Women's Basketball Set To Open SEC Tournament With Mississippi State
March 2, 2011
GAME 30 SEC TOURNAMENT
[NR/NR] Auburn (15-14, 8-8 SEC) vs. [NR/NR] Mississippi St. (12-16, 4-12 SEC)
When: Thursday, March 3 9 p.m. CT
NASHVILLE - The Auburn women's basketball team (15-14, 8-8 SEC) arrived in Music City Wednesday afternoon for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. The Tigers, the No. 6 seed in the tournament, will open play against No. 11 seed Mississippi State (12-16, 4-12 SEC) at 9 p.m., Thursday.
"The SEC Tournament is such a fun tournament to watch and to be around that atmosphere," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "It's exciting - it's postseason play. It really has great energy and the games are very competitive.
"It's a great atmosphere and it will be a great experience for our kids. We have a lot of young kids on this team, and to be in that atmosphere and to compete in that setting, it will be exciting."
Auburn is 34-27 all-time in the SEC Tournament and has won four tournament titles, most recently in 1997. The Tigers and Bulldogs have met only twice before in the SEC Tournament, in 1988 and 2000, with the teams splitting the two meetings.
"We are looking forward to playing in the SEC Tournament and trying to pick up some more wins and compete as hard as we can and give ourselves the best opportunity for postseason play," said Fortner. I feel like our backs are against the wall, and having to recover from losing our point guard and kind of reassembling our team a little bit right here towards the end. I think we've found a little bit of our footing and hopefully we can continue finding it during the SEC Tournament."
Auburn and Mississippi State met twice during the 2011 regular season with each team winning on the road. The Tigers won the first meeting, 45-41, on Jan. 20 in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi State returned the favor on Feb. 6, taking a 57-45 victory in Auburn Arena.
The win at Auburn was the first league win for Mississippi State. The victory sparked a Bulldog run in which MSU won four of its last seven games of the season.
Mississippi State has three players averaging double figures, led by Mary Kathryn Govero with 12.8 points per game. She is followed by Diamber Johnson with 12.5 points and Porsha Porter with 10.1 points per game.
The Bulldogs have struggled to score points this season, scoring more than 60 points only five times in SEC play. For the season, MSU averages 58.6 points per game, but still manage to hold its opponents to 59.4 points per game.
As a team, the Bulldogs shoot 37.6 percent from the field and 33.4 percent from 3-point range. MSU has several 3-point threats as four different players have hit at least 20 treys this season. Govero leads the way with 76 at a .392 clip, followed by Porter with 33 on the season and Johnson with 31.
"Mississippi State's players are very talented, they're fast, they're quick and they can shoot," said Fortner. "It was just a matter of them finding their chemistry and just finding themselves with pretty much a whole new lineup from last season outside of Mary Kathryn Govero. It was just a matter of them coming together, and that was something we had to go through after we lost our starting lineup from two years ago.
"I thought when we played them the first time, it was a defensive struggle, and then when they came here, those guards just really had a nice day shooting the ball. It was a struggle for us to shut them down."
After entering the month of February in a tie for second place in the SEC, the Tigers struggled to finish out the season with a 2-6 mark in the month. Auburn managed to finish the season in a tie for fifth in the SEC and enters the conference tournament as the No. 6 overall seed.
The Tigers have lived off their defense this season, averaging 8.8 steals and 3.9 blocks per game. Auburn opponents average 18.8 turnovers per game with the Tigers scoring an average of 17.8 points per game off of turnovers.
Senior Alli Smalley, an All-SEC First Team selection, leads the team with 12.1 points per game, followed by sophomore Blanche Alverson with 10.9 per game. Smalley and Alverson have also combined to average 3.3 3-pointers made per game.
Alverson also leads the team in rebounding with 4.6 boards per game, followed by freshman Jassany Williams with 3.7 per game. Sophomore Morgan Toles averages 8.6 points and 5.1 assists per game, good enough for first in the SEC.
For fans that cannot make it to the game, GameTracker will be available at AuburnTigers.com. Tiger fans can listen to the game live on WMXA 96.7 FM with play-by-play from Andy Burcham and color commentary from Arnika Edwards. An audio Webcast will also be available at AuburnTigers.com.
The game will also air live on Fox Sports Net and online at ESPN3.com. Dave Baker and LaChina Robinson will call the action.
Auburn University will host the first and second rounds of the 2011 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship, March 20 and 22 at Auburn Arena. Tickets are available now at AUBTix.com.
Follow Auburn women's basketball on Twitter at twitter.com/AuburnWBB.
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