Big shot sends Tigers to WNIT romp

AUBURN – What had once been a 15-point Auburn lead was almost gone as the Auburn Arena clock moved inside the seven-minute mark Wednesday night. What had seemed a certain victory in the third round of the WNIT minutes early suddenly wasn’t certain at all.

Tyrese Tanner had her first career double-double/Todd Van Emst photo

Auburn had led 44-29 minutes earlier, only to see Tulane go on a 15-4 run and cut the lead to 48-44. As the shot clock melted away, the ball ended up in the hands of point guard Najat Ouardad, at 5-foot-1 the shortest player on the court. Ouardad, who had taken just one shot and had missed 10 straight in the WNIT, lofted a 3-pointer from the top of the key. As the buzzer sounded, the shot hit bottom to give the Tigers a 51-44 lead. Moments later, Blanche Alverson hit a 3-pointer and the issue was decided.

Auburn romped on from there to win 72-52, its third consecutive lopsided victory. The Tigers will play the winner of Thursday night’s game between Bowling Green and Drexel in the round of eight.

When Hasina Muhammad, double-teamed inside, threw the ball to out, Ouardad said she knew she would make the big shot.

“I was ready to knock it down,” Ouardad said. “I knew it was going to make a big difference. I knew it was a big shot and I knew I was going to knock it down. I’m glad Hasina found me.”

It was the only basket of the game for Ouardad, who had seven assists.

Tyrese Tanner led the way for the Tigers, as she did in lopsided wins over UAB and Western Kentucky. She had her first career double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds. She also had three of the Tigers’ 11 steals as they broke the school record with 396.

Tanner has scored 78 points in the last three games.

“I just want us to keep winning,” Tanner said, “so we can get a championship.”

Auburn beat Tulane for the second time this season and improved to 19-14. Tulane finished its season 24-9.

“I’m very proud of our young ladies,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “Tulane is a very good team. We knew they were good. We’d played them before, so we knew how good they were and knew how well they took care of the ball against our press.”

Uncharacteristically, the Tigers gave up more turnovers than they got. Tulane scored 17 points off 17 Auburn turnovers. Auburn scored nine points off 14 Tulane turnovers. But Auburn had 19 second-chance points to six for Tulane.

Tra’cee Tanner, Tyrese’s younger sister, had 12 points and seven rebounds for Auburn. Alverson had 10 points. Muhammad had eight points, four assists and four steals.

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