AUBURN, Ala. – Coming off an impressive road win against Kentucky, Auburn was tasked with yet another big challenge. The Tigers played host to the Florida Gators in what was set to be a big matchup for both sides. In front of a loud Neville Arena crowd, Auburn stood up to the challenge and defeated Florida for their third consecutive victory by a score of 66-55.
“We came out a little sluggish, but we got it back midway through the first quarter and then my team played with an edge,” Auburn head coach Jonnie Harris said. “I thought they played tough; they were physical and aggressive.”
Auburn was led by Kharyssa Richardson, an unlikely face, in the important win. The forward was a force on both ends of the floor for the Tigers with a career-high in points and rebounds, ultimately finishing with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
“Just doing a lot for my team, whatever I can do,” Richardson said on her performance. “My mindset is to rebound and box out. I’m not big on scoring, I just got to do what I got to do for my team.”
It was a slow start to the game for both sides, but Auburn made a statement come the second quarter. The Tigers dominated all aspects of the game, which led to a 14-0 run to close out the half. On the defensive end, the Tigers were as sharp as a team can get, only allowing Florida two points the entire 10 minute frame.
The dominant defensive play would continue throughout the game, as the Tigers would go onto finish with only giving up eight two-point baskets.
“Coach Fred did a really good job preparing us,” Harris said. “He kept switching the defense to try and throw them off balance.”
Coming out of the break with a 27-20 lead, Auburn wasted no time extending its advantage to double digits. Richardson played a crucial role in the run, scoring nine of the Tigers 25 points in the quarter. Auburn would go on to score a plethora of field goals within the paint, which was a key to success going into the game.
“Whether it was from the guards or from the post players, they did a really good job of taking what the defense gave them,” Harris said. “I thought they made some tough, tough layups – they finished with contact.”
Possibly one of the biggest bright spots for the Tigers came on the glass where they collected 52 rebounds, which was 12 better than Florida. Sixteen of those rebounds came on the offensive end and ultimately led to an important 14 second chance points.
An Auburn double digit lead would not phase Florida, as the squad would go on late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter that saw the margin between the teams drop to six points. However, the Tigers would respond in a big way with a 7-0 run midway through the final quarter to put the game to rest.
Aicha Coulibaly continued her dominance with yet another double-double, finishing the night with 14 points and 11 rebounds. After having to go out of the game during the fourth quarter due to a hard fall, the junior was able to come back in and finish off the game with a crucial steal to halt any momentum from the Gators. Even with a double-double, the guard found a way to make her importance felt in another way, assists. Coulibaly added five assists to the stat line, while reminding opponents that she can do it all.
“I though AC had an amazing game, as well,” Harris said. “She had five assists; she’s playing very unselfish. She can see the floor and make good passes, make good reads.”
Auburn will be back in action Sunday against Arkansas at Neville Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.