RALEIGH, N.C. – The Terri Williams-Flournoy era got off to a rousing start Friday as the Auburn women’s basketball team beat Maine 71-41 in the first round of the Sheraton Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational. The Tigers will take on host North Carolina State at 6:30 p.m. CT, Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum.
Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy/Greg Mintel photo
The host Wolfpack downed Wofford 85-45 in the tournament opener. Wofford and Maine will play at 4 p.m. CT, Saturday, with Auburn and North Carolina State following at 6:30 p.m. CT. The game between the Tigers and Wolfpack will be streamed on WatchESPN.com.
“Getting the win was exciting. I really thought they came out and played hard,” said Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. “After that first media timeout, we got the jitters out of our system and came out and played really well.”
Williams-Flournoy became just the second Auburn head coach to earn a win in their first game on the Tiger sideline. Susan Nunnelly is the only other coach to do so, winning the season opener over Tuskegee at the start of the 1973-74 season.
Sophomore Hasina Muhammad led three Tigers in double figures, tying her career high with 20 points. It also marked the second game in a row for her to score 20 with the other being in the SEC Tournament game against Florida last season. Junior Tyrese Tanner neared a double-double with 15 points and a career-high nine rebounds while Najat Ouardad scored a career-high 11 points with six assists and a pair of steals.
“We have to have kids that can score the basketball and when you get three that can score in double figures, that is a good game,” said Williams-Flournoy. “I thought Najat did a good job running the team. Hasina and Tyrese both found open shots and did a good job of hitting those shots.”
Another component to the game was the Tigers’ defense, forcing 26 Maine turnovers. Blanche Alverson led Auburn with three steals, along with eight points and six rebounds. Ouardad and Muhammad added two steals each. The Tigers were able to capitalize off the turnovers, scoring 28 points on the other end.
“That’s what we do,” said Williams-Flournoy. “Pressure, pressure, pressure, trap, trap, trap. We get the ball and we go.”
Maine jumped on the Tigers early, taking its largest lead at 8-4 after a jumper from Anna Heise with 14:58 to go in the first half. Auburn responded with a 13-2 run, fueled by five points from Muhammad, to take a 17-10 lead. The Black Bears battled back and trailed by just three, 22-19, with 3:43 left in the half, but it was all Tigers from that point on.
Auburn closed the half on a 13-4 run to take a 35-23 lead into the locker room at halftime. Muhammad led Auburn with 10 points off the bench in the opening period.
The Tigers kept rolling to start the second half, holding Maine to just six points for almost 14 minutes of the second half. Meanwhile Auburn had extended its lead to more than 30 points, a margin it would keep until the final buzzer. The Tigers led by as many as 35 points late in the second half.
Heise led Maine in the loss with 12 points. Mikaela Gustafsson came off the bench for nine points while Chantel Charles pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
The Tigers shot 41.4 percent from the field, holding the Black Bears to just 33.3 percent. Auburn hit 10 3-pointers as a team with Muhammad and Ouardad knocking down three each. The Tigers also out-rebounded Maine, 40-35, with 15 of those boards coming on the offensive end, turning in to 23 second-chance points.
The meeting with North Carolina State on Saturday will be the third all-time meeting between the programs with Auburn holding a 2-0 series lead. The last meeting was a 66-51 Tiger win in the FIU Thanksgiving Classic in 2008. The Wolfpack is led by Kellie Jolly Harper, who was an assistant coach at Auburn under Joe Ciampi during the 2000-01 season.