NCAA Hopes Damaged with First Round Loss

With everything on the line for Auburn (No. 9 seed) in the first round of the SEC, the Tigers played a poor game in a 65-63 loss to South Carolina (No. 8)

Duluth, Ga.--The Auburn women's basketball team blew an 11-point second half lead and likely played itself out of the NCAA Tournament with a 65-63 loss to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

The Tigers got 21 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists from DeWanna Bonner, but didn't get the effort needed from the rest of the squad as the Gamecocks pounded Auburn on the glass 42-31.

South Carolina turned the ball over 21 times and shot just 41.3 percent from the floor, but got the ball back on almost half of its misses as it claimed 19 offensive boards to Auburn's 21 defensive.

The Tigers were the first team knocked out of the tournament and must wait 10 more days before they find out their fait, which is likely the NIT after dropping to 19-12.

After a back and forth first half and a tie ballgame at halftime, Auburn surged out to a 48-37 lead with 11 minutes to play. Bonner, who played the top of the half-court press and gave the Gamecocks problems all game long, had several steals for easy lay-ins as Auburn built the big lead.

However, by pounding the offensive glass and getting to the free throw line, South Carolina went on a 16-5 run to claim a 56-55 advantage with 5:22 on a lay-in on the low block from by Melanie Johnson.

An 18-foot jumper by Jordan Greenleaf gave Auburn the advantage and a backdoor bucket from Sherell Hobbs gave Auburn a 61-56 lead with four minutes to play.

Gamecock Stacy Booker hit a transition three-pointer from the wing and Lakesha Tolliver took a nice pass from Johnson to tie the game at 61 apiece. An Ilana Burgova free throw reclaimed the lead for USC with 1:46 to play. After several sloppy possessions on both ends of the court, KeKe Carrier grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled immediately with 32.8 seconds to play.

The sophomore center hit both of her charity shots as Auburn took a one-point lead at 63-62. But Burgova hit a lay-up over Bonner with 20.6 seconds and Auburn used its last timeout down one with 19.6 to play. On the offensive end the Tigers tried to go down low to Carrier, but she was triple-teamed and the ball was knocked out of bounds with 7.2 remaining.

On the inbounds Bonner drove to the basket and drew contact, hit the floor, but didn't get the call. With both teams scrapping for the rebound the Gamecocks got a jump ball and hit a free throw with 2.3 seconds. Without a timeout to use, a Whitney Boddie 70-foot prayer was well off the mark at the buzzer.

Carrier, who played just 19 minutes, had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocks. Bonner and Carrier combined for 35 of the 63 points, 11 of the 31 rebounds, six of seven blocks and six of 13 steals. They only had four of the 19 turnovers.

"It was a disappointing loss for us," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "The 19 offensive rebounds killed us. I thought we played well enough to win on the first defensive possession when we defended them, but we gave up too many offensive boards, too many second chance opportunities that killed us. Nineteen turnovers. The six down the stretch, turnovers down the stretch, you just can't win games that way."

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