Johnson Sparks Auburn Tournament Victory

Auburn, Ala.- With sophomore <b>Tia Miller</b> sitting out with a sore shoulder, somebody on the Auburn women's basketball team needed to pick up the scoring and rebounding slack in its opening game of the Auburn Thanksgiving Classic Friday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Junior Keisha Johnson did just that as she poured in a career-high 19 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to record her first ever double-double in the Tigers' 67-52 win over Charleston Southern. Miller had been the team leader in scoring and rebounding entering the four-team tournament.

"Keisha raised the level of her game," Coach Joe Ciampi said. "She was not denied at all on the offensive end and was great inside and outside. Defensively, she does so many good things. It was just a complete game for Keisha offensively and defensively."

Auburn took advantage of solid shooting in the first half as the Tigers hit 14-of-20 shots to build a 40-23 halftime lead. The Tigers shot 70 percent from the field and made all four of their three-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes. Johnson led Auburn with 13 first-half points, which bettered her previous career-high of 12 points at the break. She hit all five of her shots, including three three-pointers.

Johnson and the rest of the Tigers also held the visiting Buccaneers to 36 percent shooting in the half. Sophomore Le'Coe Willingham added 10 of her 13 points in the first half and helped Auburn gain a 38-22 rebounding edge for the game with eight of her own.

The Tigers got careless with the ball in the second half and could not put the stingy Buccaneer squad away. AU turned the ball over 27 times and shot just 40 percent from the field in the second half. Auburn did make 14-of-19 free throws and drilled 5-of-6 three pointers to keep the margin in double figures after the break.

Charleston Southern got within 13 but could get no closer in the final 20 minutes. For the game, the visitors connected on just 3-19 three-point attempts and for the game shot just 39.3 percent. Amanda Ekberg and Tamara Ruzic each had 10 points for CSU.

Freshman Natasha Brackett led bench scorers for Auburn with six points and had three steals. Senior Brandi Hillman added nine points, four rebounds and a team-high four steals.

Auburn will face Chicago State (1-2) in the championship at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The Lady Cougars defeated Stephen F. Austin 51-42. The consolation game is at 1 p.m.

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