AUBURN – Auburn did not lead for 38 of the 40 minutes in Sunday's game against Ole Miss, but it led the ones that mattered as the Tigers (13-16, 5-11 SEC) pulled out a 46-43 win over the Rebels (12-17, 2-14 SEC). The game was the regular-season finale for the Tigers as Auburn heads to the Southeastern Conference Tournament this week.
Ole Miss led from the start and was ahead by four with 3:07 left in the game, but sophomore Tyrese Tanner stepped up in the final minutes to take control for Auburn. She scored on a tip-in with 2:46 left to play, drawing the foul for the three-point play, cutting the Rebel lead to one.
She made good on one of two free throws on Auburn's next possession to tie the game and nailed a pair with 1:50 left to give the Tigers their first lead of the game, 45-43, with 1:50 left. Junior Najat Ouardad extended the lead to 46-43 with 24 seconds left, helping the Tigers to the win.
"It sure is nice to get the final win at home and the final win in the SEC season," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "I'm just really proud of how the team just kept fighting and kept believing until the end because it was not a pretty day for us. I don't know if it was just a lid on the basket today, but we just had to really fight hard for every field goal we made.
"The best part about it was they just believed until the end and just hung in there and made some great defensive stops, hit some big free throws. I thought Hasina Muhammad was just outstanding today. Just great fight in this team."
Muhammad, Auburn's lone freshman on the roster, led the Tigers with 19 points and six steals. Her six steals tie her for 10th all-time at Auburn in single-game steals.
She was followed by sophomore Tyrese Tanner with 14 points, six of which came in the final three minutes of the game. It was the 14th double-digit scoring effort for Tanner this season. Tanner also led the Tigers on the boards with seven, adding three steals along the way.
Auburn struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, shooting just 26 percent from the floor. The Rebels opened the game on a 9-2 run, and widened the margin to 13 with 8:21 to play after a jumper from Tia Faleru who finished the half with seven points and six rebounds
The Tigers chipped away at the lead, eventually cutting it to five at 22-17 with less than three minutes to play. Auburn went into the locker room trailing 24-17. Muhammad added eight points off the bench for the Tigers in the opening half.
Auburn started the half on a 5-0 run to cut the Rebel lead to two, but could not get over the hump until the final minutes of the game.
With 2:17 to play, Tanner tied the game, 43-43, hitting one of two shots at the line. A steal from Tanner resulted in a foul from the Rebels and Tanner hit a pair from the stripe to put the Tigers up by two and seal the win.
Offensive rebounds were key for the Tigers as Auburn possessed the ball for 1:36 of the final 1:50 of the game. Najat Ouardad and Chantel Hilliard pulled down big offensive rebounds in the final seconds to keep the ball in Auburn's hands.
The game was Senior Day as the Tigers recognized Hilliard Morgan Jennings and Parrisha Simmons. It was also Fortner's final home game as Auburn's head coach. She was recognized by her staff, as well as current and former players in a video after the game.
"It was just really nice, I look forward to going back and seeing it again," said Fortner. "You never know what kind of impact you make on people, you don't ever know. This is a special place, I've loved every minute of being here, so it's nice to know that you've made a difference here."
Auburn returns to action Thursday in the first round of the SEC Tournament. The Tigers will be the No. 9 seed and will face eight-seeded Florida at 12 p.m. CT at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.