Unique Thompson grabbed her 1,000th career rebound on Sunday, becoming the fifth player in program history to achieve this milestone.
Despite the milestone, turnover issues proved costly for the Tigers as Belmont defeated Auburn in the non-conference finale 78-57 inside Auburn Arena.
“It was just some terrible decisions on the turnovers,” said head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. “Some of the turnovers were so out of character.”
Turnovers were a struggle early for the Tigers, who committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter. Belmont took advantage, scoring 12 of its 26 first-quarter points off of turnovers. The Bruins’ Conley Chinn led the effort with 11 points in the first 10 minutes of play and finished with a career-high 21 points.
“It’s just not the way you can start the game,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Especially against a very veteran, great team like Belmont was.”
In the second quarter, Belmont saw its lead grow to as many as 18 following a 7-0 run with 6:01 remaining until halftime. Auburn was unable to cut into the deficit or keep pace because of the Bruins’ 3-point shooting.
In the first half, Belmont shot nearly 60% from beyond the arc and was 7-of-12 from 3-point range. Belmont finished the afternoon with 33 points coming from 3-point range.
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Auburn trailed 45-28 heading into halftime after being outscored 19-14 in the second quarter.
While the second half saw much of the same as Belmont outscored the Tigers by a combined score of 33-29, there was one positive for the Tigers. Thompson became the fifth player in program history to reach 1,000 career rebounds and did so in the third quarter.
“I’m so proud of Unique,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I hate that we lose because she does not get the recognition that she so deserves. She’s doing unbelievable work.”
By the time the game was over, she had surpassed Vickie Orr for fourth all-time. Thompson now has 1,010 career rebounds and counting.
Thompson scored 20 points in the loss and finished with 23 rebounds. It’s the second time this season she’s recorded 20-20 numbers, with the other being in the loss against Houston.
Coming into this season, no player had posted a 20-20 performance for Auburn since 1993. Thompson has now done it twice.
Her 23 rebounds are the third-most in a single game at Auburn, and she has done this twice this season. No Auburn player had grabbed 23 rebounds in a game since 1988.
Thompson was not the only one setting career numbers in the loss.
Honesty Scott-Grayson finished with a career-high 18 points in a career-high 31 minutes. As conference play quickly approaches, Williams-Flournoy is excited to see the Baylor transfer beginning to hit her stride.
“I’m so excited that she’s gotten her confidence back,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It’s a rhythm that you have to get back into playing. I think she’s finally finding that rhythm, and it's a great time for her to find it right now.”
Despite the performances from Thompson and Scott-Grayson, the Tigers were unable to close the gap created in the first quarter and fell for the third time this season. Only four other Tigers scored in the loss combining for 19 points.
“[Scott-Grayson] and Unique are a great two-punch, we just need some of the other people to step up,” Williams-Flournoy said. “That’s really what we need.”
Williams-Flournoy and Auburn will now turn their attention to its conference-opener on the road against LSU on New Year's Eve. The game is set to tipoff at 6 p.m. CST in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and will be broadcast on SEC Network+.
“This isn’t just going into conference play,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We’re going into the SEC conference play. If you thought you were working hard, you’re going to have to pick it up.”
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