Auburn, Ala—The Auburn Tigers (14-7, 3-5) opened the month of February by hosting the #1 South Carolina Gamecocks (20-0, 8-0) inside Neville Arena for a game that was a tale of two halves.
Even though the final score was 76-54, it does not mean that Auburn did not play well, and the game was not in contention from the start. The first half was extremely competitive, and Auburn was keeping up with the number-one team in the country.
Auburn’s Head Coach Johnnie Harris said, “I was really proud of how we came out; we were tough and just battled, and that’s what I wanted to see.”
For the first half, Auburn was tough and made it hard for South Carolina to score and run their offense, and it appeared as though the game would be competitive.
South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley said, “They (Auburn) made us play bad, it was their pressure defense and their ability to play their style of play. I thought we did a better job of sharing the basketball and putting people in positions to be effective offensively in the second half.”
The Gamecocks adjustments in the second half certainly helped, and they outscored Auburn 49-32 in the second half, preventing all but Honesty Scott-Grayson from having more than double-digit points.
Despite South Carolina eventually winning by 22, Auburn’s defense proved challenging for South Carolina in the first half, and they held Te-Hina Paopao, the nation’s top 3-point shooter, to 1-4 from beyond the arc, and the Gamecocks to 4-16 from beyond the arc.
“They challenge every pass and they put pressure on the ball, they disrupt your offense, you can’t get to any of your options. So, you got to go make a play and fight aggression with aggression. So, the first half was just that, and in the second we got in Transition,” Staley said.
For South Carolina, it was not only the fact that they were able to get the ball in transition, but it was also the fact that Auburn could not seem to get a single basket outside of Honesty Scott-Grayson.
Scott-Grayson tied her career high of 31 points in a game, which is a feat, especially against South Carolina and she had 24 of Auburn’s 32 second-half points. Honesty also had twice as many points as any player on both Auburn and South Carolina, the next highest point total was 15 from South Carolina’s MiLaysia Fulwiley.
“She’s got some trickery out there that forces you to guard her a certain way, and when you try to guard her that way, you know she’ll pivot, and she did a great job of making us guard her, and we didn’t do a very good job with it,” Coach Staley said on Scott Grayson’s performance.
Honesty Scott-Grayson’s performance tonight is what helped keep South Carolina from getting a 30 or even 40-point lead, and Coach Harris said, “To see this doesn’t surprise me,” which shows just what a veteran player can do, even when her team is not winning.
Despite the loss, Auburn can take pride in how they played in the first half, especially in holding South Carolina to their second-lowest points scored in the first half, but they still have some work to do on the offense, especially in getting more people to score more points, and not relying so heavily on Honesty Scott-Grayson.
Next, Auburn has a quick turnaround as they’ll head to Arkansas this Sunday, February 4th where tipoff will happen at 5:00 pm CT, with the chance to secure a winning record in the SEC regular season.