Tigers Top FSU For Another WNIT Win

Auburn jumped on Florida State early and led from start to finish to win another WNIT game.

Auburn, Ala.--Joe Ciampi joked that he wouldn't mind a third round Women's National Invitational Tournament road trip if it was to Philadelphia for some Philly cheesesteaks and other Italian food.

However, the Auburn coach is quite content to play round three of the WNIT on his home basketball court after the Tigers took a 68-57 victory over Florida State on Sunday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers will play Richmond, which defeated St. Joe's of Philadelphia on Sunday to become one of eight teams left in the 32-team tournament field.

Auburn improved its record to 20-11 thanks to a strong start and a strong finish. The Tigers jumped out to a quick 5-0 edge and never trailed. They built a 23-8 lead at the 10:35 mark of the opening half and led at intermission 39-26 thanks to good defense and 13 points from sophomore guard Natasha Brackett.

Natasha Brackett (33) played a strong all-around game for the Tigers.

Brackett, who led all scorers with 20 points, said, "We kept a hand in their face on defense and they missed a lot of shots in the first half. That helped us get our lead."

Auburn hit an offensive lull in the second half that allowing the Seminoles to make a run. With 7:36 left FSU cut the gap to 48-43. However, that was as close the visitors would get.

LaKeisha Johnson hit a three from the corner to stop the FSU run and then Tia Miller drilled a baseline jumper to build the lead back to double figures. Auburn was never seriously threatened after that by FSU, which ends its season with a 17-13 record. "I think Tasha Brackett drove and dished it to her (Johnson)," Ciampi said. "I told the team they have to drive into the lane and just play basketball and that is what we did. Then Louise Emegai hit two big threes."

Miller scored 15 points and added a game-high eight rebounds for Auburn. Le'Coe Willingham added 11 points for the Tigers and Johnson scored nine.

FSU's top scorer Tasheika Morris led the Seminoles with 14 points, but Ciampi was pleased with his team's defense on the forward who hit just 4-18 field goals. He said the game plan was to control Morris.

Auburn shot 42.4 percent for the game to 39.3 for FSU, which won the rebounding battle 40-39. Auburn hit 8-24 threes and FSU made 3-11. Auburn was 10-14 at the free throw and FSU 6-11. Auburn had 12 turnovers, one less than Florida State.

Ciampi had praise for Miller, who he said looks like she has finally recovered from physical problems that have slowed her most of the season. "The SEC Tournament turned her game around and she is doing everything we could in terms of defense, offense and the IQ she has in playing game. It has been a pleasure."

Brackett, who hit three treys for Auburn and added six assists, six rebounds and three steals, said her team is looking to take the WNIT title. "We really want to win and prove we should have been in the (NCAA) tournament."

Starting center Mandisa Stevenson took a blow to her hand and played just 15 minutes. The preliminary report is that she may have a broken bone in her hand.

Auburn's third round game will tipoff at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

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