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A spirit that is not afraid

Coulibaly, Scott-Grayson cook in Auburn's biggest win this season over UCF

<p>Jakayla Johnson (#3) is dribbling against UCF at the Neville Arena on Dec. 3, 2022.&nbsp;</p>

Jakayla Johnson (#3) is dribbling against UCF at the Neville Arena on Dec. 3, 2022. 

On December's first Saturday afternoon, Auburn women's basketball proved that weekends on the Plains aren't going to lose much excitement after the end of football season last Saturday.

On the first Saturday of the fall semester without football, Auburn women's basketball followed men's basketball's big Friday night win with a 86-46 domination of previously undefeated UCF. In all phases, this was a complete, team manhandling of the Knights in Auburn's most lopsided win so far this season (previous was a 39-point, 88-49 win over Alabama State). 

"I thought we came out and imposed our will. We played our style of basketball," said head coach Johnnie Harris. "They were challenged, you know, from the last game, I didn't feel like they played hard enough, so we challlenged them to play our style of basketball, and I thought we came out and did that tonight."

From winning the turnover battle, dominating the paint with nine blocks and winning the rebound battle 51-33 to putting on its second-best shooting performance of the year at 48% from the field (Auburn shot 50.7% versus Alabama State), everything was working for Auburn. But it seemed like nothing was falling for the Knights, who shot 22% from the field, including 0-for-8 on 3-pointers.

"That was another challenge for them because we hadn't been rebounding well, and (Little Rock) out rebounded us, so I challenged them," Harris said. "We sent three people to the board, and we had one going to the free-throw line to get anything loose."

Honesty Scott-Grayson led the team in points with 22 on 3-for-3 from beyond the arch, but this was another tale of dominance from Aicha Coulibaly in her second double-double of the regular season and her first since the season-opener. She tallied 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

One sequence in particular though, Coulibaly ran the floor. She recorded a steal, a no-look, across-the-floor assist, a defensive rebound, a clean, mid-range block, and a pass break-up. But Scott-Grayson didn't even realize she was perfect from beyond the arch, and Coulibaly was oblivious to that sequence where she was a one-player wrecking ball. However, Harris noticed.

"She was locked in. (Coulibaly) went in a zone.," Harris said. "It's AC being AC. She can do that whenever. She's so talented and hard to deal with, and we just try to create mismatches for her."

Scott-Grayson and Coulibaly cooked, but that's nothing new for the duo of upperclassmen top scorers from last season. But they weren't the only double-figure scorers. Off the bench, sophomore guard Mar'Shaun Bostic went on a breakout streak capped off by a steal and lay-in to give Auburn its biggest lead of the game in the fourth quarter, a 33-point advantage. 

Defensively, the team capitalized off of 18 UCF turnovers and held the Knights to 22.4% shooting from the field. 

In her first start of the season, senior guard Sania Wells only managed one point, but she added three blocks , two steals and three assists while playing staunch defense on the perimeter, ensuring UCF went 0-for-8 on 3-pointers and had no assists as a team.

After an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double against Little Rock last time out, Romi Levy also earned her second consecutive start, but she wasn't the star of the show in this one. It wasn't't until the fourth quarter that she nailed one from beyond the arch to boost her to five points. In 15 minutes on the court, she added four rebounds but coughed the ball up three times and committed four personal fouls.

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On the other side of the ball, Auburn turned in its second-best shooting performance of the season, shooting 47.8% from the field. While both teams shot over 70% from the free-throw line, the Tigers also dominated the Knights in 3-point shooting. Auburn converted 6-of-13 3s while UCF made none. 

But there was no area where UCF out dueled the Tigers. Auburn racked up 42 points in the paint as well compared to 24 from the Knights.

After improving to 6-2 after dethroning unbeaten UCF, Auburn will have eight days off before moving its focus to its next matchup with 5-4 ULM. Auburn will go into finals week with three straight wins and a well-earned physical break.

"We have finals, so we'll have a couple days off to study and get healthy, get some treatment in. Then, we'll come back and have a couple days of practice, then another day off," Harris said. "They'll have about three days to prepare for ULM."

Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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