AU Falls in SEC Finals to Vandy's Threes

Regular season champion Auburn couldn't win the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament title, too.

North Little Rock, Ark.--Vanderbilt proved its regular season victory over Auburn was no fluke as the Commodores defeated Auburn 61-54 to win the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament title on Sunday night.

The Commodores outscored the Tigers 30-0 from three-point range to win the title. Auburn was 0-7 on treys while Vandy made 10-28 threes.

Vanderbilt scored 17 points off of Auburn's 15 turnovers while Auburn scored just nine points off Vandy's 13 turnovers.

Vandy put the clamps on SEC Player of the Year DeWanna Bonner, who scored just nine points. She made 4-11 shots and finished with seven rebounds.

Whitney Boddie led a second half comeback attempt for the Tigers by scoring all 14 of her points after intermission, but Vandy came through with the key plays down the stretch to hold off the Tigers.

Sherell Hobbs scored nine for the Tigers while Trevesha Jackson and Chantel Hilliard scored eight apiece.

Vandy was led by Christina Wirth's 20 points. She made 8-19 field goals and added eight rebounds.

Auburn built an early 6-0 lead after Bonner scored on a fastbreak basket following baskets by Alli Smalley and Jackson.

Vandy, after a cold start shooting the ball, caught the Tigers and pulled ahead at 13-10 on a three-pointer by Worth at the 10:06 mark.

The Tigers regained the lead, but Vandy moved ahead by six points at 22-16 as Tia Gibbs beat the shot clock with Vandy's fourth three of the half.

Gibbs hit another three-pointer to put the Commodores up 29-20 causing Fortner to call Auburn's second timeout with 2:12 left in the first half.

Vandy's biggest lead of the half was 10 and that was its margin at the break as the Tigers trailed 31-21.

The Commodores built their lead by hitting 5-14 threes while Auburn was 0-2 on threes.

Vandy also held an edge on the boards with a 16-12 rebounding advantage in the first half. The Commodores hit 10-24 first half shots while Auburn made 12-27.

The Commodores forced eight Auburn first half turnovers and outscored the Tigers 12-3 on points after turnovers.

At halftime Auburn's All-SEC players combined for just four points. Bonner only got four shots launched and made two. Boddie was 0-5 at intermission as the Commodores kept the Tigers off balance by playing a variety of defenses, including a triangle and two.

In the regular season matchup at Vanderbilt, the Tigers were down by 16 points at halftime and trailed by as many as 18 before making a comeback in the second half.

The Tigers started their comeback on Sunday early in the second half. A fastbreak basket by Bonner on a pass by Boddie cut the Vandy lead to 34-29 and caused the Commodores to take a timeout at the 16:43 mark. Vandy then answered with a three to stop AU's momentum, something that would happen again in the second half.

The Tigers cut the lead to three at 49-46 with 5:17 to play as Bonner hit an off-balance layup as she was fouled and converted the free throw. However, seconds later Merideth Marsh nailed a three that seemed to take away the Tigers' energy.

Vandy built the lead back to seven. Auburn cut the lead to 58-54 on a rebound basket by Hobbs with 36.4 to play, but Vandy was able to hit its foul shots to preserve the victory, its 15th straight time to beat the Tigers.

Auburn out-rebounded Vandy 35-31 and made 8-9 free throws while Vandy hit 7-10 foul shots.

Asked why her team has struggled with Vandy, Auburn coach Nell Fortner said, "I wish I knew. I think it is the defense they play. It is always a low scoring game when we play them, and it is hard to get your points, whether it is a triangle and two, box and one, they do a lot of things that keep you out of a good offensive rhythm.

"I think Melanie (Coach Melanie Balkcom) does a good job with shutting down certain players on a team, you know, whatever the defense that they play is, they focus on taking players out of their game," Fortner adds. "You know, we just haven't been able to break through that defense."

Fortner says the Tigers needed to play better on both offense and defense. "I thought Vanderbilt played outstanding defense and kept us from getting into any kind of rhythm offensively," Fortner said. "And it was a long day for us offensively and they shot the three ball so well today. Hard to beat a team when they are shooting threes that well. I thought Vanderbilt was very good today."

Commenting on her team's lack of three-pointers made, Fortner said, "They smothered Alli all day, she was our best three-point shooter, and DeWanna, she shoots the three, and they didn't get any nice looks anyway.

"I thought they did a good job taking that away, even though we're not a huge three-point shooting team. We normally get to the free throw line a little more than we did today and we just didn't seem to get the calls in that regard.

"Normally when we're penetrating and getting to the hole, we're usually picking up some fouls, but I thought that hurt us, too--no threes and then not getting to the free throw line as much as we normally do."

Sherell Hobbs goes for a loose ball in the championship game.

Vandy coach Balcomb said she was proud of her team executing the game plan against the talented and top-seeded Tigers.

"We know we can't play 'em straight up, they've got great players," she said. "You have to do different things to get them out of their flow on offense, disrupt their offense and limit touches to their shooters, and then you have to fight on the boards.

"You have to rebound as well as keep them under control in transition. They're the fastest team up and down the court in transition that I've ever coached against, and we tried to limit those transition buckets."

The Tigers will have plenty of time to rest and practice before finding out on Monday, March 15th who they will play in the NCAA Tournament. "Once we figure out what's next, we can't worry about this loss, can't let anything dictate us," Bonner said. "We have to just go back, find out who we play and prepare."

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