Lady Tigers win SEC opener; beat Auburn 70-59

No coach, no problem.<br><br> For the second game in a row, the Lady Tigers took the floor without head coach Sue Gunter. The veteran coach is still recovering from a respiratory infection and missed her the third game of her coaching career. <br><br> It did not matter, though, as No. 17 LSU won its 12th game in a row capturing a 70-59 win over 21st-ranked Auburn in the Maravich Center Sunday.

"There's always something missing but I think the credit goes to coach Gunter and how she runs the program," said assistant coach Pokey Chapman. "Its business as usual. That's a credit to her (Gunter) for getting these kids ready. The best thing, for coach Gunter, is just coming away with a win."

Doneeka Hodges led all LSU scorers with 20 points, but the emergence of freshman Hanna Biernacka was the story of the day. Hitting 6 of 11 shots, Biernacka scored a career-high 14 points.

"Hanna has been one of the best shooters that I have had to get on to shoot the ball more," Chapman said.

Biernacka hit just 1 of 2 shots in the first half, but nailed 5 of 9 in the second period, including one bucket from beyond the arch.

"Coach has been on me to take shots, so I am taking them," Biernacka said. "There are telling me to shoot, shoot, shoot. I think I am looking for a better, even when I am wide open."

LSU opened the game on fire ripping off six consecutive points on jump shots from Augustus and Hodges. Consecutive buckets by Auburn's Le'Coe Willingham narrowed LSU's early lead to 7-5. But the Lady Tigers rebounded with a 9-2 run.

At one point, LSU had built a 16-7 lead, but three-point shooting kept the visiting Tigers in the game as Auburn got as close as 16-12.

The Lady Tigers mounted on the offensive once again posting another 9-2 run, widening their lead to 25-14 on made baskets by Augustus, Temeka Johnson and Scholanda Hoston.

LSU regained a double-digit advantage following a Tillie Willis jump shot at the 4:13 mark, Louise Emeagi popped a three-pointer then converted a three-point play on the heels of an LSU foul to close the first half scoring with the Lady Tigers clinging to a 33-28 lead.

The Lady Tigers fired off a 13-5 run opening the second half.

Hodges ripped a pair of three-balls extending LSU's lead to double-digits at 39-28. Biernacka added a long-range bomb of her own, draining a trey with just under 18 minutes. Johnson hit a coast-to-coast runner and Biernacka banked a jumper off the glass for a 46-33 lead.

"Defensively, it put us in a panic mode," said Auburn head coach Joe Ciampi. "We put a pretty good run at the end of the first half. We built some confidence, then Hodges comes out in the second half with two big threes and then we are questioning who we are."

Coming out of the half's first official timeout at the 15:55 mark, the Lady Tigers poured on five straight points opening up a 16-point lead 51-35 on a three-pointer by Biernacka and two Hodges free throws.

The teams traded baskets as the game neared 10 minutes. An Augustus bucket pushed the Lady Tigers over the 60-point mark giving LSU a 15-point, 61-46 lead with 10:12 to go in regulation.

An Augustus free throw gave the Lady Tigers their biggest lead of the game, a 64-46 lead with 9:03 to go. But LSU went on a four-plus minute drought after a Sholanda Hoston bucket at the 5:45 mark put the Lady Tigers on top 66-50. LSU's next score was a Biernacka jumper with 52 seconds remaining.

"We were lucky to have a big enough lead," Chapman said. "We like to talk to the kids and them to forget the score, forget the time."

Auburn closed the gap to nine points, trailing 66-57 with just over one minute left before Biernacka's basket and a jumper by Johnson iced the game.

"We just have to put it together," Johnson said. "We start out fast and when we tart good we have to finish good, we can't go 37 minutes of good play and the last three we have (bad). We have to play continually and be consistent."

Auburn came into the game as the SEC's best rebounding team. LSU outrebounded the visiting Lady Tigers by 13, a 42-29 deficit.

"They were a determined bunch and we certainly can't make any excuses," Ciampi said. "We were not at full steam with our people and it showed."          


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