The Drive for 25 Takes the Tigers to MSU

Auburn, Ala.--With four regular season games remaining on the schedule, Coach Nell Fortner's Auburn Tigers will try to maintain their lead in the SEC women's basketball race, but the task doesn't look easy.

The Tigers, who are ranked fourth and fifth in the major polls, face back-to-back road tests vs. two of the league's better teams--Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

First on the agenda is a 2 p.m. contest on Sunday in Starkville against a Mississippi State team that is 19-6 overall and 6-4 in SEC games. On Thursday the Tigers will take on Vanderbilt in Nashville, a team that is 8-2 in SEC games.

Mississippi State is on a three-game winning streak with victories over Vandy (66-61), LSU (65-55) and Ole Miss (66-50).

Auburn, coming off an 81-69 victory on Thursday night vs. Kentucky, is 24-1 overall and 9-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

"One of our goals this year was to win an SEC Championship so in accordance with that every game is very important at this point," Fortner says. "Our team is very focused and that's just one of the things that we want to do.

"We have put ourselves in the position to have the opportunity to take a really good shot at it, and at this point, we're just very focused and wanting to win each game we play."

A victory on Sunday would give the Tigers 25 victories in a season for the first time since 1992-93 when Coach Joe Ciampi's team finished 25-4 overall and 9-2 in the SEC.

Mississippi State is led by junior guard Alexis Rack, who is averaging 14.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. Chanel Mokango is averaging 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and an SEC-leading 3.3 blocks per game.

Armelie Lumanu scores 11.7 points per game with 5.6 rebounds for MSU while senior Robin Porter, the younger sister of former Auburn men's star Chris Porter, is the top rebounder for State with 6.6 per game.

Mississippi State is not ranked, but has a victory over a ranked Vandy team. The Lady Bulldogs are 1-3 overall this season vs. Top 25 opponents, and are 11-3 (3-2 in the SEC) in home games.

Auburn senior DeWanna Bonner continues to lead the SEC in scoring at 20.8 points per game. She leads the Tigers in rebounds with 8.6 per contest. Joining her in double figures in points per game are teammates Alli Smalley at 12.6, Sherell Hobbs at 12.3 and Whitney Boddie at 10.7.

Boddie, who is averaging 8.3 assists per game, is number one nationally in that statistic.

Auburn leads the series vs. Mississippi State 29-12 and Fortner is 3-1 vs. MSU.

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