Cold-Shooting AU Has Disappointing NCAA Exit

Auburn struggled from start to finish in its second round NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament game at Rutgers.

Piscataway, N.J.--Auburn's season came to a disappointing end as the Tigers were blown out of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Monday night by the Rutgers Scarlet Knight.

Rutgers coasted to an 80-52 victory as the Tigersstruggled to shoot the ball or defend the Scarlet Knights, who looked comfortable on their homecourt.

Auburn finished the season with a 30-4 record while Rutgers moves into the Sweet 16 with a 21-12 mark.

The Tigers made just 27.8 percent of their field goals and were just 2-13 on three-pointers.

In contrast, Rutgers made 53.7 percent of its shots and 5-14 threes.

They came us at us very hard," Fortner said. "I think it got us back on our heels a little bit and messed with our confidence a little bit. It took us a little bit longer to get going offensively.

"The bottom line is you've got to make some stops," Fortner noted. "I thought there were opportunities for us to. They got some easy baskets with offensive putbacks early. You can't have that happen. It just messes with your confidence.

"It was just a tough beginning for us," Fortner added. "We were having to crawl out of a hole early. It got to be a little too big."

Auburn couldn't find anybody to consistently make shots. Senior DeWanna Bonner led the Tigers with 17 points, but she hit just 5-15 field goals. She led the Tigers on the boards with nine rebounds.

Whitney Boddie scored 10 for the Tigers, but made just 4-14 field goals. She added three assists, five rebounds and did not have a turnover.

Another senior, Sherell Hobbs, made just 4-15 field goals for her eight points.

Sophomore guard Alli Smalley finished with four points. She made just 2-11 shots.

Epiphanny Prince led Rutgers with 27 points and Kia Vaughn scored 15.

The Scarlet Knights jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead before the Tigers got on the scoreboard at the 16:50 mark on a basket by Trevesha Jackson.

Rutgers then piled on with a 13-2 run that featured a four-point play as Heather Zurich hit a three-point basket and added a free throw on a foul by Alli Smalley to make the score 19-4.

Another trey made it 22-4 before KeKe Carrier came off the bench and got her first points of the game.

The Tigers managed to cut the lead to 13 points at the 6:18 mark on a layup by Bonner, but the Scarlet Knights took control again and led by 20 at 40-20.

At halftime Rutgers was on top 43-28. Bonner led the Tigers at the break with nine points and five rebounds while Carrier scored seven.

The Tigers had a better start to the second half and cut the lead to 46-36 on a basket by Smalley, but that was one of the few shots the sophomore guard made despite having numerous open looks.

"I thought we really made a nice run in the second half," Fortner said. "We were getting the tempo up to where we wanted it, but we didn't knock down shots. We had several opportunities for a three.

"For us, when we hit a shot like that in the middle of a run, like when Alli knocks a shot down or Sherrell knocks a shot down, all of the sudden the table turns for us a little bit. We had the run going, but we just didn't have the shots going down for us.

"At that point Rutgers was going back down to the other end and scoring. It kind of took the wind out of us."

Auburn's run didn't last long because of the cold shooting that turned frigid. The Tigers took their shooting woes to a new low and were quickly down by 22 as the Scarlet Knights went on a 16-4 run to take a 62-40 lead with 7:52 to play.

After that the only remaining question was how bad the final margin would be. And, it wasn't pretty.

"It all came down to us knocking down shots," Hobbs said. "We didn't hit shots like we usually do. They were pressuring the ball and they were physical. We knew that going in, but our shots weren't falling. You can always make defensive stops and we weren't making defensive stops either. We just had a bad shooting night."

Fellow senior Bonner said, "We just missed shots and they were making them. When you're missing shots and a team is making shots that kind of kills your confidence right there. We just weren't hitting. We had a great season. They just played great basketball tonight."

Auburn's other three losses were games the Tigers had a chance to win until the closing seconds, but that wasn't the case on Monday night in New Jersey.

"It just wasn't our night," Fortner said. "I give Rutgers credit. I thought they were just outstanding tonight. I'm really proud of how my kids fought. They fought hard to the end and believed to the end. That's a fun bunch of kids to coach."

Commenting on her seniors, Fortner said, "They had an outstanding career at Auburn and I'm so proud of them for that. They put Auburn women's basketball back on the map in the national scene. That's big for our program. We'll continue to feed off that and continue to build this program.

"I'm proud of them for what they did for Auburn and for the State of Alabama. Those are four Alabama kids. That's a part of their legacy that will go down in Auburn women's basketball history. They were fighters to the end and believers to the end.

This loss does not define their career at Auburn in any form or fashion. It's a loss that came at a tough time with a big prize attached at the end of it. That's what makes it so painful."

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