Smalley Sparks Tigers to Opening Night Win

The Auburn women's basketball team defeated Troy to open the 2009-2010 season.

Auburn, Ala.--Alli Smalley scored a career-high 23 points as the Auburn women's basketball team opened the 2009-2010 season with a less than impressive 70-65 victory over the Troy Trojans.

In a game plagued by lots of fouls, uneven officiating, poor shooting from the line and the field, the Tigers were never able to pull away from the Trojans, a team they have now beaten 18 straight times.

Auburn coach Nell Fortner said she was happy to win and then immediately followed that statement with the word "but."

The Auburn coach watched her Tigers shoot just 33.8 percent from the field. Auburn wasn't very good at the foul line either making 23-36 free throws.

Auburn's defense was enough to carry the team to victory. Troy turned the ball over 29 times in the physical game, 16 more than the home team.

The Trojans made 38.9 percent of their field goals including 8-16 treys, which helped keep the game close despite the large number of turnovers.

"This team has a long way to go," said Fortner, who added that the Tigers have the potential to play much better. The coach said the Tigers need to play with more discipline on both ends of the court.

Auburn got 13 points from sophomore forward Chantel Hilliard, who made her first Auburn start. She added five rebounds.

Nicolle Thomas played in her first regular season college game.

Freshman Nicolle Thomas scored 13, but hit just 4-16 field goals. Her coach said that was too many shots for the guard.

Smalley and Thomas combined for 27 of Auburn's 65 field goals. The coach noted she didn't have any problem with Smalley shooting 21 field goals and said she wouldn't mind if the junior puts up 25 field goals per game.

Commenting on her performance, Smalley said,"Like Coach Fortner said, I'm one of the upperclassmen now. I have more experience than the other players, and we are a young team. We've got four freshmen coming in. One time on the floor, I noticed we had three freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior on the floor. That's pretty young right there.

"We'll just continue to learn and get better. We're not used to playing together," Smalley added. "We've got to get a flow together."

Jordan Greenleaf led the Tigers in rebounding with nine before fouling out on a mysterious call in the closing minutes.

Auburn's two centers were no factor in the game. Keke Carrier was in the game for just four minutes and scored two points and two rebounds, but had to watch most of the action from the bench due to a back injury. Freshman P.J. West got four fouls in just two minutes of action. She scored one point and didn't have a rebound. Fortner said she isn't sure when Carrier, the team's only senior, will be able to play extensively.

Troy got 14 points from Brittnie Davis and 12 apiece from Sarah McAppion and Sophie Kleeman.

Auburn narrowly won the battle of the boards 46-44 in rebounding as a crowd of 2,140 watched at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Both teams struggled with their shooting in the first half. The Tigers led 38-34 at halftime with Smalley carrying the load for the Tigers with a dozen points.

Auburn hit just 36.4 percent of its field goals in the first half. Troy made just 33.3 percent and 9-19 at the foul line while Auburn hit 11-16 free throws.

The Tigers will return to action with a 6 p.m. CST game on Tuesday night in Philadelphia vs. Temple.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories