Auburn women’s basketball falls in final minute at Florida

·3 min read

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Aicha Coulibaly scored an SEC-high 24 points and Auburn led with less than a minute to go, but Florida ended the game on an 8-0 run to hand the Tigers a 68-63 loss Thursday at the O’Connell Center.

The Tigers (8-7, 0-4 SEC) fought back from as much as a 13-point deficit to take the lead late in the fourth quarter – Auburn led 63-60 with just over a minute to play – but were unable to seal the deal as Florida hit six free throws in the final seconds.

“I felt like we made some very selfish plays (late in the game),” Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said. “It’s very disappointing. … We were able to stay in the game, but a game like this, every possession matters. Your best player can’t get a foul and then a technical, they get free throws, they get the ball back. Now they’ve got momentum.

“We’ve got to keep fighting, and we’ve got to get smarter. We’ve just got to keep getting smarter. Every possession matters, and you can’t make plays like (we did late) and expect to win.”

Coulibaly led all scorers with her 24 points and also pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. She was the only Tiger in double-figures; Honesty Scott-Grayson had nine points, Sania Wells added eight, and Precious Johnson scored seven in her first collegiate start. Scott-Grayson led the Tigers with three assists, and Mar’Shaun Bostic had three steals off the bench.

Auburn out-shot the Gators 41 to 38 percent, and both teams knocked down a pair of 3-pointers. But Auburn uncharacteristically struggled at the free-throw line, missing nine attempts (17-26) while the Gators were nearly flawless at 20-for-23 (87%). The Tigers outrebounded Florida 37-36 and cut down on the turnovers late with just five in the second half.

Trailing 54-48 headed to the final period, Auburn held Florida scoreless for nearly six minutes while going on a 9-0 run of their own. They took their first lead since the opening minutes on a Coulibaly free throw with 5:29 left to make it 55-54, then an Annie Hughes layup a minute later pushed the lead to three.

Just over a minute later, though, Coulibaly would pick up her fourth and fifth fouls in quick succession, and the Gators would get back within one. Clutch free throws from Scott-Grayson and Wells on Auburn’s next two possessions kept the Gators at bay with a three-point Auburn lead, but the Tigers would come up empty on their final four possessions as Florida took advantage of opportunities at the line to pull ahead and seal the win.

The Gators caught fire early, hitting nine of their first 14 shots to take a 21-14 lead after one quarter. That lead would extend to as many as 13 a little over halfway through the second, but an 8-0 run sparked by Coulibaly and Scott-Grayson cut the deficit to as few as five late in the half. A bucket at the buzzer gave Florida a 37-30 halftime lead.

Kiara Smith scored eight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 to lead Florida. Nina Rickards and Alberte Rimdal had 14 apiece.

The Tigers play their fourth road game out of five contests to open SEC play Sunday when they travel to College Station, Texas, to face Texas A&M. Game time is 4 p.m. CT with a national broadcast on SEC Network.