Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy may be new to the SEC, but she’s already aware of the team that dominates women’s basketball in the conference.
At Georgetown, her team played Tennessee in the 2010 Virgin Islands Tournament. The Vols were ranked No. 4 at the time, her Hoyas No. 12.
Her players throttled their orange-and-white opponents, 69-58. They didn’t trail once.
Two years later, the setting has changed.
Williams-Flournoy is in her first season as a head coach in the SEC. Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has retired. But Williams-Flournoy said she can still draw on her experience two seasons ago.
“They are really not that much different at all,” Williams-Flournoy said. “You have different personnel and people in different positions, but other than that, their style of play and the way they play is pretty much the same.”
Auburn (13-4, 2-2) hosts No. 9 Tennessee (13-3, 4-0) at 8 p.m. Thursday inside Auburn Arena. The Tigers have lost four straight games to the Vols, their last victory coming March 7, 2009.
Auburn will try to recover from a 22-point road loss last weekend at No. 20 Texas A&M. The Tigers never gave themselves a chance to pull off the upset on the road against the Aggies. They trailed by 20 points at halftime before regrouping to finish with a 2-point deficit in the second half.
“It is never fun in losing,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I thought we did some pretty good things and played much better in the second half. I would have (liked) to see the second half in the first half; it probably would have been the difference in the game. You always learn something in a loss but you also learn from a win. Losing heightens it more, the one thing they learned is that you can’t go down 20 in a half and expect to come back and win in the SEC.”
Getting out to a quick start is a key to Thursday night’s game, even if Tennessee has shown it’s not always necessary.
The Vols lost their first game of the season at Chattanooga, raising eyebrows of fans rooting in the state and observing nationally. They’ve since recovered, losing only to No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 Baylor the rest of the way to regain their traditional top-10 status.
Auburn, still searching for a signature win this season, could get it in a building it hasn’t lost in this winter.
Williams-Flournoy said she isn’t thinking about that.
“I am just not the type of person to put one game above another,” she said. “For me every game is exciting. This is my profession, this is my livelihood, this is what I do. So every game we go out and play is exciting.
“For our players, because they have never beaten Tennessee, it is really more important for them. I’ve experienced things that our players have not, so I think it would be a great experience for them to beat Tennessee.”
No. 9 Tennessee (13-3, 4-0) at Auburn (13-4, 2-2)
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
Where: Auburn Arena (9,121)
Radio: WMXA (96.7 FM)
Video Webcast: ESPN3.com
Projected starters, Auburn: G Hasina Muhammad, 6-1, So. (17 ppg, 5.9 rpg); G Najat Ouardad, 5-1, Sr. (5.1 ppg, 7.2 apg); F Blanche Alverson, 6-3, Sr. (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Tyrese Tanner, 6-1, Jr. (13.3 ppg, 4 rpg); C Peyton Davis, 6-5, Jr. (6 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Projected starters, Tennessee: G Meighan Simmons, 5-9, Jr. (17 ppg, 5.9 rpg); G Ariel Massengale, 5-6, So. (8.6 ppg, 4.1 apg); F Bashaara Graves, 6-2, Fr. (14.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg); F Tober Spani, 6-1, Sr. (8.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg); C Isabelle Harrison, 6-3, So. (10.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
Ryan Wood is the Auburn University Sports Beat Writer for the Opelika-Auburn News.
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