BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – Continuing to set up camp nicely in the WNIT, the Auburn women’s basketball team (17-14) looks to prolong its season once again Sunday at 3 p.m. ET in the second round against Western Kentucky (22-10).
The Tigers are now 9-2 all-time in the postseason event, including a perfect 4-0 in the first round following Wednesday’s 80-57 demolition of UAB, which was done in by a local girl – Auburn junior guard Tyrese Tanner from Birmingham, who poured in a career-best 29 points.
Now it’s on to the Hilltoppers, who boast two sophomores with gaudy numbers. Alexis Govan (20.3 points) and Chastity Gooch (16.0 points, 11.3 rebounds) will try to take down the host Tigers, who at home are 6-1 all-time in the WNIT and – more importantly – 13-3 at home this season.
“Alexis Govan is an unbelievable player and a tough matchup for us,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “She is playing the four spot, which for them really is not a post player, she is a guard at the four. As well as Chastity Gooch inside, she is playing extremely well for them. Their guards are steady, it will be a tough matchup for us; we are going to have to sit down and defend.”
The winner will take on either Arkansas or Tulane in the quarterfinals, late next week.
Walk-up tickets are available – $10 for reserved seating and $7 for general admission. The game will be aired at AuburnTigers.com.
Six All-American swimmers
The Auburn women’s swimming and diving squad landed six All-America honors in Saturday’s conclusion of the NCAA championships in Indianapolis.
Seniors Katie Gardocki (1650 freestyle) and Micah Lawrence (200 breaststroke), along with the Tigers’ 400 free relay (Hannah Riordan, Emily Bos, Megan Fonteno, Olivia Scott) finished in the top 16 of their events on the last day, helping Auburn to a team finish of No. 13 in the final standings.
Scott won the 100 butterfly Friday night, Auburn’s only individual championship of the week. The Tigers had a total of 19 All-American qualifying times over three days, including five for Bos and four for Scott.
O’Neal, Tigers baseball tumbles
Michael O’Neal is figuring out, after a phenomenal start to his Auburn baseball career against non-conference opponents, the SEC is a whole new ballgame.
O’Neal (4-2) took his second straight loss Saturday night to a top-three opponent in the Tigers’ 5-1 defeat at No. 3 LSU at Alex Box Stadium.
The Pacelli and CVCC product was 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA, six walks against 14 strikeouts, before the SEC slate began. After scraping together a quality start vs. No. 2 Vanderbilt last weekend, O’Neal went just four innings Saturday, yielding seven hits and five runs (four earned) in defeat, seeing his ERA rise to 2.78.
Offensively, Auburn (15-8) is developing a habit of creating opportunities but failing to capitalize. The Tigers had 10 hits, but left 10 men on base and scored just one run.
“We kept the game close and that’s what you have to do against good teams,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said. “I thought we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities, we just weren’t able to come up with something. I was hoping someone could find a hole and we could score some runs but it didn’t happen. These guys keep battling hard and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to get something going.”
Auburn’s in serious trouble in the league standings, dropping to 0-5. The series finale is Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Soccer coach extended
Karen Hoppa, who has brought Auburn women’s soccer to seven consecutive NCAA tournaments and back-to-back SEC title game appearances, will remain with the Tigers through the 2017 season, awarded a five-year extension late Friday night.
“While we take great pride in what we have accomplished here during my tenure, we know there is more work to do and I will work tirelessly to take this program to the next level,” Hoppa said. “I am blessed to work at such a wonderful institution, and I look forward to the next five years.”
Auburn is 164-111-24 in 14 seasons under Hoppa, who came to Auburn in 1999 – the longest-tenured women’s soccer coach in the SEC.
Still on the upswing, Auburn’s gymnastics squad recorded the program’s highest-ever SEC meet score with 196.55, good for fifth in the league Saturday in Little Rock.
The Tigers await their regional destination, to be announced Monday afternoon.