"We look forward to coming back and playing two games in a row at home after playing two on the road," Auburn coach Nell Fortner says. "It is a big weekend in that we are playing Alabama on Thursday, which always carries extra meaning for us because they are our state rival. It is always a game that you want to win no matter what is going on in your season.
"Every game for us is very important from this point on," Fortner adds. "We are 4-4 in the SEC and our goal is to make the NCAA tournament and you need a certain record to do that. We know what is at stake right now. Every game is an important game for us. We are looking forward to getting this week started."
DeWanna Bonner has been a key player for the Tigers this season.
Auburn, 16-7 overall, likely needs to finish with at least a .500 record in the conference to receive an NCAA bid. The Tigers have six regular season games remaining and all are SEC contests. If the Tigers finish with a winning record in the conference there will be no doubt the team is going to receive an NCAA bid, Fortner says.
Fortner's team won a close game on the road last Sunday after losing a close one the previous Thursday at Florida. "I think the biggest difference is that we shot the ball well at Arkansas," the coach says. "We shot 49 percent at Arkansas and 38 percent at Florida--28 percent in the first half at Florida. We had some big play off our bench with Trevesha Jackson and Cassie Moore. They came in and gave us a big lift. We have to have that.
"DeWanna Bonner is playing outstanding right now, but she can't do it by herself," says Fortner, who saw the junior score 28 points in Auburn's last outing.
"It's not like she has done anything different," Fortner says of Bonner's strong play in recent games. "I think what has happened is that she is a more mature player and we have the stretch run coming up and she knows what is at stake. She is a leader on this team and is playing for something. She is going out on the floor and exhibiting that.
"It is not that we are doing anything different or running anything different, it is just a matter of her realizing she is playing for something," says Fortner of Bonner, who is averaging 18 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. "When kids get that feeling they can do special stuff."
Forward Tierney Jenkins, who is averaging 11.8 points and 6.9 rebounds, leads the Tide, which has not won in Auburn since the 2002 season.
Junior guard Sherrell Hobbs is averaging 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Tigers. Freshman guard Alli Smalley is next in scoring with an average of 10.4 points per game.