Tigers Face a Husky Challenge In NCAA Round Two

The Tigers will face a very tough test against Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Bridgeport, Conn.--When the seventh seeded Auburn Women's Basketball team squares off with Connecticut at 8 p.m. Tuesday, coming away with a victory is going to be an extremely difficult task for a number of reasons.

Auburn is facing the second-seeded Huskies in their home state, where they are 25-3 in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament and on a 23-game winning streak in that state. The Tigers will also be facing a very rowdy, partisan crowd in Bridgeport. Connecticut is the defending national champion and the Huskies are in the middle of a 13-game NCAA Tournament winning streak.

If the Tigers, who head into the game at 22-8, are going to pull off the upset they will have to get plenty of production inside from Le'Coe Willingham. The senior forward is averaging 16.3 points and 9.2 boards per game and put up 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the Tigers' opening round 79-59 win over 10th seeded N.C. State.

Auburn's center, Mandisa Stevenson, will be there to help her out in the paint. The 6-4 senior had an impressive showing in the first round scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards and for Auburn to have any chance for a win her strong play probably needs to continue.

The other key for the Tigers will be the shooting of starting guards Natasha Brackett and Nicole Louden. In the Tigers' 22 wins Brackett has shot 46 percent form the floor and Louden has hit 39 percent of her shots. In their eight losses Brackett has only shot 31 percent and Louden has only hit 24 percent.

Defensively, the Tigers will have to corral the Huskies leading scorer and 2003 National Player of the Year Diana Taurasi. The 6-0 senior, who plays both the guard and small forward positions, is averaging 15.5 points per game. In the Huskies 91-55 opening round victory over 15th-seeded Pennsylvania, Taurasi scored 18 points and became the Huskies' all-time leading scorer in NCAA Tournament games.

The Huskies, who are 24-6, do have a other scoring threats as well. Sophomore guard-forward combo Barbara Turner is averaging 13.4 points per game and fellow sophomore Ann Strother is hitting for 11.3 points.

Another key in Tuesday night's contest will be on the sidelines. Tigers' Coach Joe Ciampi and Huskies headman Geno Auriemma are two of the heavyweights in women's college basketball. Between the two coaches they have amassed 1,134 total wins, seven Final Four appearances, 16 Elite Eight appearances, 21 Sweet 16s and 32 NCAA Tournament appearances.

If the Tigers are going to pull of the big upset they will have to be firing on all cylinders and will have to find away to deal with Connecticut's talent coupled with a difficult playing environment. The game is set to tip-off at 8 p.m. Central Time and will be televised nationally by ESPN.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories