Fortner's First SEC Win Comes Vs. Bama

Auburn. Ala.--It was a sweet day for Auburn women's basketball Sunday.

First-year coach Nell Fortner got her first SEC win and the Tigers beat Alabama convincingly, 59-43.

"Hot dog, we got a win!" Fortner said. "How about that! It feels really good to get that first SEC win. It's been a tough start to our SEC season. It's not that we've been playing bad, we've just had a tough run in the schedule."

Having her first SEC win come against Alabama was just icing on the cake for Fortner. "That makes it a little more special," she noted. "Just from living in Auburn for eight months I know how big the rivalry is between the schools."

The Tigers (10-8 overall, 1-4 SEC) won the game because of their defense. For the game Alabama shot 25.5 percent, making 8-26 field goals in the first half and 5-25 in the second half. Alabama had six more turnovers than made field goals.

"I thought that the game was a matter of Auburn being efficient on the offensive end and we were inefficient," said Alabama coach Rick Moody, who has now lost to Auburn three consecutive times

"It all starts at the point guard, or the quarterback position," Moody said. "Auburn deserves a lot of credit for being a good defensive team. I thought (Auburn's) Nicole Louden played like a senior guard is supposed to play. I certainly want to give her credit."

Louden had a game-high and career-high 19 points to go along with six steals, four rebounds and two assists.

"Defensively, I thought we played pretty fair, but we've had several games where we haven't scored and shot the ball efficiently," Moody said. "You're not going to win many games shooting 25.5 percent."

Junior center Marita Payne caused problems near the basket for Alabama.

Also with a strong game defensively for Auburn was center Marita Payne, who set her own single-season school shot block record. She had six in the game to give her 85 for the year.

"It's not really that exciting to break your own record," Payne said. "I think the SEC record is 134 so I guess I need to aim for that."

Payne, a 6-5 junior from Melbourne, Australia, said that it was great feeling to get the first SEC win of the season against Alabama.

"Playing a team like Alabama I think we have a little more spirit behind us," she said. "I think everybody knows what it means to beat them even if you are from Australia. When I got here the first thing I heard about was the rivalry."

The game was close for much of the first half, but a 13-4 Auburn run to end the half gave the Tigers a 30-21 lead heading into the locker room. Auburn had more steals (nine) than Alabama had made field goals (eight) at halftime.

Louden had six steals in the first half and made it difficult for the Crimson Tide to run its offense.

"I wanted to come out aggressive," she said. "We knew their guards were young and I think we took advantage of that."

Fortner said that an aggressive defense was the team's strategy from the opening tip.

"I thought we could take advantage of a couple of their players on the defensive end," Fortner said. "Defense leads to good offense. You can build a lot better off of defensive play than you can offensive plays. It just fires your team up when you're making defensive stops. We were able to get our running game going and open it up a little bit."

For Auburn, forward Louise Emeagi contributed 18 points and four rebounds, and guard Natasha Brackett added 13 points and five assists. Auburn had zero points off the bench.

Alabama had only two players score more than four points. Guard Marverly Nettles had 15 and forward Navonda Moore had 11.

The next game for Auburn is at second-ranked LSU on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 2 p.m.

"We need to practice our defensive rebounds and keep them off the boards," Brackett said. "If we do that I think we'll have a good chance against them."

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