After losing the first four conference games the Tigers have won the last two to improve their overall record to 11-8. Alabama dropped to 8-11 and stands at 2-4 in the SEC as well.
"It's a great win," said Auburn coach Nell Fortner. "Any time you beat your rival school it's exciting and a great win. It's always a struggle. It doesn't matter what the records are it's always going to be a tough game when Auburn and Alabama play. It's always survival of the fittest and that's what I thought today."
Payne just missed her second career triple double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots. She gave the shorter Alabama squad trouble on the offensive end with her inside-outside game by hitting lay-ups and mid-ranger jumpers.
Marita Payne had one of her best games of her four-year career vs. the Tide.
"She plays right around that free throw area a lot," said Alabama coach Stephany Smith. "Tonight she was very effective at knocking down the open shot, and twice at the buzzer."
Payne was dominant inside on the defensive end with her nine blocks.
"I didn't really think I had nine blocks tonight, but I'll take it," she said. "It would have been nice to get just one more, but I had no idea I was close."
Bonner finished with 21 points, but said that Payne was the difference in the game. "Marita was remarkable," she said. "I don't even have any words for Marita. She was very encouraging on the court and she was just dominating in the paint tonight."
Freshman guard DeWanna Bonner jumps for joy after scoring a basket vs. Alabama on Thursday night and celebrates with fellow freshman guard Whitney Boddie.
Bonner struggled with her jump shot, but got to the basket and free throw line time after time. She had five steals that turned into fast break points, which is what Smith said hurt her team the most.
"Not only did we turn the basketball over, but in the closing four minutes of the first half we turned it over at the top of the key with no defense back for lay-ups and sometimes and-ones," she said.
Alabama had 25 turnovers in the game which Auburn converted into 30 points.
The Crimson Tide opened the game by hitting their first three shots and jumping out to a 6-0 lead. Thanks to a pair of threes by senior guard Nitasha Brown, the Tigers scored the next 10 points and claimed a 13-8 advantage before Alabama quickly took the lead back.
The game was tied at 19 apiece with seven minutes remaining but Tigers went on a 16-2 run to close the first half and never looked back. Bonner scored seven points, mostly on fast breaks, in the final 1:07 of the first half as Auburn claimed a 35-21 advantage at halftime.
"We got a lot of points off their turnovers but they couldn't score off ours so we took advantage," Bonner said.
Payne hit several clutch jumpers in the first half, a couple as the shot clock expired, and had 10 points, eight rebounds and five blocks by halftime. Bonner also had 13 points at the break.
Brown had a solid night with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Alabama was led in scoring by Lauren Hill with 22 points.
The Tigers' next game is at home against Mississippi State on Sunday at 2 p.m. Bonner said that the two wins over Kentucky, who beat Tennessee third-ranked Tennessee on Thursday, and Alabama might be what the team needs to get the season going in the right direction.
"It's better than the losing streak we had," she said. "We never got our hopes down and we were always high spirited. Even though we were on a losing streak we practiced hard and turned it around with the Kentucky win. We'll try to keep it up against Mississippi State on Sunday."