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AU women have big goals in WNIT

AUBURN – It’s not the NCAA Tournament, but Auburn’s women’s basketball team still has a game to play. And that, first-year coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said Tuesday, is worth celebrating.

The Tigers (16-14) will play UAB (18-12) Wednesday night at 6 at Auburn Arena. There’ll be no secret strategy, Williams-Flournoy said. She just wants to see her team play with urgency and passion.

“You just continue to do what you do,” Williams-Flournoy said. “The only thing you really change is you try to make it exciting. They have to understand it’s a great opportunity for them. A lot of teams are sitting at home now and not playing.”

Senior guard Blanche Alverson, who scored a career-high 32 points in her last regular-season home game against Mississippi State, said she and her teammates plan to keep playing for a while.

“We are going to go down fighting if we go down,” Alverson said. “We’re hoping to come in and win this whole thing. We are confident. Some of our best basketball, we feel, is yet to come.”

Auburn rallied from 18 points behind but couldn’t get over the top in its last game, a 65-62 loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Williams-Flournoy sent the players home for spring break last week instead of keeping them for practice.

“Let them get some rest,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We knew we would not play until later in the week. We came back Sunday and got practice started again.”

For Auburn’s seniors – Alverson, Najat Ouardad and Pascale West – their next loss will be their last one at Auburn. They will leave, Alverson said, proud of how they coped with change and pushed on after Nell Fortner resigned and was replaced by Williams-Flournoy last year.

“I think we’ve adjusted,” Alverson said. “I think we’ve embraced Coach Flo’s system. It’s been tough. We had an eight-game losing streak, but we came out of that strong and realized what she does works. I think we’ve bought into that. I think in years to come it is only going to be more positive.”

The Tigers will be without Julie King, who has been a force on defense. King decided to give basketball a try after finishing a stellar Auburn soccer career. She plays now for the Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“We are really going to miss Julie,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Julie just gave us a big spark off the bench. It’s not like Julie was going to be this big offensive threat or anything, but we knew she was going to chase down a rebound, chase down a ball. Defensively, she was going to get after it. She was really that spark off the bench we are really going to miss.”

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