Tigers Repel Invasion Of The Orangewomen

Auburn, Ala.--It took <b>Carol Smith</b> longer than usual to heat up from the field, but when Auburn's point guard finally did her team received the dividends. Smith scored 11 of the Tigers' last 17 points as they held off a pesky Syracuse team 58-55 at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum Thursday to remain perfect on the season at 6-0.

Smith hit a baseline jumper as the shot clock expired with just 15 seconds to play in the game that gave the Tigers a 56-53 lead. Syracuse guard Shannon Perry then hit a driving layup with five seconds remaining to cut the lead to one again with five ticks remaining. The Orangewomen had just four team fouls at that point and had to foul Auburn three time before the Tigers got in the bonus.

Syracuse did just that, fouling Smith three consecutive times in the span of three seconds, but the senior made both free throws and the Orangewomen could not get a shot off as the Tigers held on for the victory.

"Our concern at halftime was we could not create offensive scoring opportunities from our defense,"; Coach Joe Ciampi said. "That's a compliment to Syracuse. Carol came out in the second half and got 11 points, showed us the leadership and did the little things to get the job done."

Smith was 1-6 from the field in the first half, but went 4-8 in the second half to finish the game with 13 points. She added a team-high three assists and five rebounds. "In the first half, I hit a wall and couldn't hit a shot to save my life," Smith said. "But I kept shooting the ball and in the second half they dropped for me."

Sophomore Tia Miller led all Tigers with 16 points. The center finished 7-10 from the field. For the game, Auburn shot a season-low 43.6 percent from the field and held the Orangewomen to 44 percent shooting. The Tigers did dominate the boards outrebounding the visitors 41-22.

Willingham scored the first basket of the game to give Auburn quick 2-0 lead, but Syracuse went on an 11-4 run to build a five-point cushion at the 13:41 mark. After trading baskets with the Orangewomen, Auburn went on a 7-0 run sparked by back-to-back baskets from Willingham and a three-pointer from freshman Natasha Brackett to take a 15-13 lead.

Syracuse quickly tied the game at 15 on a layup from Chineze Nwagbo. The Tigers took the lead when Willingham hit a jumper in the lane. A free throw by Syracuse guard Shannon Perry cut the AU lead to one, but Brackett answered with a jumper and senior Brandi Hillman made both free throws to give the Tigers their largest lead of the half.

As the teams were leaving the court for the eight-minute media timeout, Nwagbo collapsed on the floor near the Syracuse foul line. Medical personnel from both teams attended to the six-foot center and carried her off on a stretcher. Nwagbo never lost consciousness and was alert, but was taken to East Alabama Medical Center for treatment.

After the 10-minute stoppage of play, Syracuse guard Jaime James hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to two at 21-19, but the Orangewomen couldn't get any closer. Auburn senior Smith took a long rebound coast-to-coast for a layup with 3:29 remaining in the half to give the Tigers a 27-23 advantage.

That was the last field goal of the half for either time as Auburn went scoreless and Syracuse scored just one point on a free throw by James which cut the Tigers lead to three. The Tigers led at the break 27-24.

The Tigers built a 38-31 lead with 13:55 to go, but the Orangewomen bounced back as they did all night and cut into the lead with a jumper by Rochelle Coleman and a steal and layup by Julie McBride, who was fouled on the play and made her free throw.

AU then answered with back-to-back three pointers by LaKeisha Johnson and Smith. Syracuse clawed back with a 10-0 run and regained the lead for the first time since the 12:16 mark of the first half when Coleman drilled her only three-pointer of the game.

Johnson quickly tied it with a jumper from the free throw line and Auburn took the lead for good on a layup by Miller at 48-46 with 6:57 to play. The Tigers built a six-point lead on back-to-back jumpers by Smith.

AU held the Orangewomen scoreless for 4:34 when James broke the drought with a runner in the lane. McBride, who led the visitors in scoring with 15, then hit a three-pointer on the visitors' next possession to get within a point at 52-51 with 1:44 to play.

Syracuse saw a baseline jumper from Jazmine Wright roll around the rim and fall off the cylinder with 44 seconds remaining that would have given them a 55-54 lead. Instead, the Tigers came down and ran the shot clock all the way down and Smith nailed a 16-footer from the baseline as the clock expired to give AU a 56-53 lead.

Syracuse dropped to 3-2 for the season with the loss.

Auburn will travel to Birmingham Monday night to take on UAB at the Bartow Arena with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The Blazers knocked off Mississippi State 76-56 on Thursday.

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