Five In Double Figures As Tigers Romp

Joe Ciampi had plenty to like in his team's exhibition opener.

Auburn, Ala.--Joe Ciampi told his team to turn up the defensive intensity at halftime and 20 minutes of basketball time later the veteran coach liked what he saw.

A 58-point scoring outburst in the second half broke open a close game at halftime as Auburn won its exhibition opener with a 100-68 pounding of Premier Players.

Auburn led 42-39 at intermission in a game with 21 lead changes, but in the second half strong defense from the guards disrupted the visitors' offensive sets. When they did get the ball down low, six-foot-five center Marita Payne blocked and altered shots. The result was 30.6 percent shooting for the visitors in the second half while Auburn hit 62.9 percent with the help of a blistering fastbreak game.

"I thought we gassed them in the second half and that is to our credit," Ciampi said. "Marita Payne gave us a great defensive surge in the second half blocking shots and and rebounding for us. Nitasha Brown and Tanesheia Thompson gave us the coverage on the guards that we needed."

Junior guard Natasha Brackett led Auburn with 20 points. She hit 8-14 field goals in 25 minutes of action.

Natasha Brackett is expected to be Auburn's top scorer this season.

Senior forward Le'Coe Willingham added 18 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers. She hit seven of 10 field goals.

Five Tigers finished in double figures in the scoring column. Nobody did it more impressively than senior guard Nancy Derrick, who scored 15 points in 16 minutes off the bench. She made all five of her field goals, including three treys and was two of two at the free throw line.

Mandisa Stevenson added 10 points and a game-high total of 11 rebounds. Payne added 10 points with four rebounds and four blocked shots.

Ciampi said he was impressed with the victory over an all-star team that featured WNBA players. Premier Players was led by 20 points from Tonya Washington, a former guard at the University of Florida.

For the game, Auburn outrebounded the Premier Players 49-33 and shot 52.1 percent to 35.7 for the losers. AU had 14 turnovers and forced 18.

The Tigers played without starting center Tia Miller, who strained her knee in practice. She is expected back near the end of November.

Louise Emeagi scored six points and added six rebounds and won praise for her all-around play from Ciampi.

Nicole Louden, the starting point guard, scored nine points and had four assists with four turnovers.

Nitasha Brown contributed seven points and five assists without a turnover in 16 strong minutes off the bench at guard. Her defense was a highlight for Ciampi.

Newcomer Tanesheia Thompson scored three points, had three steals and three assists in 17 minutes.

Walk-on guard Tiffany Presley added two points for the Tigers.

Auburn opens the regular season next Friday vs. Notre Dame in Boulder, Colorado in the first round of a four-team tournament.

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