Auburn, AL - Auburn women’s basketball opened their season against Sam Houston Tuesday night. In a year where the Tigers look to redeem themselves after losing eight of the last nine games to close out the previous season, the team needed a win to begin this year. Some might say this team needed a birthday wish to come true for a win to happen on opening night. Well, Auburn’s wish was answered, this time by none other than Auburns’ own Aicha Coulibaly. Behind a dominate performance from the junior, Auburn would go on to secure their first victory of the season by a score of 90-76 against Sam Houston on the night of head coach Johnnie Harris’s birthday.
“It was awesome, awesome birthday present,” Harris jokingly said. “I’m really pleased with the win. We turned the ball over a little too much, there’s some stuff we can learn from, and we will going forward. Overall, really good win.”
Coming into this year Coulibaly was expected to make an impact, but no one could have expected this big of a contribution only one game into the season. After averaging 17.1 points her sophomore year, the Mali native jumped right back in like she never left. Whether it was a score off a long-range pass from Honestly Scott-Grayson or a drive straight to the bucket, Coulibaly was a force to be reconned with. She would dominate on both ends of the floor, finishing the game with a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds in only 31 minutes of action.
"This is just the preseason," Coulibaly said. "I'm proud of what I did today, but I still feel like I have a lot to improve. It feels amazing but we're playing better teams as we go into the season. I feel like I've still got to lock in and help my team out as we go.”
The Tigers dominated the defensive end of the floor once again. Sam Houston was forced into 33 turnovers - an improvement on an already impressive 23 turnovers forced against Tuskegee last week in an exhibition game.
A pair of Jakayla Johnson free throws late in the third quarter would spark Auburns second six-zero run against Sam Houston during the quarter. Coulibaly would notch two points off a Sam Houston turnover, as Mya Pratcher would do the same less then twenty seconds later.
“I thought we kind of wore them down a little bit, and that’s what our defense does to people,” Harris said. “They’ll hang around and all of a sudden, we see they get tired that’s the time we attack, and I felt like we attacked at the right time.”
Sydney Shaw would see her name added to the scoresheet with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. The freshman struggled out of the gate, picking up two fouls within the first four minutes after logging her first career start. Shaw would be able to hit a pair of jumpers to add onto an already dominate lead. She would go on to finish with 12 points and two assists, capping off her night with a long range shot from behind the arc.
Auburn will try and ride the momentum from tonight’s victory into their next game against the South Alabama Jaguars this Thursday night at Neville Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CT on SECN+.