Late Free Throws The Difference In See-Saw Game

Neither Auburn nor Vandy could pull away in a game that came down makes and misses in the final 10 seconds at the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament.

Nashville, Tenn.--A pair of free throws on an away from the ball foul call with 5.4 seconds left proved to be the winning margin for Vanderbilt as the Commodores edged the Tigers 76-74 in the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament quarterfinals.

Following Abi Ramsey's free throws the Tigers had a chance to tie the game. Point guard Nicole Louden dribbled the length of the court and missed a short runner to beat the buzzer and Auburn's rebound went in but it was too late.

Auburn's record fell to 21-8 with three of the losses coming against Vandy. The Lady Commodores improved their record to 22-7 by hitting 60.4 percent of their field goals to 42.6 for the Tigers.

Auburn kept the game close by forcing 21 turnovers and making 17-23 foul shots to 10-15 for Vandy. However, late misses at the foul line provided to be very costly for AU.

Forward Le'Coe Willingham put on a show for the crowd of 6,297 Friday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center by scoring 25 points. She made 9-12 field goals and 7-9 free throws. The senior added four assists, six rebounds and three steals in 36 minutes.

Mandisa Stevenson scored 16 for the Tigers. The center made 7-10 field goals and led all rebounders with eight.

Mandisa Stevenson was a key offensive threat for the Tigers in the first half. (Photography: Todd Van Emst)

Auburn didn't get much scoring help from the three guards in the starting lineup other than 12 points from Natasha Brackett, who struggled with her shooting as she made just 2-11 field goals. Louden hit just 1-11 field goals for two points and Nancy Derrick was 2-4 for five points.

Beddingfield and Hillary Hager scored 18 apiece for the Commodores, who advance to play LSU in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Each team had 30 rebounds in the contest. Auburn hit 5-12 three-pointers while Vandy was good on 8-13.

Vandy came out hot shooting the basketball, but Auburn managed to hang with the Commodores with defensive pressure that forced turnovers. Vandy cooled late in the half, but still shot 63.6 in the period as the teams were tied at 36-36.

Natasha Brackett shoots for the Tigers. (Photography: Todd Van Emst)

Neither Auburn nor Vandy could put together a run the entire game to gain any breathing room. The Commodores led 50-46 while Auburn led by three points on multiple occasions in the second half.

The Tigers took the lead at 1:32 on a three-pointer from the corner by Nancy Derrick to make the score 70-68.

Vandy tied the game at 1:14 on a jumper by Hager and AU took the lead 10 seconds later as Stevenson hit one of two free throws.

Vandy moved ahead on two free throws by Beddingfield with 58.8 seconds left. AU regained the lead at 73-72 as Brackett scored on a rebound and was fouled. However, the junior guard missed the foul shot with 38 seconds left.

Twelve seconds later the Commodores were back in front 74-73 on a short jump shot by Hager.

With 13.2 seconds left, Brackett was back at the foul line with two free throws. She missed the first and hit the second to tie the game. That set up the off the ball foul call on Brackett with just over five seconds left that gave the Commodores the winning margin at the free throw line.

The Tigers will now wait to find out their seeding for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Sunday, March 14th.


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