No. 1 LSU Escapes With Win Vs. Fortner's Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn women's basketball team missed a golden opportunity against top-ranked LSU on Sunday in its run for a NCAA tournament bid .

After falling behind by 14 points in the second half, Auburn cut the lead to one late but couldn't pull out the win, falling 62-57. Senior guard Natasha Brackett missed a pair of game-tying threes with less than a minute remaining and the Tigers dropped another close SEC game.

"This one was a little closer than the other (last-minute losses)," Brackett said. "It came down to the wire and I missed the last shot. I wasn't tired, I just missed them. They either go in or they don't.

"They were No. 1 and you always like to beat No. 1 because that means you're proven," Brackett added. "We had this game circled and when you're playing No. 1 you always try to rise to the occasion."

The loss dropped Auburn to 14-11 overall and 5-7 in the league to the disappointment of the largest home crowd of the season, 4,624.

At 25-1 overall and 12-0 in the SEC, LSU has beaten every other team in the league by 10 points or more. Auburn lost by five in Baton Rouge 57-52.

"That five point deficit seems to be following us around when it concerns LSU," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "The dry spell hurt. I think we went seven minutes in the first half without scoring and it came back to get us. We hit some big shots and made some big stops and we had an opportunity there to tie the ball game, but it just didn't happen for us."

The 12 SEC wins for LSU is a school record and Coach Pokey Chatman admitted after the game that her squad was lucky to get out of Beard-Eaves with a victory.

"In both games you saw two top defensive teams in the conference going at it," Chatman said. "It wasn't a fluke in Baton Rouge and it wasn't a fluke tonight. I thought Auburn was the hottest team in the conference. What did it for us was our defense in the first half when they were at a stand-still with 14 points. It was a classic defensive match-up.

"On one of (Brackett's shots) we were lucky because we weren't in the same area code," she added. "She got squared up."

Auburn will try to rebound Thursday at 7 p.m. when Ole Miss travels to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and the Tigers will finish the regular season with a trip to Mississippi State on Feb. 27. The loss hampered Auburn's chances to make a late bid for the NCAA tournament, but the Tigers still have a chance if they continue to play well to close the season.

"I think that we have to win the next two to have a shot," Fortner said. "The thing that is probably going to hurt us is that we don't have a Top 25 win. That's just the way it is. We're probably going to need a couple of wins in the SEC tournament. The next two games are as big as any two this year."

Auburn got off to a good start offensively due in large part to senior guard Nicole Louden. The senior guard hit a pair of jumpers and dished out two assists to give the Tigers an early 12-8 lead. However, with Louden on the bench taking a breather the LSU Lady Tigers went on a quick 14-0 run to take control at 25-14.

Auburn's Tanesheia Thompson scored the eight of the Tigers' final 10 points of the half, but the inside play of Seimone Augustus, a first team All-American last season, and freshman Sylvia Fowles kept the Lady Tigers lead in double figures at 33-22 heading into halftime.

The Lady Tigers extended their lead to 48-34 with 12 minutes remaining, but a three-point barrage from Louden, Brackett and Louise Emeagi cut the deficit to six with 8:53 left to play.

The lead for LSU went back and forth between five and seven points, but another three by Emeagi put Auburn within striking distance at 54-52 with 5:58 remaining.

After a steal by Louden, Auburn had a chance to tie with Thompson at the line shooting two, but she missed the first and made the second the pull within one point. Fowles and Augustus added four more points for LSU to stretch the lead back out to 60-55 with 1:41 left in the game.

Thompson connected on two free throws with 1:23 to make it a one possession game, and after a shot clock violation for LSU, Auburn had a chance to tie, but Brackett missed an open three with 40 seconds left. After another defensive stop, Brackett missed another game-tying three pointer with 10 seconds left.

Augustus, who was averaging 20 points per game heading in, again showed why she's a national player of the year candidate as she pulled down the rebound, was fouled, and connected on both of her free throws to ice the win.

Augustus finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and made 9-9 foul shots. Fowles added 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Brackett led Auburn in scoring with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists. Thompson finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Louden added 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Despite hitting many open lay-ins inside, LSU made just 22-60 shots from the floor for 36.7 percent. The tough Lady Tiger defense held Auburn to 22-62 shooting for 35.5 percent.

"I thought our defense was great," Fortner said. "We made huge stops at the end of that game, but we've struggled all year with getting the points."

LSU won the rebound battle 44-39. Turnovers were nearly even as well--13 for Auburn, 12 for LSU.

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