Using a very strong defense to overcome a shaky start, Auburn forced 22 turnovers and blocked 12 shots on its way to a season sweep over its in-state rivals. With the win, Auburn improves to 17-7 overall and 5-4 in the conference. Alabama falls to 8-17 overall and a woeful 1-9 in the SEC.
Alabama came out of the gate sloppy on offense turning the ball over 14 times in the first half. Auburn's DeWanna Bonner and Cassie Moore each had three blocks and Bonner led the team in blocks for the game with five, a career-high performance. Moore finished with four blocks for the night and Sherell Hobbs led the team with four steals.
"We know they run a triangle offense," Hobbs said. "So we just tried to pressure the ball and get out in passing lanes and force them to turn the ball over. Me personally, I just tried to not let them bring the ball down and get into triple-threat and to keep the ball over their head."
Bonner led the way for Auburn on offense, scoring 19, the 64th time she has scored in double figures in her career and the 39th time she has led Auburn in scoring.
It was a mediocre night otherwise for the Tigers, who shot a pedestrian 43.9 percent from the field, but did connect on 57.1 percent of their threes. Bonner posted another career-high with seven assists and also grabbed eight rebounds. Alli Smalley scored 15 points and looked impressive at moments, but still managed to turn the ball over four times.
"Alli is a streetball player," Fortner said. "She likes to wheel and deal and that's one of the things I've loved about her game when I very first saw her play back in the ninth grade. Sometimes that will get you in a little trouble, because it's not always the most disciplined style of play, but she has great senses for the game. The part that gets her into trouble is the free-wheeling with the ball and then the turnovers come."
Hobbs added 16 points to the Tiger effort as Auburn's point-guard by committee proved to be successful against Alabama. Auburn used several players to bring the ball up the floor including Hobbs, Smalley, Ruth Ketcham and Bonner among others.
Bonner took the ball several times up the court, running a point-forward position that seemed to allow for more open looks for some of Auburn's other players. With the defense focused on the 6-4, wiry junior taking the ball across half-court, Smalley and Hobbs were able to find scoring opportunities.
"It's something that I don't prefer to do, but I think I take a lot of pressure off of Alli (Smalley)," Bonner said. "I think it helps her out a lot because it gets her a lot of open shots if I bring the ball up, and we need her shots so it helps us."
Moore's shot-blocking ability off the bench gave Auburn a spark in the first half and shifted the momentum the Tiger's way. The 6-4 freshman was a key part in Auburn's victory over the Tide.
"Cassie Moore came in and gave us a great inside presence and stopped their inside game," Bonner said. "That kind of gave us the momentum to just play ball. When we start pushing the ball in transition, we are hard to stop because everyone can handle the ball, all five players."
"Cassie is a big body to try to get around," Fortner said "They might have gotten the ball in there but it was tough for them to score."
Alabama played well at the beginning of the second half, forcing Auburn to turn the ball over 12 times in the second period. The Tide was led by Dedrea Magee, who scored 14 points, stole five balls and added three assists.
"For the last week and a half we had that dazed look in our eyes and tonight was a night that we found our chemistry back and found our fight back," Alabama head coach Stephany Smith said. "I thought we played well despite all the adversity we have been through for good portions of the game and I thought our pressure was better."
Auburn battled the Tide's defense the entire second half and it wasn't until late that the Tigers felt they were in control despite building a comfortable lead at the half.
"When we got up by 20, I thought we were in control," Hobbs said. "I just think we need to limit our turnovers and start off with a spark in both halves. Because at the beginning of the game we started out kind of slow and in the second half we started out slow also."
While it wasn't a pretty win, playing in the tough SEC it's always good to get a victory. With another home game coming up against South Carolina before heading into the final four games of the season, the Tigers have a chance for an NCAA bid if they can build on yet another victory.
"It concerns me that it was not a pretty win," Fortner said. "We never really got into an offensive flow, but that is credit to Alabama's defense. They were playing no-holds-barred and it kept us from getting into an offensive flow. I thought eventually we did a good job of getting some great penetration, great pushing the ball in transition and attacking the basket and I think things started opening up for us when we did that."