Bonner, Fortner Eager to Start NCAA Play

The women's basketball team is headed to New Jersey as a No. 2 seed to face Lehigh. AU's star player and coach give their opinions on Auburn's draw.

Auburn, Ala.--SEC Player of the Year DeWanna Bonner said she isn't disappointed that her regular season SEC championship team didn't receive a No. 1 seed for he NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

"No, not at all," the senior says. "I knew we were going to be either a one or two seed. Seeding really doesn't matter any more. You just want to go out there and play because anybody can be beat in the NCAA Tournament."

The Tigers are the second seed in the Oklahoma City Region with Oklahoma the top seed in the region. Auburn will play its opening round game on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J., against 15th-seeded Lehigh, which was 12-2 in the Patriot League and 26-6 overall.

The tipoff time for Auburn's first round game will be at 11 a.m. CDT and it will be televised by ESPN2.

If the Tigers win game one, they could face 19-12 Rutgers in round two on the Scarlet Knights' homecourt on Monday night. Rutgers will open with 26-6 VCU in the second half of the doubleheader on Saturday after Auburn plays Lehigh.

On the positive side, the Tigers aren't matched up in a region with unbeaten and No. 1 ranked UConn. "Yeah, that is always a good thing, but we were prepared to play them," Bonner said of Connecticut. "We will try to match up with them in the Final Four."

Auburn head coach Nell Fortner said, "I was hopeful we were would get a one seed. We were shooting for that, but I knew we wouldn't be any lower than a two. I am pleased with where we came out.

"The NCAA Tournament is a tough tournament," Fortner said. "I feel like we are road-tested. These players are hungry. I am looking forward to get it going."

The Tigers are making their 18th trip to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament where they have posted an all-time record of 28-17. AU's best finishes came in 1988, 1989 and 1990 when Coach Joe Ciampi's teams were runner-up each of those seasons.

Auburn's last trip to the tournament was a short one as the Tigers fell in the opening round last year as an 11th seed vs. George Washington.

The Tigers, regular season champions of the SEC for the first time since 1989, have a 29-3 record.

Auburn posted a 12-0 record in home games, they were 13-2 on the road and 4-1 at neutral sites.

The Tigers celebrate their NCAA Tournament selection on Monday night at the Buffalo Connection in Auburn where hundreds of fans joined them to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show.

"It is a tough region, there's no doubt about it," Fortner said of Auburn's draw. "We are going to play on homecourts. We are going to Rutgers. If we are fortunate enough to move on, we are going to Oklahoma. It is a tough road, but there are no easy roads. That's okay because that is how the tournament works. I am just looking forward to getting the tournament started.

"I was really hoping we would play closer to home," Fortner said. "I was hoping we would get to Duluth (Georgia). I thought maybe we had an opportunity to, but it didn't work out."

Fortner said she hopes one day the tournament will be played from start to finish at neutral sites. "I think that is the only fair thing, but it is what it is right now and we will do all we can to do the best we can."

The Tigers practiced three days last week, but will turn up their intensity this week now that they know who they will play.

"I think we needed the rest and we are ready to play," Bonner said. "We needed to get ourselves back together and work on small stuff and fundamentals. I think the break was good for us and it will only make us more anxious to play."

NCAA Tournament Bracket

Tickets to the game can be purchased by calling the Rutgers Ticket Office at 1-866 445-4678 or on-line at scarletknights.com.




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