scott-Grayson combining for 49 points in the loss.
at. Mississippi State (L 68-81)
The rebound record that Thompson had been chasing all season finally fell against Mississippi State. With 5:28 to go in the third quarter, the senior grabbed career rebound No. 1,119, passing Jackson for most all-time in Auburn history. She finished her career with 1,156 rebounds.
"It means everything to me," Thompson said of the record. "It's hard to not get choked up and teary-eyed. I had goosebumps the whole game. Before the game I was a nervous wreck, just knowing what I had to do tonight. Once I looked up and saw that I had (10 rebounds), I couldn't do anything but smile. I knew I had to work hard and it wasn't going to come easy tonight."
Auburn held the lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs came back and outscored Auburn 45-26 in the second half for the win.
vs. Arkansas (L 74-69)
There was one senior to be recognized for Auburn’s final home game, and in a way, it was fitting that it be Thompson’s night. Thompson was honored pregame with a video message and ceremony to celebrate her many accomplishments and accolades while attending Auburn.
With family and friends of Thompson wearing t-shirts that read “The Last Shade” (a reference to Thompson’s final season and her shades of lipstick she so famously wears during games), Auburn put up a fight in Thompson’s final home game against the No. 16 team in the country.
The Tigers left it all on the court for their senior and their leader. Auburn took a one-point lead into halftime and even led by five heading into the final quarter. But, the more-experienced Razorback team showed its depth in the fourth quarter, outscoring Auburn by 10 on its way to a victory.
Thompson reflected on her career inside Auburn Arena postgame.
“It’s a good feeling knowing that I gave everything I had my four years,” Thompson said. “I have support from everyone around me. My teammates, my family, my coaches, literally everybody that’s rooting for me. It’s just a good feeling knowing I’m making them proud.”
at. Tennessee (L 54-88)
Points were difficult to come by for Auburn in its final game of the regular season. It was hardly a contest, as the Tigers suffered their largest defeat of the season to the Volunteers, by 34 points. Alaina Rice led the team with 11 points in the loss.
Tennessee was a No. 3-seed in the NCAA tournament, but was upset by No. 6-seed Michigan in the second round.
vs. Florida (First Round SEC Tournament) (L 62-69)
If there was one game that the Tigers were to win during conference play, there was no better time than the SEC Tournament. Despite keeping it close and trailing by one at halftime, Florida was never outscored by Auburn in a quarter on its way to advancing to the second round.
Thompson ended her Auburn career the only way Thompson could: with her 58th career double-double. It extended her all-time Auburn record and moved her into seventh place in SEC history for career double-doubles.
The season began with uncertainty and so will the offseason. With Thompson graduating and recently announcing that she will enter into the WNBA Draft this year, the on-court leader of the Tigers will not be around next season.
Neither will Williams-Flournoy, whose nine years on the Plains ended with three NCAA tournament appearances and an overall record of 140-138.
There is an empty office to be filled for Auburn women’s basketball. A new era is waiting to begin.