Tigers come up short to Georgia Southern in opener

AUBURN, Ala. – A back-and-forth game saw Auburn have its chances but ultimately come up just short to Georgia Southern 68-66 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night at Auburn Arena.
 
In a game that saw 11 ties and 12 lead changes, Auburn (1-0) pulled ahead 63-60 with just under two minutes left on an Aicha Coulibaly 3-pointer. But a defensive breakdown followed by a turnover and an open layup put the Eagles back ahead, and Auburn could not regain the advantage. A potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds missed, and the Tigers could not get another good look at the basket.
 
“We got the shot we wanted down the stretch, but there were a lot of things that led up to that and caused this loss,” Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said. “We’ll just have to go back, watch the film and prepare a little bit better. I talked to my team about preparing. You can’t just come in on game day and want to play. You have to prepare.”
 
Poor shooting plagued the Tigers as they were 33.3 percent from the field (24-72) and 59 percent (13-22) at the free-throw line. Shooting improved late, but the Tigers missed multiple scoring opportunities with missed layups and other good looks at the basket. Foul trouble was also an issue as three Auburn players fouled out.
 
“We were 1-for-7 from the free-throw line (early in the first half),” Harris said. “You have to cash those in. I thought we were out of sync, our point guard play was not good, and we didn’t play well behind them. We put them at the line too much – silly fouls, fouls 50 feet from the basket. We’ll just have to coach better and teach better.”
 
Junior Sania Wells led all scorers with a career-high 19 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Coulibaly added 12 points and a team-leading 8 rebounds, and Honesty Scott-Grayson overcame early foul trouble and a scoreless first half to finish with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
 
Auburn out-rebounded Georgia Southern 50-46 ad turned 21 Eagle turnovers into 15 points. But the Eagles’ bench outscored Auburn’s 35-15, and the Tigers had 22 turnovers of their own. The Eagles were also 21-of-30 at the free-throw line.
 
Neither team led by more than six points during the game. Georgia Southern led 13-9 at the end of one and 31-29 at the half. Included in that stretch was a run where Auburn missed 12 of 13 shots in the first quarter before finding some offense early in the second; three straight 3-pointers, capped by a corner trey from Annie Hughes, gave Auburn a 22-20 lead.
 
The cold shooting continued to the second half where Auburn missed eight of its first nine shots before finding their stroke late in the period. A layup and-one from Paris Mullins put Auburn back in front 41-40 with 2:35 left, but Georgia Southern led 44-43 after three. The Eagles led most of the final period before the Tigers hit four straight shots in the final four minutes, capped by Coulibaly’s trey to give Auburn the lead. But Georgia Southern capitalized on free throw opportunities down the stretch to hold off the Tigers.
 
Five players scored in double figures for Georgia Southern, led by 12 points from Mya Burns. Thaniya Marks added 11 points and 9 rebounds.
 
The Tigers hit the road for the first time in 2021-22 with a trip to Norfolk, Va., to take on Old Dominion Sunday afternoon. Game time is 1 p.m. CT with a broadcast on ESPN+ and WQSI 93.9 FM.
 

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