The Auburn women’s basketball team doesn’t have to worry about Chennedy Carter in Friday’s quarterfinal game in the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament, so it’ll try to slow down sophomore post Cierra Johnson.
A&M eked out a 69-67 victory over Auburn in the regular season because Carter had 28 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Carter, who never left the floor in that game, will miss Friday’s game after having surgery on her right pinky finger, so the Tigers will focus on the 6-foot-4 Johnson who had 11 points and nine rebounds in 39 minutes against Auburn.
“I think Texas A&M has some players that are playing really well right now,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said after beating Alabama 53-52 in the second round. “[Number] 40 [Johnson], if there's an all-improved player that we give an award to, she definitely gets it.”
Williams-Flournoy also gave A&M point guard Shambria Washington and sophomore shooting guard Kayla Wells props.
“They’re hitting outside shots,” Williams-Flournoy said. “People will say they don’t have Chennedy Carter. Doesn’t matter. Texas A&M is a very good team. Coach [Gary] Blair is a very good coach. He’s going to come with something.”
But Blair doesn't have a two-time all-conference guard waiting on his bench to replace Carter, especially against the perimeter-oriented, turnover-forcing Tigers.
A&M watched and rested while Auburn had to pull out a last-minute victory over its rival, but all that might work in Auburn’s favor. A&M has played only three games this season without Carter, losing to Lamar, struggling to beat Prairie View A&M and not pulling away from Texas-Rio Grande Valley until the second half. And those games were at home. It won’t be surprising if A&M has a slow start Friday night.
The Tigers, meanwhile, with the victory over Alabama are a lock for the NCAA tournament. They should be relaxed and ready to roll. They’ll also want to atone that tough loss earlier this season, which made Auburn 0-12 against the Aggies.
“Texas A&M is always a tough team to beat,” guard Janiah McKay said. “We just have to buckle down, watch film, study the scout, just get prepared. It's an exciting part of the season. We played them before.”
If Auburn can control Johnson that would account for 79 minutes worth of the players who beat it last time. That means A&M would have to beat Auburn with defense, which is a possibility. But there's no defense for turnovers, which have been a problem when A&M plays without Carter.