Usually in tight games one area becomes a major factor and the difference in winning and losing. For Auburn Thursday night it was rebounding. Coming into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the SEC, Auburn didn't have an answer for LSU's quickness in the post time and time again and Coach Joe Ciampi said that was probably the difference in the game.
Using a stifling defense and inspired play from experienced forward Le'Coe Willingham, the Tigers were able to open up a second half lead on LSU after going into the break with the score tied at 24. Showing range from the perimeter, Willingham opened the scoring in the second half with a three-pointer, part of her team-high 17 points on the night. After the two teams traded baskets for the next few, Willingham again struck for Ciampi's club.
Working free on the left wing, she drained her second three of the game to put Auburn ahead 38-34 with 12:07 remaining. A Natasha Brackett layup just 30 seconds later gave the Tigers a six-point lead and would prove to be the largest of the game for Auburn. It would also signal the beginning of the end for Auburn's offense on the night. In the final 11:38 of the game Auburn managed just five points while sensational freshman Seimone Augustus took over for LSU. Leading the way with 19 points, she scored 10 points in the final 10 minutes of the game to carry her team to the victory.
"Defensively, the kids gave the effort for most of the game," Ciampi said. "But you're in 40-minute games when you play SEC ball and that's why they are second in the country. They give the effort and they have the leadership. They bend but they never break and that was a great sign tonight of finding somebody with the hot hand and going to that person."
The normally steady Brackett had an off night for the Tigers, making just 2-14 shots from the floor to finish with just five points. Both Tia Miller and Marita Payne scored six points for the Tigers as they shot just 33.9 percent from the floor for the game, including 3-14 from three-point range. LSU wasn't much better with a 36.8 percent shooting percentage on the night. Where they made their mark was at the free throw line. Auburn hit 2-3 on the night while LSU made 12-18 to give them a 10-point margin, just enough to pull out the victory.
Auburn returns to action Sunday when they travel to Knoxville to face the #5 Tennessee Lady Vols. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.