AUBURN, Ala.—Auburn’s first postseason under head coach Johnnie Harris has come to an end with the Tigers falling to Clemson on the road, 56-55. It was a hard fought contest between squads, with Auburn shooting 42% from the floor and Clemson shooting 43%, but the Tigers of the ACC got one more clutch bucket than Auburn, securing a trip to the Super Sixteen.
Clemson trailed in the final minutes, but a go-ahead layup from Daisha Bradford completed the comeback and secured the victory for Clemson. Auburn had one final possession, but it ended in a turnover after a charge was called.
One of the reasons Auburn remained in the game and even held a lead was All-SEC second team selection Aicha Coulibaly. Building off of her stellar performance against Tulane, Coulibaly had 14 points, on 7-for-16 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. She was a force on both ends, helping hold Clemson to shooting just 27% from three, but the junior forward went down with an injury and would miss the final 5:52 of the game.
Already shorthanded with Precious Johnson not in the rotation and Sania Wells seeing just seven minutes of action, the Tigers lost another key player when Kharyssa Richardson had a hard fall and left the floor for the remainder of the game.
“We had a short bench, but everybody came in and did what we asked them to do,” said Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris.
Richardson was not as effective tonight, going 1-for-8 from the floor, but her inside presence and rebounding ability were missed. Auburn continued to fight despite the injuries, and Mar’shaun Bostic hit one more layup to extend the lead to three with just over two minutes remaining.
Bostic had a career-night for the Tigers, The sophomore guard smashed her career high, finishing with 23 points on 11-for-18 shooting, along with two assists and four steals.
“I put the ball in Mar’Shaun’s hand, I felt like she could get to the rim whenever, and she did,” said Harris. “You’ll take that from her any night. I would have loved to see her get to the free throw line a little bit more. But she also guarded their leading scorer … who ended up with six points. She and AC played hard and followed our game plan.”
Bostic was on the floor for 39 of the 40 minutes of action, leading both teams. She held Clemson guard Brie Perpignan to 3-for-10 shooting and just six points.
That clutch basket from Bostic extended the lead, but it was also the last make for Auburn, as fatigue and a tenacious Clemson defense began to set in.
“We got some big stops on the defensive end, just couldn’t convert,” Harris said. “We tried to drive the ball a lot in the fourth quarter, trying to draw fouls. But we’ve got to finish shots with contact.
With Coulibaly and Richardson off the floor, Clemson was able to attack the basket with center Eno Inyang who had four straight points and cut the deficit to one before Bradford hit the game-winner.
It was a tough end to the second season of the Coach J era, but the optimism surrounding the program remains high and the future looks bright.
“A lot to build on from this year. These kids came back after the SEC Tournament, we changed a little bit the way we were playing. We got after it a little bit more. They bought into it, they really enjoyed playing that way. They gave me everything they had, and I’m really proud of them,” Harris said. “We’re looking forward to them getting some rest, then being able to work with them and get better.”