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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn falls short in overtime to Missouri

December 20, 2021; Auburn, Alabama; Sania Wells (2) sets up the Tiger offense in a match between Auburn and Kennesaw State in the Auburn Arena.
December 20, 2021; Auburn, Alabama; Sania Wells (2) sets up the Tiger offense in a match between Auburn and Kennesaw State in the Auburn Arena.

Auburn came up just short on Thursday, falling to Missouri 72-63 in overtime on the road in its second SEC contest of the season. A third-quarter scoring run by Missouri and a dominant overtime period aided the Tigers to their 13th win of the season.

With the loss, Auburn falls to 8-5 overall and 0-2 in SEC play, extending its conference-game losing streak to 18 games.

Sania Wells posted a career-best performance on the night, dropping 20 points in the loss. 

“I thought she came out and she battled. She got shots, she got good looks,” Harris said. “I put in a quick screen for her in transition. She came off that screen, got deep, got into the paint, or got 10 to 12-foot jumpers and she knocked those down all day. I thought she followed the game plan and played one of her best games for us.”

Wells’ offensive impact kept Auburn in the game, after it lost its best player off the bench, Jala Jordan, to an injury early in the game.

Jordan went down with an ankle injury nearly midway through the second quarter and did not return. The junior forward leads all of Auburn’s bench in scoring, averaging 7.4 points per game. Although recently, Jordan had scored in double figures in three of the last four contests.

“Jala was a little under the weather before the game started, so I didn’t know how much I was going to get out of her anyway,” Harris said. “That really does hurt, because between her and Kiyae’ [White] are our two 5 players. I had to play [Aicha Coulibaly] down there a little bit.”

With Jordan leaving the game and White getting into foul trouble, it left Coulibaly outsized down low.

“When Jala went out and we had Kiyae in foul trouble, we were really small,” Harris said. “They took advantage of that.”

Honesty Scott-Grayson put Auburn on the board first to open the game and Wells scored her first points of the night shortly after to open the game with a 4-0 lead. Much of what Auburn did offensively in the first can be attributed to Wells, who shot 4-of-7 for nine points in the first quarter.

“I thought we came out ready to play. We battled. I thought we played really, really hard early,” Harris said. “I tried to call some timeouts and try to sub and give them a minute or two so that we could maintain that, but we kind of wore out a little bit.”

Auburn took a 17-13 lead into the second quarter, where Missouri’s leading scorer came alive. Missouri’s LaDazhia Williams had eight points in the second quarter, which by the end of the night totaled a team-high 25 points.

Williams’ 25 points was a career-high, which was a result of the mismatch down low.

“We let her get deep in the paint and catch the ball,” Harris said. “She was able to bury us and get the ball where she wanted to get it. It was difficult. She’s bigger, she’s stronger, a little more physical so she was able to get some good stuff down there.”

However, Auburn maintained its four-point lead into halftime, at 32-28.

The second half opened like most of the first half had gone, with both teams making some shots but the lead never growing too far out of reach. Auburn’s largest lead came with a little over six minutes to go in the third quarter at seven points.

Missouri then started clicking on both sides of the ball, going on a 12-0 run to take a five-point lead, before Scott-Grayson knocked down a pair of free throws to end the scoring drought. 

Auburn trailed 45-42 heading into the fourth quarter.

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“I just told them they’re going to have to toughen up,” Harris said. “Like, we’re right here, so you’re gonna have to toughen up and finish this.”

It was in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter where Auburn finally started making its shots. Harris’ squad made five out of its first six shots to open the quarter, going up 53-48 with 6:38 to go on the clock.

“I thought we toughened up a little bit and were able to get us back,” Harris said. “That fourth quarter was up and down.”

Missouri climbed back in the game, knocking down shots and doing what it does best — knockdown free throws. The home Tigers came into Thursday’s contest as the SEC’s best free-throw shooting team.

It ignited a back-and-forth affair to end regulation, deadlocked at 59.

In overtime, it was all the home team. Missouri outscored Auburn 13-4 in the overtime period, where Auburn shot 20% from the field. According to Harris, the shots were there but Auburn wasn’t knocking them down.

“We got the shots we wanted, we just didn’t knock them down,” Harris said. “It comes from toughness. I thought [Missouri] was tougher than us in overtime.”

Auburn returns to Auburn Arena to face LSU on Jan. 9 for its first home game in nearly three weeks. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. CST and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

“We got a ways to go, we’re a work in progress, but we’ll keep after it,” Harris said.

Caleb Jones | Sports Editor

Originally from Helena, Ala., Caleb Jones is a senior studying journalism at Auburn University. He has been on staff with The Plainsman since 2019.

You can follow him here on Twitter: @calebjsports

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