Scott scores 33 points, Arkansas women's basketball wins thriller over Auburn

Arkansas’ Taliah Scott takes a shot, Sunday Feb. 4, 2024, as Auburn’s Honesty Scott-Grayson defends during the Razorbacks' 74-72 victory at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. (J.T. Wampler/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — Taliah Scott returned to the Arkansas women’s basketball team from injury Thursday. 

On Sunday, Scott was back.

The freshman guard from Orange Park, Fla., put on a 33-point clinic and Arkansas erased a 15-point deficit to defeat Auburn 74-72 in a battle of NCAA Tournament bubble teams at Bud Walton Arena.

It was Scott’s second game back after missing six consecutive games with a back injury.

With the victory, the Razorbacks (17-7, 5-4 SEC) claimed their best 9-game start in conference play since beginning 6-3 in 2019-20.

Auburn (14-8, 3-6) led 34-25 at halftime, but Scott scorched the nets with 17 points during a third quarter in which the Razorbacks outscored the Tigers 31-11.

“With how high my confidence is, that’s where it’s just going to keep on flying,” Scott said of her shooting. “I'm just going to keep letting it fly, and it was going in today. I feel like I caught my rhythm in the third quarter.”

Arkansas led by as many as 14 points early in the fourth quarter and held off a late Auburn rally. The Tigers had a chance to tie or take the lead with an inbounds play underneath their basket with 0.8 seconds remaining, but Taylen Collins’ jumper was off target as the buzzer sounded.

It was the seventh consecutive victory for Arkansas over Auburn. The past three games in the series have been decided by three points or less. 

WATCH: Neighbors, players recap Auburn win

“I felt like they were going to try to get something going to the rim,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “We put [6-4 forward Maryam Dauda] on the ball…. I thought that made a difference on the pass.”

Auburn had two opportunities to score in the final seconds. Arkansas guard Makayla Daniels stole an inbounds pass with 1.7 seconds left but fell out of bounds to set up the Tigers' chance at the buzzer. 

“We didn't come up with a big one and we could have folded, but we came back and really contested Taylen’s tip at the buzzer," said Neighbors, who added, "We’re fortunate maybe that she missed it. I haven't seen how close it was. I just was relieved I heard that horn go off.”

Arkansas guard Samara Spencer completed a three-point play with 37 seconds remaining to break a 69-69 tie. Scott made two foul shots to complete the Razorbacks’ scoring and give Arkansas a 74-69 lead. 

Scott was 11 of 23 (48%) from the floor, 6 of 12 (50%) from three-point range and made all 5 of her free throw attempts. She also took three charges.

The Tigers resorted to face-guarding Scott for most of the second half.

“We didn't come out the locker room and guard Taliah very well,” Auburn coach Johnnie Harris said. “As a matter of fact, we were bad guarding her, but I thought we came back in the fourth quarter. We trapped her and did some things, decided to face guard her. I thought it was a little better then.”

The victory came three days after an 86-70 loss to Alabama, a game in which Neighbors challenged the effort and competitiveness of his team. The seventh-year Arkansas coach said he was pleased with his team’s response. 

“I thought after halftime, that third quarter was about as responsive as I've seen our team,” Neighbors said. “It was them talking to each other. It was a few coaching things here and there: the transition to the zone, moving the ball around and moving Taliah around to some different spots.

“Then she kind of goes scorched earth there in the third quarter. To see her team rally around that and start calling plays that I wasn't even calling, trying to get her the ball, that's the stuff that I'm really proud of, because it could have gone a lot of different ways.”

Carelessness with the ball created an early deficit for the Razorbacks.

Auburn, which entered the game third in the SEC with an average of 10.6 steals per game, created 10 steals in the first half and scored 13 points off 11 turnovers. Arkansas trailed 30-15 with 4:26 left in the second quarter.

The Razorbacks at halftime were 10 of 33 (30.3%) from the floor and trailed 34-25.

“I don't know if it was a third quarter or fourth quarter timeout, but Neighbors or Coach Todd [Schaefer] asked, ‘Why do you think we just went on a run?’ And we all said, ‘Because we're not turning the ball over anymore,” said Arkansas guard Makayla Daniels, who scored 15 points.

“Auburn's defense, it's a lot, especially as a guard handling the ball. I think we just weren't used to it, and obviously we have to get better with that. It can't take us a whole half to get used to it. But I think in the second half we kind of settled down and realized, ‘Yeah, they're going to throw two or three people at you, but you have to keep your composure.’”

Back-to-back three-pointers by Daniels and Scott got Arkansas within 38-33 just more than two minutes into the third quarter and forced an Auburn timeout.

It was just the beginning of the scorching third quarter for Scott. After Auburn made a free throw to go up 41-38, Scott scored nine consecutive points.

Scott gave the Razorbacks their first lead, 44-41, when she completed a three-point play with 3:46 in the third quarter. On Arkansas’ next possession, Scott made her fourth three of the quarter to extend the lead to 47-41.

It was the third game Scott has made at least 6 three-pointers, and her third time to score at least 30 points.

Arkansas went on a 15-0 run to create separation. Along with Scott’s baskets, Spencer made a jumper, and Saylor Poffenbarger made two free throws and a layup.

Spencer scored 10 points and had 5 assists, and Poffenbarger had a game-high 13 rebounds. Dauda recorded a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Auburn guard Honesty Scott-Grayson, who entered the game scoring 19.3 points per game in SEC play, gave the Tigers a chance at a comeback.

Scott-Grayson scored 11 of her team-best 27 points in the fourth quarter. She was 10 of 20 (50%) from the floor and 4 of 9 (44%) beyond the arc, including a three-pointer with 17 seconds left to pull the Tigers within 74-72.

Daniels left the door open for Auburn with two free-throw misses with 17 seconds left, but Arkansas got the game-sealing defensive stop.

Daniels moved into sixth place in the program’s career scoring leaderboard. She passed Kimberly Wilson (1,733 points, 1993-97), and her 1,743 points are 42 shy of tying Delmonica DeHorney (1987-91) in fifth place.

Arkansas entered the game with a NET rank of No. 61 and one of the first eight teams out of ESPN’s “Bracketology.” Auburn was among the “last four in,” and had a NET rank of No. 57.

The Razorbacks are scheduled to play at Florida on Thursday at 5 p.m. on SEC Network-Plus.