Auburn couldn’t ask for much more from its star forward on Thursday night in Birmingham against UAB, but despite junior Unique Thompson scoring 24 points and ripping down 19 rebounds, the Tigers fell to the Blazers 80-75.
The Tigers (1-2) struggled to shoot from the outside and complement Thompson all night as they finished just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. Following the game, Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy was much more frustrated with the team’s defense than anything it did offensively.
“Once again, we gave up 80 points,” Williams-Flournoy told the WTGZ 93.9 Tiger radio broadcast team in her postgame interview. “We can not give up 80 points a game. You will never win a basketball game giving up 80 points. Never.”
The 80 points surrendered is actually a season low for the Tigers who gave up 82 in an 84-82 win over Wofford and 89 in an 89-77 loss to Old Dominion.
The Blazers were able to find space behind the arc all evening against the Tiger defense and rattled home 10-of-23 three-point attempts. Williams-Flournoy says she knew that would be the UAB strategy, but a lack of defensive execution allowed UAB to get its shots anyway.
Rachael Childress led UAB with 23 points while Miah Barnes added 22. Both players made four threes.
“They shoot the three, they don’t really even try to get the ball inside,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We just didn’t defend. … It is just a tough night.”
According to Williams-Flournoy, the lack of defense hasn’t been for lack of trying different things by the coaches. Auburn played 10 different players on Thursday and mixed up the defensive looks plenty, but just couldn’t find an answer to the Blazer firepower.
“We were trying to play any defense,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We were trying to play our 1-2-2, man-to-man. I don’t think it really slowed them down. Every time we made a mistake defensively, they capitalized off of it.”
Aside from Thompson’s big night, senior guard Daisa Alexander added 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting including 2-of-3 from three-point range. Aside from Thompson and Alexander, the rest of the Tiger starting lineup was 5-of-19 from the floor and 0-for-7 from three.
Turnovers hurt the Tigers with 20 on the night. Freshman guard Lauren Hansen had five turnovers with just one assist and three points.
“It was unforced turnovers,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It is not like UAB was pressing and trapping and getting into the passing lanes. We were just turning the ball over.”
The Tigers hoped to get a boost off the bench as freshman Sania Wells saw her first action of the season and played 17 minutes, but Williams-Flournoy says the team needs more defensive intensity from the bench as well.
“Somebody else that came into the game and didn’t defend,” Williams-Floournoy said of Wells. “We are happy to have her and everything, but we got to get people that want to get in and defend this basketball. We have to play defense.”
Auburn will be back home on Sunday against St. Joseph’s at 7 p.m. and for the Tiger head coach, they message remains a familiar one going into that game.
“I know it sounds like a broken record, but we’ve got to defend,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We are not going to out-score people. It is just not going to happen like that. We don’t have that type of scoring power, so we have to sit down, and we have to defend.”