Auburn is the number three seed and Vanderbilt is the sixth seed. The Commodores defeated Kentucky 60-41 on Thursday night to advance into the quarter-finals against an Auburn team the Lady Commodores defeated twice during the regular season.
Auburn led Vandy in both regular season games, but the Commodores rallied from double-digit deficits to pull out victories. "We felt that the first two games with them we had some breakdowns," says Auburn coach Joe Ciampi.
Vanderbilt won't have the homecourt advantage, but it it will have the hometown edge with the Gaylord Center being just a short drive from VU's campus.
Vandy has won five straight games, including a 68-60 victory over Auburn on Feb. 22 at AU. Junior Abi Ramsey will be a player for Auburn to watch. She averages 13.9 points per game and is a dangerous outside shooter. Jenni Benningfield is one of five Commodores averaging in double figures with 12.8 points per contest. Hillary Hager averages 11.8, Ashley Earley 11.6 points per game and Carla Thomas is averaging 10 per outing and is currently Vandy's hottest offensive player.
Ciampi says his team needs to move better offensively to defeat the Commodores, who come into the contest on an five-game winning streak. "We, as a team, know what we have to do," Ciampi said. "The matchups with us and Vanderbilt have basically favored Vanderbilt the last two games so we are trying very hard to neutralize their great shooters in Ramsey and Hager and their inside game with Thomas. Carla Thomas had a great game against us last time. Those are our keys."
In Auburn's last meeting with Vanderbilt on Feb. 22, the Commodores ended AU's homecourt wining streak at 16. Natasha Brackett scored 19 points and Le'Coe Willingham added 17 for the Tigers in the loss while Ramsey led the visitors with 22 points.
Auburn, which is 21-7 overall and 9-5 in the league, is led by first team All-SEC pick Willingham, who is averaging 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Brackett, a second team All-SEC selection, is averaging at 12.4 points.
SEC Notes: Former Auburn All-American center Vickie Orr will be honored in Nashville as an "SEC Great." Orr, who played for the Tigers from 1985-89, was a three-time All-American. Orr is one of just two players to score over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for Auburn and is second all-time in scoring with 2,035 points...Auburn has an all-time record of 28-20 in the SEC Tournament and won titles in 1981, 1987, 1990 and 1997. The Tigers are 0-2 vs. Vandy in SEC Tournament games...Friday's game will be televised by Fox Sports South.