Fortner Says Tigers Need Win Vs. Ole Miss

Auburn, Ala.--For the Auburn Tigers, who have played well most of the season but haven't done enough to be considered a strong NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament team, time is running short to make a move toward the Big Dance.

On Thursday at 7 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum the Tigers can take a step in the right direction with a victory over visiting Ole Miss. The Lady Rebels are 17-8 overall and 7-5 in the SEC as they visit for Auburn's final home game of the season.

If the Tigers knock off the Lady Rebels, who are coached by former AU assistant Carol Ross, they need to follow that with a victory on the road Sunday at Mississippi State and then make a strong run in the SEC Tournament to be seriously considered for an NCAA bid.

"We're looking forward to getting back on the court and looking forward to these next two games in our conference season," says first-year AU coach Nell Fortner. "They are must win games for us, or at least we feel like they are in terms of postseason implications.

"We are one of the best 64 teams in the country, but you have to have a record to go along with it and it starts from your conference play, which is why those two games are so important for us," Fortner adds.

"We are looking forward to being able to play at home against Ole Miss. They are the hottest team in the conference having beaten Georgia and are making a strong push here at the end of the season, but we are also so it should be a good game."

Auburn nearly pulled out a signature win on Sunday as the Tigers had a chance to knock off No. 1 ranked LSU until the final seconds. That 62-57 loss dropped AU to 5-7 in the conference and 14-11 overall.

Senior Natasha Brackett scored 18 for Auburn in its second five-point loss of the season to LSU. Nobody else in the SEC has played the nation's top-ranked team that close. Brackett is currently fifth all-time in points scored at Auburn. She leads Auburn in scoring this season at 16.4 points per game.

Other starters for Auburn 6-1 junior forward Louise Emeagi (11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds), 5-7 senior guard Nicole Louden (10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds), 6-5 junior center Marita Payne (8.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and 6-2 freshman forward Alexis Ogubie (4.6 points, 3.7 rebounds).

Ole Miss is led by 5-9 sophomore forward Armintie Price, who is averaging 16.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. Amber Watts, a 6-3 center, averages 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. Carletta Brown, a 5-4 senior guard, is averaging 9.2 points.

"They have a great three player in their sophomore, Armintie Price," Fortner says. "She is just a heck of a player. She had 30 points against Georgia the other night and to drop 30 on Georgia is quite an accomplishment because they're a good defensive team, very athletic and quick."

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