In a replay of an earlier Auburn vs. Tennessee matchup this season, Auburn blew a double digit lead against the SEC's top women's basketball team as the Tigers finished the season with a 66-51 loss to the Lady Vols.
It was also the third time this season Auburn lost to the SEC champions and in each game the Tigers led at halftime and in each game they had a chance to win until late in the contest.
In the third meeting, Auburn folded like a lawn chair down the stretch as Tennessee overcame a 31-22 halftime deficit and pulled away for a deceivingly lopsided win on the scoreboard. The Lady Vols won the first meeting 81-72 in Knoxville and the second 59-56 in Auburn.
Auburn guard Natasha Brackett, who led all scorers with 22 points, was held to five points in the second half of the defensive struggle. She hit 9-18 field goals and was four of seven on three-pointers. The rest of the team struggled offensively. Auburn managed to hit just 33.3 percent of its shots for the game. UT wasn't much better, making 35.4 percent.
Tennessee took control of the rebounding in the second half to pull away from Auburn. The Vols finished the game with a 50-37 advantage on the boards and really pounded the offensive boards with 26 offensive rebounds. They also forced 16 Auburn turnovers, three more than they committed.
Coach Pat Summitt said that she told her team to turn up the intensity on defense and on the boards at halftime or else they would be spending the rest of the SEC Tournament period back home in Knoxville on the court at practice. The halftime speech worked as UT outscored Auburn 44-20 in the second half.
Auburn coach Joe Ciampi said, Against championship teams it comes down to your ability to defend for 40 minutes. You have to be able to disrupt their offense, secure easy baskets and draw fouls. We lacked the momentum to get rebounds and became a one shot a possession team. You are not going to win many games getting only one shot a possession."
Forward Gwen Jackson and guard Kara Lawson scored 17 points for the Lady Vols and guard Tasha Butts added 15.
Auburn got 13 points from center Tia Miller, but nobody else scored in double figures. Nicole Louden added nine points for the Tigers, but the point guard made just 3-14 field goals. Starting center Mandisa Stevenson finished with just one point and starting forward Le'Coe Willingham scored two.
Auburn didn't get much help from the bench as Dani Kubik added four points while Lakeisha Johnson, Marita Payne and Nancy Derrick did not score for Auburn, which fell to 18-11 after beating Kentucky in the opening round of the tournament before losing in round two. Tennessee, which has not lost since conference play began, is 27-3.