Flau'jae Johnson, No. 8 LSU run past Auburn 78-48 in the SEC Tournament

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — For an LSU team that had its share of struggles and drama earlier this season, the eighth-ranked Tigers appear as sharp as they were a year ago during their run to the national title.

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 raced to a 21-0 lead on the way to a 78-48 victory over seventh-seeded Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday.

“No time like now,” Reese said. “No time like March.”

The offseason was filled with talk of an NCAA repeat until preseason No. 1 LSU lost its opening game to Colorado and Reese missed four games, an absence still not fully explained by the program.

That's all behind the Tigers now. They're focused on making a deep postseason run.

“We got humbled at the right point,” said Reese, whose double-double was her 21st this season. “Now, it's win or go home. We're in a great place with our team, understanding what it's going to take to win it.”

Second-seeded LSU will face No. 3 seed Mississippi in Saturday's semifinals. The Rebels will have a challenge keeping it close if the Tigers keep playing this well.

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.

Auburn (20-11) played LSU as tightly as any SEC opponent this season, winning 67-62 at home in January before falling 71-66 in the rematch a month later. Any chance of nailbiter ended quickly as Auburn missed its first 14 shots.

The drought ended on JaMya Mingo-Young's foul shot nearly seven minutes into the quarter. Kaitlyn Duhon got the Auburn's first basket a minute later.

LSU's Last-Tear Poa, starting in place of injured SEC freshman of the year Mikaylah Williams, had six points in the first quarter, which ended with LSU ahead 27-5.

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, finished with four points. A frustrated Scott-Grayson also picked up a technical foul in the third quarter for shouting from the bench.

Auburn coach Johnnie Harris believes her team has done enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. She'll give players a couple of days off to put aside the lopsided defeat and then get them focused on what's next.

“Tonight was tough. They jumped on us,” Harris said. “This team has been resilient, this team has bounced back and I believe they will.”

BIG PICTURE

Auburn was seeking to reach the SEC semifinals for the first time since 2009. But that chance fell away quickly and it now awaits an NCAA Tournament bid.

LSU looked every bit like the powerhouse that won the national title a season ago. Johnson pushing the pace with Reese and Aneesah Morrow on the other end to finish appears to be a highly effective combination that could challenge undefeated South Carolina if the teams meet in Sunday's final.

WILLIAMS' STATUS

LSU coach Kim Mulkey said Williams had her uniform on and could have played if necessary. But she thought it best to keep her sore foot off the floor and give her more time to heal before the NCAA Tournament. Williams is dealing with plantar fasciitis and has missed the past two games.

“She's chomping at the bit” to get back in, Mulkey said.

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