Coulibaly and Auburn eye upset against No. 4 Tennessee

Still looking for their first SEC win of the season, Auburn welcomes No. 4 Tennessee to Auburn Arena in hopes of creating a massive upset.

Tennessee, on a nine-game winning streak, is 18-1 and undefeated in the SEC. By comparison, Auburn is 8-10 and has dropped seven straight.

The Lady Volunteers’ only loss this season was against Stanford – the No. 2 team in the country. Tennessee recently beat No. 15 Georgia 63-55.

Tennessee finds most of its success on the defensive side of the ball. The Lady Vols are No. 17 in the nation in opponents’ points per game. They also rank in the top half of the conference in rebounds and blocks per game.

Starting center Tamari Key is a defensive force in the paint, denying nearly four blocks each game.

Points have been hard to come by for the Tigers this season. Averaging just 64 points each game, Auburn will need to significantly improve their offense if they are to defeat one of the best teams in the sport.

Aicha Coulibaly has been Auburn’s top offensive source. Averaging almost 18 points per game, she was one of the best players in the conference.

But outside of it, Auburn’s scoring has been inconsistent. The team is shooting just 27.5 percent from three and less than 40 percent from the field.

Auburn will also try to improve their rebounding ability.

Kentucky had 16 offensive rebounds in Tuesday’s game against the Tigers, while Tennessee is the SEC’s top team in offensive rebounds.

If Auburn doesn’t improve its rebound quickly, Tennessee will have plenty of second-chance scoring opportunities.

“Rebounding is about tenacity,” said head coach Johnnie Harris. “It’s about boxing. We will have to get very tough very soon.

Tennessee’s most dangerous player is guard Jordan Houston. Although she hasn’t shot the ball well this season, she still leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. Houston also played the second most minutes of any team member.

Against Kentucky, Auburn also faced the challenge of defending a star guard. Rhyne Howard, one of the WNBA’s top draft prospects, scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds. She also hit five 3-pointers in the Wildcats win.

Expect Auburn to launch a double-team Houston in an attempt to slow it down.

Outside of Houston and Key, no other Lady Volunteer scores more than 10 points per game, so the Tigers can live giving other players open shots if it means they can slow Houston down.

Offensively, Tennessee hasn’t been great this season. Ranking in the bottom half of the conference in points per game, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage, Tennessee hasn’t shown the dominant offense it’s gotten in the past.

Auburn’s defense has been strong this season, ranking in the top 150 in the nation in runs allowed. Harris and his team will need another solid, aggressive performance against Tennessee to finally get over the hump and earn that conference victory.

The game between the Tigers and Lady Volunteers is scheduled to start Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. CST and will air on SEC Network-plus.

About Harold Shirley

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