Auburn aimed to start conference play hot after gliding through its non-conference schedule with a lot of positives, but facing a talented SEC team in Ole Miss, the Tigers went cold and lost their SEC opener.
Auburn's trip to Ole Miss marked the Tigers' first true road game this season. While Auburn played a couple neutral-site games in Las Vegas as a part of the Las Vegas Invitational, its first game in front of a home crowd caused issues offensively.
The Tigers scored just 47 points, a season low, and shot just 25% from the field while not hitting a single three pointer. Auburn's shooting percentage was also a season low. Prior to Thursday night's game, Auburn ranked second in the SEC in three-point shooting (38.2%) but did not hit any of its 10 attempts on the road.
"They got us on our heels," said head coach Johnnie Harris. "We couldn't make a shot. Our shot just wasn't falling tonight, and then we were on our heels defensively. We had a lot of undisciplined and unforced turnovers, trying to thread the needle. Just a lot of mistakes that you can't make against a team like this."
Auburn's struggles started straight from tip-off as the Tigers did not lead for a single second of the conference matchup. In the first quarter, Auburn only made three shots while turning the ball over six times and consequently, found itself down eight. That trend continued as Auburn's turnover mark at the final buzzer (18) outweighed its made field goals (15).
On top of its struggles shooting and turning the ball over, Auburn was also punished on the glass. The Tigers were outrebounded 53-37 while giving up 17 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points. Ole Miss continued its domination down low with 52 points in the paint to Auburn's 20.
A large part of Auburn's offensive struggles could be attributed to one of its most explosive offensive players missing the game. Honesty Scott-Grayson, tied for eighth in the SEC in points per game (15.8), was with the team on the bench but was not suited up to play as she is dealing with what Auburn called "minor injuries."
"It was tough. Hopefully our freshmen and young players learn a lesson (from tonight)," Harris said. "We're not going to make any excuses, but we've got to be tougher, we've got to be more physical. We'll go back to the drawing board and work on it."
With Scott-Grayson unavailable, Auburn turned to Sydney Shaw and Sania Wells as its primary ball handlers but the duo struggled on the road with just four combined points and six turnovers to two assists.
Aicha Coulibaly, the fourth-leading scorer in the SEC (16.8), returned to Auburn's starting lineup after missing the previous three games and led the team in scoring with 13 points — the sixth time this season the junior has led the Tigers in scoring.
Next for Auburn is a return home as the Tigers face Missouri on New Year's Day. The game tips-off at 3 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on SEC Network.
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Jacob is a sophomore from Leeds, Alabama. This is his second year with The Auburn Plainsman.