Last Home Game for SEC Champion Seniors

Auburn, Ala.--Honoring four senior starters will be on the agenda Sunday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum as Auburn looks to clinch the number one seed for next week's SEC Women's Basketball Tournament.

A win vs. Arkansas will mean Coach Nell Fortner's Tigers won't have to share their league title no matter what happens with the game featuring second place Vanderbilt at Tennessee. Auburn has a one-game lead over the Commodores, but lost the head-to-head matchup last week in Nashville.

Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday as the Tigers return to the court for the first time since last Sunday when they improved to 26-2 overall and 11-2 in the SEC with a victory over Georgia, the only other team to defeat the Tigers this season.

Arkansas is 17-11 overall and 6-7 in the conference and comes to Auburn with a five-game winning streak. Auburn defeated the Lady Razorbacks 70-61 on Jan. 18th in Fayetteville.

Coach Nell Fortner

"This senior class of DeWanna Bonner, Whitney Boddie, Sherell Hobbs and Trevesha Jackson is just amazing and I am very honored to have coached them throughout their time at Auburn," Fortner says. "Auburn fans should really come out for this last game and show their appreciation for what this group has done and what they are doing this season."

Bonner is the SEC's leading scorer at 20.8 points per game and the leading candidate for the league's player of the year honor. She third in the SEC in rebounding with 8.6 per contest. Boddie leads the conference in assists at 8.1 per game.

The Tigers have lost just three games in the past two seasons with Whitney Boddie in the lineup.

All five of Auburn's starters, including sophomore Alli Smalley from Arab, are from in-state. Boddie from Florence, Bonner from Fairfield, Hobbs from Huntsville and Jackson from Auburn are all from Fortner's first Auburn recruiting class along with center KeKe Carrier, a redshirt junior center on this season's team.

"Every few years you get a cluster of them," Fortner says of the in-state talent. "Whitney Boddie wasn't playing summer ball and, lucky for us, she was kind of under the radar, and that helped us in the recruiting process.

"DeWanna Bonner was not under the radar, and we had a battle there and just worked that one really hard and it worked out," Fortner says.

"With Sherell Hobbs, we developed a relationship with her at camp in the summer, as well as with Trevesha Jackson. We worked hard and hit the ground running when we got here. We were just fortunate to have that kind of year coming out of Alabama high schools."

Fortner notes that when she signed her first Auburn class she realized then the group had the potential to be SEC champions, something she reminded them of earlier this week.

The coach says her seventh-ranked Tigers should be challenged by Sunday's opponent. "Arkansas is probably the hottest team in the league right now," she says. "They are playing very well, and playing extremely well on the road. They have had big road wins at Georgia, at Florida, at Vanderbilt in overtime, and they have really turned their season around in the last five games."

Arkansas is trying to make a late run for NCAA Tournament consideration.

"They are playing very well," Fortner says. "They are going to come into Auburn and they are playing for something, too. They're 6-7 and they have a lot on the line playing against us on Sunday. We are very aware of that and will be prepared for what they will bring in here."

The Tigers hope to have 6-2 freshman forward Chantel Hilliard ready for action off the bench. She injured a knee in the victory over Georgia, but should be ready for action vs. Arkansas, Fortner says.

Commenting on her seniors, Fortner points out that their championship run began with a lot of hard work in the offseason after being knocked out of the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament by George Washington.

"They have gotten progressively better as they have been here and that has given them the opportunities they have had this year," she says. "We worked hard in the offseason and worked hard in the weight room and every year we got a little tougher, and all that work has paid off. Hopefully, there's an even bigger payoff this Sunday."

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