AUBURN — On Senior Day at Auburn Arena, Buford grad Blanche Alverson put on one last show in front of her home crowd.
The senior posted a career-high 32 points, with three rebounds, three steals and one block, as the Auburn women’s basketball team picked up a 74-65 win over Mississippi State in its last regular season contest Sunday.
The win was a big one as it locked up the No. 11 seed in next week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament. Auburn will play LSU at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Alverson is the first Auburn player to score 30 or more points since DeWanna Bonner scored 32 against Ole Miss on March 6, 2009 in the SEC Tournament. Her 32 points also move her past Ruthie Bolton for 22nd all-time at Auburn in career scoring with 1,182 points.
“We played a great first half and came out at the beginning of the second half acting like we already had the game won,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We called a few timeouts and got ourselves situated back again. Even in the mistakes that we made, we didn’t just put our heads down. We went back out when we needed to make a play, be it offensively or defensively, we went out and we did it.”
In addition to leading all scorers for the game, Alverson went 5-of-9 from beyond the arc and with 8:48 remaining in the first half, hit her 200th career 3-pointer. She joins Alli Smalley as just the second player in Auburn women’s basketball history and the 33rd player in SEC history to reach 200 career 3-pointers.
“I think it’s kind of cool because Alli and I are such great friends and had a great relationship when we played together here,” said Alverson. “We always played so well. We still keep in touch. It’s cool that we’re such good friends and we’re one and two in the books. She’s not bad company to be with.”
Tyrese Tanner added 19 points and four steals, while Najat Ouardad tallied eight assists and five steals. Ouardad’s eight assists give her 239 on her career and move her past Nitasha Brown for 16th all-time at Auburn.
Auburn dominated the majority of the first half, opening the game on a 16-4 run before Mississippi State hit a 3-pointer to cut the Tigers’ lead to nine with 11:28 remaining in the half. Auburn widened the lead back to double figures at 11 after Alverson’s trey and didn’t let up, taking a 16-point lead into the locker room at 40-24.
The Bulldogs came out firing in the second half and immediately utilized a 10-2 run to cut Auburn’s lead to eight with 17:42 to play. Mississippi State trailed by as few as three points with 11:48 to go, but Alverson responded with an 8-0 run of her own, including two of her five 3-pointers, to make it 56-45. The Tigers held onto the lead the rest of the way en route to the 74-65 win.
Auburn forced 31 Mississippi State turnovers and scored 31 points off turnovers, marking the ninth time this season for the Tigers to force 25 or more turnovers in a game. The 31 turnovers are the most for an Auburn opponent since Central Connecticut State tallied 37 on Dec. 22, 2011, and the Tigers have forced 20 or more turnovers in 18 games this season.