Close contest with Clemson ends Auburn's WNIT run
CLEMSON, S.C. - Mar'Shaun Bostic scored a career-high 23 points, but a back-and-forth game saw Auburn unable to score on its final possession as Clemson won 56-55 in the second round of the WNIT.
Without two starters who suffered injuries in the fourth quarter, Auburn led 55-54 with less than a minute to go but was called for an offensive foul to give Clemson an opportunity to take the lead. The host Tigers did just that with 21 seconds to play as Daisha Bradford banked in a short jumper to move Clemson ahead.
Auburn had the ball for a final possession but was called for a second offensive foul in as many trips down the court with less than three seconds to play, and Clemson inbounded the ball into the backcourt and Auburn was unable to foul.
"We got some big stops on the defensive end, just couldn't convert," Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said. "We tried to drive the ball a lot in the fourth quarter, trying to draw fouls. But we've got to finish shots with contact."
"A lot to build on from this year. These kids came back after the SEC Tournament, we changed a little bit the way we were playing. We got after it a little bit more. They bought into it, they really enjoyed playing that way. They gave me everything they had, and I'm really proud of them. We had a short bench, but everybody came in and did what we asked them to do. We're looking forward to them getting some rest, then being able to work with them and get better."
Bostic had topped her career-high by halftime and finished 11-of-18 from the floor. She also had four rebounds, a team-high four steals and two assists in her best performance as a Tiger.
"I put the ball in Mar'Shaun's hand, I felt like she could get to the rim whenever, and she did," Harris said. "You'll take that from her any night. I would have loved to see her get to the free throw line a little bit more. But she also guarded their leading scorer ... who ended up with six points. She and AC played hard and followed our game plan."
Aicha Coulibaly scored 14 points and led Auburn with seven rebounds, but was unavailable for the final 5:52 as she was elbowed in the face, drawing an upgraded foul, and was unable to return.
Just over a minute later, Kharyssa Richardson - who contributed six points and five rebounds - hit the floor hard and also left the game, leaving the already shorthanded Tigers without their starting frontcourt for the final minutes of the game.
After Clemson took their largest lead at 50-43 with 7:06 to play, Auburn went on a 10-0 run to take the lead back. It started with a Bostic layup, then two free throws by Sydney Shaw after the intentional foul to Coulibaly.
A jumper on the next possession by Kaitlyn Duhon made it a one-point game, and another Duhon bucket a minute later put Auburn ahead 51-50. Bostic bookended the run with her 10th basket of the game to put Auburn ahead 53-50 with 3:25 to play.
Auburn held the lead until the final seconds, but the late Clemson go-ahead jumper could not be overcome in a game that featured 17 lead changes.
Auburn led 16-15 at the end of a first quarter that saw eight lead changes. Coulibaly and Bostic combined for 14 of Auburn's 16 points in the opening period. Clemson would then open the second quarter on an 8-3 run, leading by as many as five as Auburn momentarily went cold from the field.
A Bostic layup to give her a career-high 13 points cut the Clemson lead to one with just under a minute to play in the half, and a would-be go-ahead jumper from Kaitlyn Duhon was just after the halftime buzzer as Clemson led 26-25 at the break.
The teams were nearly even from the field - Auburn 23-of-55 (42%) and Clemson 23-of-54 (43%). Both teams made seven free throws, and Clemson hit one more 3-pointer than Auburn. Auburn turned 21 Clemson turnovers into 17 points, but Clemson dominated the glass with 42 rebounds to Auburn's 28.
Auburn's season comes to an end at 16-15 as the Tigers secured their first winning record and postseason appearance since 2019, and their first postseason win since 2016.