While Coach Bruce Pearl’s program continues its upward climb in the college basketball world the same thing cannot be said about what is happening with Auburn women’s hoops.
Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy’s team finished the recently completed season with an 11-18 overall record and the Tigers won just four of their 16 regular season SEC games.
Making a disappointing situation worse, players are transferring out of Coach Flo’s program at an alarming rate. It actually began before the opening game of a season that produced the fewest victories for an Auburn team since the 1978-79 season.
The first player to leave was senior guard Crystal Primm, who as a graduate transfer was able to play immediately at Florida Atlantic University where she became the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
Since Primm left seven others have checked out as well. The group includes sophomore guard Robyn Benton (10.1 points per game), sophomore guard Brooke Moore (8.6 points), freshman guard Lauren Hansen (7.9 points), sophomore forward Erin Howard (7.6 points), junior forward Abby Jackson (3.5 points), freshman guard/forward Maliya Perry (1.7 points) and sophomore forward Natalie Kelly (0.3 points).
Williams-Flournoy just completed her eighth season as head coach of the Tigers and has produced one winning record in league play, a 9-7 mark in 2018-19. Her record is 48-80 in SEC games and 135-119 overall and that includes a sizeable number of non-league games vs. weak competition.
While attendance and the excitement level is up at Auburn Arena to see Pearl’s Tigers play, the women’s team plays in front of mostly empty seats. Auburn fans are making statements about the quality of the product they are seeing out of each of their basketball teams.
The 2019-20 women’s squad featured a player I really enjoy watching, Unique Thompson. The six-foot-three junior got her All-SEC first team status the old-fashioned way—she earned it. She averaged 16.2 points and 11.4 rebounds despite other teams often being focused on keeping her under control.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Thompson hasn’t left the program. Unfortunately for Thompson, I was hoping she would get to play her senior season on a winning team, something that looked like it could happen with Daisa Alexander the only senior the Tigers had to replace. However, with the mass exodus and no signees from the early period, the outlook for the 2020-21 season doesn’t look promising unless Coach Flo and her staff can bring in fresh talent capable of making an immediate positive difference.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter