With the victory at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, Auburn is one of 16 teams advancing to the second round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament. On Sunday at 3 p.m. in Auburn, the Tigers will try to move into the third round as they face either FSU or Florida International, a pair of teams scheduled to play on Thursday night.
"I thought we broke their will with our ability to continuously rebound the ball," says Auburn Coach Joe Ciampi, whose team enjoyed a 49-24 rebounding advantage. "Anytime you out-rebound a team by 25 rebounds, you are doing a job."
Auburn also limited South Alabama to 31.1 percent shooting for the game, including just 20 percent in the first half as the home team jumped out to an 11-0 lead and was never seriously threatened. At the half the Tigers were on top 35-17.
Tia Miller, with 10 first half rebounds, led the charge for Auburn as she finished with 14 points to go with her college career high of 15 rebounds. "I thought Tia stepped up and did a great job for us and the rest of the team followed," Ciampi says.
Miller, a 6-2 junior forward, says, "I made up my mind after the Tennessee game after I only had like three rebounds that was kind of embarrassing. After I found out that we were going to the NIT, I decided that my main game was going to be rebounding."
Sophomore guard Natasha Brackett, who hit 9-17 field goals, led all scorers with 21 points. Brackett hit 3-7 three-pointers. Junior center Mandisha Stevenson, who hit three of four treys, added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers.
Brackett says the key to Auburn's strong start was defense. "I think giving them just one shot was it," she notes. "It was one and done. I think that is what really helped us."
Lindsay McGinnis, who hit four treys and led a second half rally for South Alabama that cut Auburn's lead in half from 18 to nine points, led the visitors with 12 points. Ciampi says her shooting forced a defensive adjustment. "This team did a great job of carrying out our plan," he says.
Auburn quickly rebuilt its lead and Ciampi was able to clear the bench down the stretch as his team improved to 19-11 for the season. South Alabama ends its season with a 19-11 record.
Ciampi says he also liked the way the Tigers shared the ball offensively as they hit 50.8 percent of their shots for the game, including 8-20 three-pointers.