Smalley, Tigers Looking to Get It Right

Comments from Auburn guard Alli Smalley are featured as her Tigers prepare to open play in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

Piscataway, N.J.--Last season it was one and done for the Auburn Tigers in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

On Saturday the Tigers will try to get it right as they take on Patriot League champion Lehigh at 11 a.m. CDT on the campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey, a site far removed geographically from last year's road trip to California to play the George Washington Colonials.

Auburn sophomore guard Alli Smalley hopes the difference in her team's play is as great as the distance this year's game is from the 2008 loss to George Washington.

"I think we are a lot better," says Smalley, whose Tigers come into the tournament with a 29-3 record. "We were an 11 seed last year and are a two seed this year. That should boost our confidence. Our experience is a lot better and I think we are more focused and motivated this year."

This will be the 18th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Auburn women, but nobody on this team has played in more than one game in the big dance.

"It is very exciting," Smalley says. "We were a little bit anxious to see who we were playing and where we were going. I think we got a good draw. I am excited and looking forward to seeing what we can do."

"Since we made it last year we have more experience," Smalley points out. "We have four seniors who have experience and are leaders on our team. We have to stay focused, know what we can do, believe in ourselves and I think we can make a lot of noise in the tournament."

If Auburn wins on Saturday vs. 15 seed Lehigh in a game televised by ESPN2, the Tigers face a potential second round matchup with Rutgers on that team's homecourt if the Scarlet Knights defeat VCU.

Smalley says if that happens her team needs to stay positive. "We can't look at it as a disadvantage," she says. "We have just got to find some kind of motivation to go in there. Like Coach (Nell) Fortner says, it always fun to try to quiet the home crowd."

Smalley is averaging 11.7 points per game for the SEC regular season champions. SEC Player of the Year DeWanna Bonner, a senior, is scoring 21.4 points per game and averaging 8.6 rebounds. All-SEC senior guard Whitney Boddie is averaging 11.2 points and a nation-leading 8.1 assists.

Auburn's other starters are senior guard Sherell Hobbs, who is scoring 12.4 points per game, and senior forward Trevesha Jackson, who is averaging 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds.

"I like postseason play," Smalley says. "You have got to lay it all out on the line because it could be your last game. You are one and done from here on out."

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