Following a forgetful first fifteen minute performance, the Auburn Tigers carried the momentum of a late first half run into the second half. From there, it was get the ball to #5 and get out of the way.
“When we got in tough situations, we went to our leader and she produced”, Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said, praising the toughness of Aicha Coulibaly as the Tigers defeated Ole Miss 77-76 in overtime.
The Auburn Tigers (11-8, 1-6 SEC) hosted the Rebels of Ole Miss (16-4, 5-2 SEC) inside Neville Arena on Sunday, January 22 at 4:00PM. The Tigers were seeking their first SEC win of the year, while the Rebels were trying to bounce back and avoid two straight losses.
Ole Miss carried the momentum throughout the first quarter and a majority of the second. Shooting 46% on 13-28 in the first half, having a +8 rebounding margin, and your leading scorer, Angel Baker, already with 15, it seemed as if the Rebels had everything mapped out to cruise to their sixth conference win.
Auburn shot a poor 25% from the field, only making eight field goals, and were thankful for the free throw line keeping them afloat, going 16-18 from the stripe. However, with a 10-0 run late in the second quarter, the deficit was cut to single digits and momentum had seemingly shifted slightly, as Ole Miss led 41-33.
The Tigers took that halftime momentum and ran with it, because the third quarter was all Auburn and all Aicha Coulibaly. She had 12 of her career high 31 in the third quarter alone, going 6-9 from the field. The Tigers made 7 of their first 11 shots and were 10-18 throughout the third period. More importantly, the Auburn defense stepped up, which created easier scoring opportunities. Ole Miss was held to only two made field goals and 12 points, compared to the Tigers 24.
The fourth quarter consisted of scoring droughts and tenacious defense on both ends of the floor. Both squads were unable to capitalize on their “timeout out of bounds” plays before the fourth quarter buzzer, so five more minutes were added back onto the clock for overtime.
With a three pointer early in OT from Aicha Coulibaly, proving some banks are open on Sundays, the Tigers felt it was their game to take.
“I didn't know it was going in”, Coulibaly said with a laugh. “It was a bank shot, but it counted, so it was a good one”. The Tigers’ captain and leading scorer finished with a career high 31 points (12-20 from the field), as well as seven rebounds. She also had four assists in the contest, none bigger than the backdoor bounce pass to Honesty Scott-Grayson to ultimately seal the deal for the Tigers.
Between the adversity, the fight, the highs and lows emotionally, the toughness, and the energy, this game for the Tigers felt comparable to their season as a whole. With both teams giving everything they have for forty minutes and finding out five more are needed, Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said that’s when it’s time to come alive.
“We work as hard as anyone else”, coach Harris voiced. “So when we go into overtime, that’s our time. You forget about being tired, forget about being hurt, it’s go time”.
And ‘go time’ it was, as the Tigers walked away victorious in a physical battle.
The Tigers look to build off their momentum as they head to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the Wildcats (9-10, 1-6 SEC) on Thursday, January 26 at 6:00PM, before enjoying a three game home stand.