Seniors Lead Tigers to Important Victory

Auburn, Ala.--Although at time it looked like a scene from the American Gladiators TV show with more physical contact than anyone could expect to see in a basketball game, Auburn managed to handle the rough stuff and the visiting Ole Miss Lady Rebels to take 82-68 victory on Thursday night.

Senior guards Natasha Brackett and Nicole Louden got to enjoy a standing ovation in their final home game as well as a key SEC win over Ole Miss. Auburn improved to 15-11 overall and 6-7 in the conference while Ole Miss fell to 17-9 and 7-6 in the SEC.

The victory moved Auburn into fifth place in the conference and one more regular season victory away from coming back from an 0-5 SEC start to finish at .500 in league play.

"No SEC team that has finished the season .500 in the league has failed to make the NCAA Tournament," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "That makes this a very, very big win for us and Sunday's game at Mississippi State is very big, too."

Natasha Brackett had a big night in her final game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Brackett hit 10-16 field goals on her way to scoring a game-high 28 points. She was 3-5 on three-pointers and 5-6 at the foul line.

Louden dished out six assists and had just one turnover despite being repeatedly pushed, shoved and smacked while bringing the ball up court throughout the game.

"Coach Fortner told us this was the biggest game of our senior career and we had to come out and play strong," Louden said. "It was a physical game. They tried to put a lot of pressure on the ball and we just had to deal with it."

Ole Miss coach Carol Ross said her Lady Rebels didn't play well enough defensively to win on the road in the SEC against what she said was a highly motivated "team that is fighting for its postseason tournament life." Ross added, "I have to give credit to Auburn. They played with a purpose and looked sharp doing it. Auburn looked like a (NCAA) tournament team."

At halftime the Tigers led 38-30 with Brackett and Emeagi leading the charge with 15 and 12 points. Emeagi's NBA-range shot from the wing just before the halftime buzzer pushed the lead back to eight points, matching Auburn's biggest first half margin.

Nicole Louden drives to the basket on Senior Night for the Tigers.

In a physical game, Auburn overcame a 22-16 rebounding deficit at the half by outshooting the visitors 44.8 percent to 36.1 percent. The Tigers got a tough break early in the game when Marita Payne got a second foul charged on a blown call by an official, who ruled that her clean block was a foul. She spent the next 16 minutes watching from the bench.

The Lady Rebels cut the lead to 44-40, but Auburn made a 10-4 run capped by an Emeagi three with 12:35 left to stretch the lead to 10 points.

Despite erratic officiating and play getting very physical the rest of the way, Auburn never flinched and kept the lead in double figures the rest of the night.

Auburn held a 47-46 rebounding edge. Auburn turned the ball over 13 times, one more than Ole Miss. AU blocked 11 shots, six more than the Lady Rebels.

Emeagi had one of her best games of the season. She scored 18 points, added six rebounds and five assists with just one turnover.

Payee added nine points and seven blocked shots before fouling out after 19 minutes of action on another phantom call on a blocked shot. She has 127 blocks for the season, four shy of the SEC single season record.

Auburn's 82 points was a high since the Tigers scofre 87 vs. Grambling on Dec. 2.

Armintie Price scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for Ole Miss, which was just 3-18 on threes. Auburn made 5-12 threes.

The Tigers, who have won five of their last seven games, were 25-38 at the foul line and Ole Miss hit 13-29.

The Tigers wrap up the regular season on Sunday at Mississippi State.

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