Vandy Edges Tigers in SEC Quarter-finals

Auburn nearly pulled off a second-round upset in SEC Women's Basketball Tournament.

Nashville, Tenn.--Auburn's run in the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament ended in the quarter-finals as the Tigers came up short in a bid to upset third seed and 21st-ranked Vanderbilt late on Friday night at the Sommet Center.

Vanderbilt held off the Tigers 49-44 in a game the sixth-seeded Tigers had a chance to win in the closing seconds. However, Auburn was unable to make key defensive stops or hit a big basket to get over the hump.

The only thing colder than the snow-covered streets in the Music City was the shooting by the Tigers, who made just 14-49 field goals for a frigid 28.6 percent. For both teams, their final point totals were season lows.

Auburn's three-point percentage was 0.00 as the Tigers put up 13 shots behind the arc, but couldn't connect on a single trey as they fell to 20-11 overall.

The Tigers never led in the game, but managed to tie the contest at 41-41 on a pair of free throws by DeWanna Bonner with two minutes to play.

After that the Commodores took command of the game as the third-seed hit 6-6 free throws in the clutch to pull out the victory.

Vandy regained the lead on a jump shot by Christina Wirth with 1:45 to play. It was her only basket of the game.

The Tigers had a chance to tie the game at the 1:25 mark when Sherell Hobbs, shooting the double bonus, was only able to make one of two free throws.

The Commodores stretched the lead to 45-42 with 1:05 left when Amber Norton made both ends of a one-and-one.

On the next possession, Auburn wasn't able to get a good shot. Bonner's off-balance three-point attempt to beat the shot clock was rebounded by the Commodores. Jessica Mooney then hit two more free throws with 23.1 seconds left to stretch the lead to five.

Auburn couldn't score again until Bonner's leaner in the closing seconds to cut the gap to 47-44. Then, with 1.2 seconds remaining, Merideth Marsh hit two free throws to extend the final margin to five points.

" I feel like I just got done with a prize fight," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "It was just one slug and then another slug and it was just a hard fought defensive battle. The free throw line really hurt us tonight. If we could have knocked those free throws down it would have been nice, but I thought we just both teams just played very tough, and it was just a tough game."

The Tigers now have two weeks to await their fate from the NCAA Tournament selection committee, which will consider the credentials of a team that finished the regular season 7-7 in the conference with a 1-1 mark in the SEC Tournament.

Fortner's team did more than enough defensively to pull out the win, but couldn't find any scoring support for Bonner, who carried the load with 23 points and 13 rebounds. It was her 15th double-double this season.

Even Bonner, who was hot shooting like the rest of the team in the opening round win over Arkansas, struggled to make baskets vs. Vandy. The junior hit just 6-19 field goals, but was 11-12 at the foul line.

Hobbs, normally one of Auburn's top scorers, was held to three points as she made just one of her seven field goals. After Bonner the most points by a Tiger was seven from forward Trevesha Jackson, who got her points in a reserve role.

Down 23-15 at intermission, Auburn was fortunate to be remotely close at halftime after a dreadful shooting performance in the first 20 minutes.

The Tigers made just 6-26 field goals (23.1 percent) and were 0-6 on three-pointers. Normally a good foul shooting team, the Tigers made just 3-7 chances at the free throw line in the half. The Tigers continued to struggle at the foul line in the second half as they hit finished 16-27 on free throws for the game.

Vandy hit 10-24 first half shots and was 2-9 on threes and 1-2 at the foul line. The Commodores out-rebounded the Tigers 24-11 in the first half, but committed a dozen turnovers compared to eight for Auburn.

Vandy didn't shoot well either. The Commodores made just 17-49 field goals and they were 3-13 on threes.

For the game, Auburn was out-rebounded by the taller Commodores 40-31, but kept the game close by forcing 19 Vandy turnovers, five fewer than the Tigers made.

For Vandy, it was the second victory over Auburn this season. The Commodores won 73-56 in Auburn and have now won 13 straight vs. the Tigers.

Vandy hurt Auburn in the first matchup with strong three-point shooting.

"We knew we had to take that three point shot away because they shot the ball really well against us at Auburn and they were 10 for 20 from the three," Fortner said of the Vandy win in Auburn on Feb. 28th. "We really made an effort to make sure we were out on shooters. I really thought if we had three or four made threes we could win the game, and we could have if we had hit the free throws.

"I thought our defense was much better," Fortner added. "It was not good when we played them at Auburn. Much better tonight, but it's very hard for us to score against Vanderbilt. They're a very tough, physical defensive team. But when you get yourself to that free throw line you've got to take advantage of that, and we just couldn't do that tonight."

Vandy's coach, Melanie Balcomb, said, " I think it was a really hard fought game by both teams. Auburn did a great job defensively. We were really out of sync on offense, turned the ball over a ton, and they really took us out of what we do. I was really impressed with their defensive effort. On the other hand I was impressed with our defensive effort.

"I think we did a great job rebounding, and rebounding was our number one key, rebounding the basketball and keeping them off the glass because that's what they're so good at.

"I think we knew each other really well playing so recently, and we both did a great job preparing our teams and taking each other's strengths away so you saw a really hard fought defensive battle."

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