BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. – Coach was cool once school was out for spring break.
Instead of keeping the Auburn women’s basketball players around for practice, with their postseason situation undetermined, Terri Williams-Flournoy turned the Tigers loose for the week. Most went home for the week, though Williams-Flournoy noticed a few girls coming back with fresh tans.
Since Auburn’s season will continue in Wednesday night’s WNIT first-round game against Alabama-Birmingham at Auburn Arena at 6 p.m. CT, the Tigers hope to reward their coach’s hall pass with a deep playoff run.
“I actually think it’s a lot easier to get them back, then to have them here over spring back wanting to be somewhere else,” Williams-Flournoy said. “(So we) let them go ahead, have their break, and then come back and get them focused again.”
Auburn (16-14) won 12 of 15 games on its home floor, and hopes to extend that dominance over UAB (18-12). The Tigers are 29-4 all-time against the in-state foe, defeating the Blazers 74-60 to open the 2007 WNIT.
“I think everybody’s refreshed,” senior forward and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Blanche Alverson said. “We were talking before practice, we had a little break, now we’re back and ready to go. Everybody’s looking forward to it and getting after it.”
Alverson and four teammates were involved with Auburn’s 2011 WNIT appearance, losing to eventual champion Toledo in the second round.
None of the current Tigers have played a postseason home game.
“I just know it was a different experience,” Alverson said. “There was a fun atmosphere to it, because everybody knew it’s either win or go home at that point.”
That principle of single elimination, no second chances, isn’t lost on Auburn.
“We just have to take it like a regular game, and play as hard as we can,” said second-team All-SEC guard Hasina Muhammad. “The results will be (based on) however hard we play. If we play good and play hard, I know we’re going to win, so we’re not really worried about it.”
Courtney Strain is out for the year with an injury, and Julie King has moved on to her professional soccer contract with the Boston Breakers, leaving Auburn’s guard depth in peril.
“It’ll be quite interesting,” Williams-Flournoy said. “All ten better be ready to play.”
Both Auburn and UAB prefer to push the tempo, which could make for a high-scoring affair.
“That’s the way we like to play,” Alverson said. “If we can get up and pressure teams, and run up and down the floor, then let’s do it.”
Regardless of whether Auburn bows out Wednesday, or makes its way to the April 6 championship, this helps Williams-Flournoy lay the groundwork in her first season on the Plains and look to evaluate her 2013-14 squad.
“It gives you an opportunity to always look at your future,” Williams-Flournoy said. “A lot of people turn down the opportunity to play in the WNIT. I don’t think you do that. I think you look at it as, looking forward toward our growth.
“Then,” Williams-Flournoy concluded, “what’s our goal for the next season?”