Tigers Torch UT to Move Into SEC Finals

A report on Auburn's SEC Women's Basketball Tournament victory over Tennessee is featured.

North Little Rock, Ark.--Trailing by five points at intermission, Auburn raced past Tennessee in the second half to advance to the finals of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament with a 78-58 victory on Saturday night. Auburn will play Vandy, a 61-47 winner over LSU in the second game on Saturday night.

The championship game will start at 6:30 p.m. CST at the Alltel Arena with national television coverage on ESPN2.

Seniors DeWanna Bonner, Whitney Boddie and Sherell Hobbs led the comeback, particularly, point guard Boddie who got the tempo cranked up to Auburn's liking. As a result, the 29-2 Tigers outscored UT 52-27 in the second half, giving Pat Summitt's team its worst ever loss in the SEC Tournament.

Bonner led all scorers with 26 points. She hit 7-16 field goals, 3-5 threes and was 9-11 at the foul line. The SEC Player of the Year added five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Boddie, a first team All-SEC selection, scored 19 points. She was 7-11 from the field and 5-5 at the foul line while adding four assists.

Hobbs scored 16 points as she made 6-11 field goals, including her only three, and was 3-3 at the foul line.

After shooting just 36 percent from the field in the first half, the Tigers made 57.1 percent of their second half field goals as they moved into the championship game of the SEC Tournament for the first time since winning it in 1997.

After struggling at the foul line in their victory over Ole Miss on Friday, the Tigers made 23-27 at the free throw line in the physical game. UT hit 7-11 foul shots.

The Lady Vols, the defending national champions, hurt Auburn in the first half with offensive rebounding in building a 31-26 lead at intermission. For the game UT won the rebounding battle 45-36.

However, Auburn cranked up its fastbreak in the second half and tied the game at 31-31 on a three-pointer by Alli Smalley.

The Tigers then took the lead for good at 35-33 when Boddie banked in a runner to start a 12-0 run for the Tigers. After that the regular season SEC champions were not seriously challenged.

DeWanna Bonner scores for the Tigers.

"We just had to settle down in the second half," said Bonner, who said the Tigers played nervous basketball in the first half, but played like the top-seeded team in the second half. "We always say the second half is our half, and that is what we did."

We were fully aware that you go through Tennessee to get to a championship, and that's what we had to do tonight," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "I felt like in the 20 minutes of the second half we understood that and played much better basketball. Proud of them."

The victory was the 100th career victory for Fortner as head coach of the Tigers.

Boddie said that at halftime Fortner told her she needed to step up. "She told me to play with more composure. I had a few plays out there where I got rattled a little bit, a little frustrated.

"Sometimes you have a great player like DeWanna, you can stand around and she can shoot from halfcourt and you don't have to do much, but we didn't worry about the name on the front of the jersey and just played, be more aggressive."

UT Coach Pat Summitt said, "Obviously, we went in at halftime feeling pretty good about what we had done and just our defensive scheme overall. The wheels fell off the second half. I thought we really, at times, we just didn't defend. They had their way with us in transition and off teh bounche they obviousouly sepped up and DeWanna Bonner was terrific.

"And, I knew they would probably have a good talking to at halftime and come back out because they'r a team...they're so aggressive when they're in their transition game."

SEC Tournament Notes: Former Tiger and pro star Ruthie Bolton gave the team a pre-game pep talk. "Ruthie has become a special member of our team," Fortner says. "She is a former player that has a special connection with this group. We appreciate her effort to come in and watch us play. She lives in Sacramento, and she made a great effort to get here. She has a great time spending time with them and she has such great wisdom, and when she speaks, you can't help but listen. She is funny, too, she is hilarious, the kids draw a lot from her and we appreciate her being here."...Bonner extended her Auburn record for points to 2,110 after breaking the old mark on Friday night...Auburn improved its record vs. Top 25 teams to 4-1 including two wins over Tennessee...AU's all-time SEC Tournament record is 32-24 and 4-8 vs. Tennessee...UT's bench outscored Auburn 24-6...Auburn defeated UT twice in the same season for the first time since 1986-87 when the Tigers were 31-2 and won the SEC regular season and tournament titles....The 20-point margin of victory is the largest ever for Auburn over Tennessee, topping the 14-point win earlier this season at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum...The 20-point loss is the largest ever for Tennessee in the SEC Tournament and second-largest against an SEC team...Auburn is the first SEC team to defeat Tennessee by double digits twice in the same season and the fifth team overall. The others are Connecticut (2001-02), Southern California (1983-84), Louisiana Tech (1980-81) and Tennessee Tech (1975-76)...Vandy and Georgia were the only teams to defeat the Tigers in the regular season. Auburn fell 73-70 at Vandy on Feb. 19th. The Tigers made a late rally after trailing by 16 points.

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