Flau’Jae Johnson and LSU Erupt on Auburn in SEC Tournament, Blow Out Regular Season Nemesis in Historic Fashion

Remember how Auburn gave LSU fits during the regular season with its physical defense and its guard play? Yeah, LSU put an end to that in a big way in the SEC Tournament Quarter Final Round on Friday. Flau'Jae Johnson led the way. Photo by LSU Athletics

LSU simply toyed with Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarter final round in Greenville on Friday.

All. Game. Long.

Minus a starter and playing against the team that gave it fits in two regular-season SEC games did not matter to the defending national champions as LSU moved into the semifinals for the second consecutive year for the first time since making it to the semifinals eight seasons straight from 2002-2009.

Flau’jae Johnson scored 17 of her 25 points in the first half, Angel Reese had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 8 LSU zoomed out to a 21-0 lead on its way to a 78-48 demolition of seventh-seeded Auburn.

It was the second-largest margin of victory ever in any game in SEC Tournament history. And it wasn’t even as close as the score indicates it was.

LSU “honesty” dominated from start to finish.

Second-seeded LSU (27-4) will face either No. 3 seed Mississippi or 11th-seeded Florida in Saturday’s semifinals. Whoever the Tigers face will have a challenge keeping it close if they keep playing this well.

“We’re playing good basketball at the right time,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “We held a team that beat us and then came within five of us this year to 5-percent shooting in the first quarter. Honesty (Scott-Grayson) didn’t score until the fourth quarter.”

Johnson, a sophomore guard, led the way, hitting a 3-pointer, making a three-point play and canning another long-distance shot to put LSU up 15-0 less than four minutes in.

Last-Tear Poa, starting in place of injured SEC freshman of the year Mikaylah Williams (who could have played but was being rested again) had six points in the first quarter. LSU ended the first quarter up 27-5.

Auburn (20-11) played LSU as tightly as any SEC opponent this season, winning 67-62 on its home floor in January before falling 71-66 in the rematch a month later in Baton Rouge.

But Auburn didn’t have a chance in this one as LSU put it out of reach early with its stifling defense and transition offense cranking its engine and going up 23-0 before Auburn broke the ice.

LSU’s defense sagged into the paint all game and it fried Auburn’s collective brain. LSU was impenetrable. Fierce even. Honesty Scott-Grayson scored no points in the first half as LSU built a 30-point lead and forced Auburn into 13 turnovers.

Auburn missed its first 14 shots from the field. Its scoring drought to start the game ended on JaMya Mingo-Young’s foul shot nearly seven minutes into the quarter. Kaitlyn Duhon got Auburn’s first basket a minute later.

McKenna Eddings led Auburn with career-high 15 points, all in the final two quarters.

Honesty Scott-Grayson, who made the all-SEC first team and averaged 18 points per game and 24.5 points in the two regular season games against LSU, finished with four points. Obviously frustrated, Scott-Grayson picked up a technical foul in the third quarter for shouting from the bench.

Reese, who tweaked her ankle late, had her 21st double-double this season.

“I’m feeling good,” Reese said.

“It’s okay. I roll my ankle all the time. For sure, I’m good to go for tomorrow.”

LSU Associate Head Coach Bob Starkey said the Tigers knew they had to get off to a strong start against a very physical Auburn team, but he said they never imagined they would come out as focused and effective as they did.

“I thought our execution defensively kept them smothered early and then we were able to transition the things that we harped about on playing against Auburn defensively and the need to take care of the basketball,” Starkey said.

“And the first half we only had five turnovers and really, really proud because Auburn is a quick physical aggressive team.

“We thought we had a good scout on them and as far as Flau’Jae, all the talk will be about the fact that she had 25 points, but she guarded a potential first round WNBA draft pick (Honesty Scott-Grayson and held her to zero points in the first half. Amazing game on both sides of the floor for her. She’s had great games where she didn’t have 25 points. So proud to see her have 25 today and be such an impact player on both sides of the floor,” he said.

LSU finished the night 23-50 from the field for 46-percent and held Auburn to 20-67 for 30-percent. LSU was 5-9 from the three-point line, compared to Auburn’s 4-15.  LSU outscored Auburn in the paint 34-18 and out-rebounded them 41-31.

LSU started hot, 9-11 from the field to jump out to a 23-0 lead. Johnson reached her season average of 13 points 5 minutes into the action after going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. LSU forced Auburn into five early turnovers as its opponent went 0-14 from the field. Auburn scored its first point of the game after Collins went 1-of-2 from the foul line. Both teams were physical throughout the quarter, despite the score board.

LSU limited Auburn to 5.9-percent shooting in the opening frame.

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