Tigers Can't Pull Off Upset Vs. Lady Vols

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn women's basketball team held a 62-61 lead late in the second half against Tennessee, but again struggled down the stretch as the Tennessee Lady Vols beat the Tigers 79-71.

Auburn Coach Nell Fortner failed to get her first SEC win as the Tigers dropped to 9-8 overall and 0-4 in league play. Tennessee improved to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the SEC. It was the 11th victory in a row for the Lady Vols over the Tigers and the 19th in the last 20 meetings.

"Defensively we gave them a lot of open looks early and they made a lot of open looks," said coach Pat Summit, who is in her 31st year as head coach at Tennessee. "They're so good one-on-one. When we helped we didn't rotate and they did a good job of finding the open player. You look at the statistics and you wonder how we won this basketball game. I thought we executed very well down the stretch. (Shyra) Ely and (Tye'sha) Fluker played really well down the stretch."

Ely finished with 20 points and five rebounds, and Fluker finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Auburn's Louise Emeagi, who scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half, said following the game that she had some trouble inside with Ely.

"Shyra Ely's booty is so big," Emeagi said. "I've never seen anything like it. She was able to box me out and I couldn't do anything about it."

Freshman Alexis Ogubie of Huntsville scores two of her six points for the Tigers with this first half lay-up.

Tennessee owned most of the first half, but a three-point basket by Auburn's Nitasha Brown as the clock expired to end the first half closed the Tigers' deficit to 36-29.

Despite some questionable officiating calls in favor of the Vols, Auburn kept the game tight through the early parts of the second half. The calls later started going Auburn's way and two Emeagi free throws tied the game at 58-58. Auburn took its first lead of the game on a lay-up by Emeagi at 62-61 with 6:01 remaining, but a 9-2 Tennessee run put the game out of reach.

"I think we didn't a good of buckling down and playing defensive in the last four minutes," Ely said. "Everytime they had something going we came back and either hit a shot or had a good defensive play."

Thursday's game against the Lady Vols was the third game out of four in the SEC that Auburn has been in a position to win only to come up short. The Tigers have now lost six straight games.

"I don't know how to describe it, but it's depressing and dejecting," Emeagi said. "We've had so many close games that we just haven't been able to finish off. But like Coach Fortner said, the hard part of our schedule is over with.

"That's the difference between a team like Tennessee and a team like ourselves," she added. "They've got so much depth and they've got cool heads, so they can pull out games like that."

Auburn shot well the whole game, making 16-17 free throws for 94.1 percent and 25-43 shots for 58.1 percent. However, Tennessee was able to dominate the battle on the boards. The Lady Vols pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, compared to only three by Auburn.

"I thought we fought hard tonight," Fortner said. "I was proud of how we fought and battled. Our focus was good. Shooting 58 percent against Tennessee definitely requires some focus.

"Our downfall was giving up 17 offensive boards," she added. "You can't beat a team like Tennessee if you give up 17 offensive boards. They're tall and they know how to go after it on the glass, and that cost us in the end."

Also in double figures scoring for Tennessee were Brittany Jackson with 15 points and Shanna Zolman with 12.

Auburn's Natasha Brackett scored 20 points on 7-10 shooting to go with her four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The next game for Auburn is at home against rival Alabama this Sunday at 2 p.m. Alabama is 11-6 overall record and 2-2 SEC record heading into its game Thursday against South Carolina.

"If we can just continue to play and put ourselves in position to win games, maybe when we get to a point later in the season we're not going to be playing teams like Tennessee and Vanderbilt and Georgia," Fortner said. "I do believe that good things will happen to us as we continue through this schedule."

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