Women's Basketball Set To Close Out 2009 At Surf 'N Slam Tournament
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM Alli Smalley
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
Alli Smalley
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

Dec. 27, 2009

Auburn vs. Valparaiso Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Tournament Central

SAN DIEGO - After taking a four-day break, the Auburn women's basketball team (8-3) re-assembled Friday in san Diego in preparation for the San Diego State Surf `N Slam Tournament, Dec. 28-30. The Tigers will open the tournament at 9 p.m. CT, Monday against Horizon League member Valparaiso (3-6).

Arriving in San Diego on Christmas Day, the team was welcome by 60-degree temperatures and sunny weather. The Tigers took advantage of the weather on their first full day in town, traveling by ferry to Coronado Island for some leisure time before taking to the court of their first practice.

"San Diego is so beautiful and the weather is always so nice," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "It is a nice place to get to come in the middle of winter, I don't mind rendezvousing here, even though it was Christmas Day, it was a nice place to meet up."

With a few days off following Auburn's 71-50 win at South Alabama on Dec. 20, Fortner said some time will be given to getting the team back in the swing of playing basketball.

"We will practice and spend some time letting them get their legs back and get used to the court again and moving around before we get down to the nuts and bolts of what we have to do basketball-wise," said Fortner. "It will be good to get them back on the floor and get them back in basketball mode again."

The Surf `N Slam is Auburn's second tournament of the season, following the Seminole Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. The Tigers went 1-1 at the Florida State tournament, falling to the nationally-ranked Seminoles before defeating Florida A&M.

Auburn will open the tournament against the Crusaders and will face either San Diego State (6-3) or Wake Forest (8-3) in the championship/consolation round on Dec. 30. All games will be played at SDSU's Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl.

With the tournament representing Auburn's final two games before opening its Southeastern Conference schedule, Fortner said it will be a good way to get in some final preparation as well as another opportunity to win a tournament championship.

"One of the things I have always stressed as a coach is when you have the chance to play for a championship, you should do your best to win it," said Fortner. "We have an opportunity to come out here in a tournament format and try to win a championship and that is our focus. We want to get better as a team along the way and use this as a springboard for the SEC season."

This will mark Auburn's third trip to the Surf `N Slam Tournament with the Tigers holding a 3-1 record in the event. Auburn won the tournament in 2005, defeating California-Davis, 69-54, and Loyola, 76-54. Auburn also played in 2001, falling to Iowa State in overtime, 80-75, before defeating Texas-San Antonio, 73-50.

The Tigers, winners of their last five games, will open the 2009 tournament against a Valparaiso team that is riding a six-game losing streak, having not won a game since Nov. 22 when it defeated Colorado State, 68-58. The Crusaders have since fallen to Ball State (71-64), Chicago State (62-54), Central Michigan (70-68), #15 Pittsburgh (77-52), #3 Notre Dame (88-47) and most-recently Cincinnati (62-50).

In the loss to Cincinnati, Valparaiso was missing its team leader Lauren Kenney, who is averaging 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Kenney was taking care of some academic responsibilities and is expected to re-join the team for its game against Auburn. Kenney is one of three Crusaders averaging double figures as she is followed by Betsy Adams with 13.9 points per game and Ashley Varner with 11.1 points. Varner is also second on the team in rebounding with 6.9 per game.

The Crusaders are under the direction of 15th-year head coach Keith Freeman, who sports a 262-188 record at Valparaiso and a 391-235 career mark.

"Valpo is a very well-coached team. I have a lot of respect for Coach Freeman, he has been there for a while and he does a great job with his program," said Fortner. "They are a very disciplined team, they run a great offense and we will have to work hard to stop some of the things they are going to try to do."

As a team, Valpo is scoring 61.4 points per game this season, but averages getting out-scored by 5.2 per game. The Crusaders shoot 35.8 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from beyond the arc. Nearly a third of Valparaiso's shots are 3-pointers with Adams leading the way with almost three per game. Eight different Crusaders have hit at least one 3-pointer this season.

Valparaiso averages getting out-rebounded by 2.6 per game and turns the ball over 18.2 times per game. The Crusaders also average 9.1 steals per game, but only 2.9 blocks.

Wake Forest and host San Diego State open the tournament at 7 p.m. CT, Monday, followed by the Tigers and Crusaders at 9 p.m. CT. The winners of each game will play for the tournament championship at 9 p.m. CT, Wednesday while the losers will play a consolation game at 7 p.m. CT.

Fans can follow the action live with GameTracker at AuburnTigers.com. Tiger fans can listen to the game live on WMXA 97.7 FM and AuburnTigers.com with play-by-play from Andy Burcham and color commentary from Arnika Edwards. A video Webcast is available at GoAztecs.com.

Auburn Women's Basketball Quick Hitters
• Sophomore guard Morgan Jennings dressed out for the first time this season at South Alabama
• The Tigers are riding a five-game winning streak; Valpo enters on a six-game losing streak
• The game against Valparaiso is Auburn's second against a team on a neutral court this season (Florida A&M)
• Auburn is coming off a 71-50 win at South Alabama; Valparaiso is coming off a 62-50 loss at Cincinnati
• As a team, Auburn ranks 29th in the country in 3-point field goal % (.376) and 29th in blocked shots per game (5.2)
• The Tigers are 1st in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage, 4th in blocked shots and 5th in offensive rebounds (15.9)
• Auburn and Valparaiso will meet for the first time
• The Tigers have a 3-1 all-time record in the San Diego State Surf `N Slam Tournament and won the event in 2005
• Auburn is 6-3 all-time on Dec. 28; Nell Fortner is 3-0
• The Tigers are 190-48 all-time in the month of December, 31-6 under Fortner
• Auburn owns a 6-1 all-time record against current members of the Horizon League
• AU has a 68-18 non-conference record under Nell Fortner
• In the last two games, Auburn has averaged 70.0 percent from the free-throw line
• In the win over Liberty, Auburn's front-court out-scored the back court for the first time since Feb. 10, 2008; the Tigers repeated the effort at South Alabama
• Senior KeKe Carrier has logged five straight games of 20 or more minutes for the first time since her freshman year
Nicolle Thomas scored 27 points against Florida State, the highest point output for an Auburn freshman since 1987
• The Tigers tied the Auburn single-game blocks record against Alabama A&M with 17
• Freshman Morgan Toles and sophomores Chantel Hilliard and Parrisha Simmons earned their first career starts in the season-opener against Troy; freshman Nicolle Thomas earned her first career start against Alabama A&M
Morgan Toles and Nicolle Thomas started against Alabama A&M, marking the first time for Auburn to have multiple freshmen starters since March 3, 2006 against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament (Boddie, Bonner, Carrier)
KeKe Carrier, Auburn's lone senior, started against Alabama A&M - her first since Feb. 11, 2007
KeKe Carrier had Auburn's first double-double of the season (17 pts.-12 rebs.) against Florida A&M; she followed up with her second consecutive double-double against North Carolina A&T with career highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds
• The Tigers are beginning their final season in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum before moving to the new Auburn Arena
• Auburn was picked eighth in the SEC Preseason Media and Coaches' polls, LSU (media) and Tennessee (coaches) were picked to win the league this season
Alli Smalley was picked the the Coaches' Preseason All-SEC Second Team
Nell Fortner is beginning her sixth season at Auburn, marking her longest tenure at any job
• The Tigers welcome four newcomers: Blanche Alverson, Morgan Toles, Nicolle Thomas, Pascale West
• Auburn begins the season with 6-7 KeKe Carrier and 6-8 Pascale West, two of the three tallest players in the SEC
• AU is without Reneisha Hobbs and Morgan Jennings after suffering ACL injuries, leaving the Tigers with a roster of nine
• Auburn will be a first- and second-round host of the 2011 NCAA Tournament in the new Auburn Arena

GAME NOTES

RANKINGS
Auburn and Valparaiso are not ranked.

NEXT UP FOR THE TIGERS
Auburn will play either host San Diego State or Wake Forest in the championship/consolation round of the tournament at either 5 or 7 p.m. CT, Dec. 30.

QUICK HITS
Auburn is in its 39th season of women's basketball and sports an all-time record of 773-332... AU has made 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, two WNIT appearances and three Final Fours in the program's history... Head Coach Nell Fortner is in her sixth season at Auburn with a 126-71 career record and a 109-60 record on the Plains... The Tigers are coming off a 30-4 season in 2008-09 with their first SEC title in 20 years and its second NCAA Tournament appearance in as many seasons.

THE SERIES
This will be the first meeting between Auburn and Valparaiso.

SCOUTING AUBURN
A third of the way through the regular season, Auburn is led by junior Alli Smalley, the lone starter from last year's SEC Championship team, with 15.9 points per game. Also averaging double figures is senior KeKe Carrier trails with 13.0 points per game after a 23-point outing at South Alabama. Seven of the nine active Tigers are averaging more than 5.0 points per game so far this season.

Carrier is having the best season of her career as she is averaging 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. She has also tallied a pair of double-doubles on the season, including career highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds at North Carolina A&T.

Nicolle Thomas, averaging 9.5 points per game, is the highlight of the freshman class as she has stepped up into a starting role, becoming one of Auburn's top offensive threats. She put up 27 points earlier this season against Florida State, marking the most points scored by an Auburn freshman in 22 years.

Auburn is 8-3 on the season with all three losses coming to teams that are either nationally-ranked or receiving votes in the polls. Texas A&M and Florida State are both top-15 teams while Temple is receiving votes.

As a team, Auburn is shooting 44.0 percent from the field, including a 37.6 percent clip from 3-point land. Smalley, Thomas and freshman Blanche Alverson have combined for Auburn's 3-point triple threat, accounting for all 56 treys hit by the Tigers this season.

Auburn has struggled at the line, hitting just 58.9 percent, but are out-rebounding their opponents by 4.7 pergame.

SCOUTING VALPARAISO
Valparaiso enters its game with Auburn on a six-game losing streak, having not won a game since Nov. 22 when it defeated Colorado State, 68-58. The Crusaders have since fallen to Ball State (71-64), Chicago State (62-54), Central Michigan (70-68), #15 Pittsburgh (77-52), #3 Notre Dame (88-47) and most-recently Cincinnati (62-50).

In the loss to Cincinnati, Valparaiso was missing its team leader Lauren Kenney, who is averaging 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Kenney was taking care of some academic responsibilities and is expected to re-join the team for its game against Auburn. Kenney is one of three Crusaders averaging double figures as she is followed by Betsy Adams with 13.9 points per game and Ashley Varner with 11.1 points. Varner is also second on the team in rebounding with 6.9 per game.

The Crusaders are 3-6 on the season and return two starters and eight letterwinners from last season's team that went 16-14 and finished fourth in the Horizon League with a 10-8 record. Valpo was picked to finish sixth in the 2009-10 Horizon League Preseason Coaches' poll and Kenney was named to the preseason all-conference second team. The Crusaders are under the direction of 15th-year head coach Keith Freeman, who sports a 262-188 record at Valparaiso and a 391-235 career mark.

As a team, Valpo is scoring 61.4 points per game this season, but averages getting out-scored by 5.2 per game. The Crusaders shoot 35.8 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from beyond the arc. Nearly a third of Valparaiso's shots are 3-pointers with Adams leading the way with almost three per game. Eight different Crusaders have hit at least one 3-pointer this season.

Valparaiso averages getting out-rebounded by 2.6 per game and turns the ball over 18.2 times per game. The Crusaders also average 9.1 steals per game, but only 2.9 blocks.

LAST TIME OUT FOR AUBURN
Senior KeKe Carrier erupted for 16 second-half points en route to finishing the day with a game-high 23 as the Auburn women's basketball team (8-3) picked up the 71-50 win at in-state rival South Alabama (5-6).

Carrier led a pack of three Tigers in double figures as Alli Smalley finished with 13 points, followed by freshman Morgan Toles with 10. Sophomore Chantel Hilliard came off the bench to lead Auburn in rebounding with a career-high 11 boards.

Auburn also got it done on the defensive end, limiting South Alabama to only 18 field goals in the game, 10 of which came from beyond the arc. The Jaguars were held to 30.0 percent shooting, but knocked down 38.5 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Shakira Nettles led the Jaguars with 15 points, all 3-pointers. Christian Shelter added nine while Tashley Gaines added six off the bench. Cylenthia Kennon was the top rebounded for USA, pulling down seven boards

With Auburn ahead by only 13 with 8:45 left to play, Carrier stepped up to score 12 straight points for the Tigers, extending the lead to 21 with 4:07 left to play.

Auburn shot 50.0 percent from the field in the game, 28-of-56, and was 30.0 percent from beyond the arc after hitting 3-of-10 attempts. The Tigers were 12-of-17 from the charity stripe in the game for 70.6 percent. Auburn also committed a season-low 13 turnovers while picking up three steals and seven blocked shots.

LAST TIME OUT FOR VALPARAISO
Playing without their top player, the Crusaders dropped a 62-50 decision at Cincinnati on Dec. 21. Ashley Varner led Valparaiso with a career-high 23 points and seven rebounds, connecting on 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. Kelly Watts added seven points while Skyler Gick added a team-high five assists off the bench.

The Crusaders led 41-37 with nine minutes to play, but the host Bearcats finished the game on a 25-9 run.

Valparaiso shot 33.3 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. Of the Crusaders' 19 field goals, 10 of them were 3-pointers. Cincinnati out-rebounded Valpo, 62-50, but lost the turnover battle as Valparaiso picked up eight steals, forcing 19 turnovers. Valpo turned the ball over only 11 times.

AGAINST THE HORIZON LEAGUE
Auburn holds a 6-1 all-time record against current members of the Horizon League. Auburn's last meeting against a Horizon League team came in the 2007-08 season-opener as Auburn downed Detroit, 91-47, on Nov. 11. The lone loss came to Wisconsin-Green Bay, 64-56, on Nov. 19, 2004 in the 2004-05 season-opener.

Nell Fortner VS. KEITH FREEMAN
This will be the first meeting between Auburn head coach Nell Fortner and Valparaiso's Keith Freeman.

Fortner is in her sixth season at Auburn and holds a 109-60 record on The Plains. Freeman is in his 15th season at Valparaiso as head coach and holds a 262-186 record.

ON THIS DATE. . .
Auburn is 6-3 all-time when playing on Dec. 28. The last game for the Tigers on Dec. 28 came in 2007 when the Tigers defeated Davidson, 66-59, at the St. Joseph's Hawk Classic. The last loss came in 2001 as Auburn lost to Iowa State in overtime, 80-75, in the San Diego State Surf `N Slam Tournament. Nell Fortner is 3-0 as Auburn's coach on Dec. 28.

AUBURN AT THE SAN DIEGO STATE SURF `N SLAM
This will mark Auburn's third trip to the San Diego State Surf `N Slam Tournament with the Tigers holding a 3-1 record in the event. Auburn won the tournament in 2005, defeating California-Davis, 69-54, and Loyola, 76-54. Auburn also played in 2001, falling to Iowa State in overtime, 80-75, before defeating Texas-San Antonio, 73-50.

Each time Auburn has played in the tournament, its games have been on Dec. 28 and 30.

Nell Fortner is 2-0 as Auburn's head coach in the Surf `N Slam.

STEPPING UP AT THE LINE
After logging more than half of its games shooting less than .600 from the free throw line, the Auburn women's basketball team ranked as the worst in the SEC and one of the worst in the country. The Tigers have hit 58.9 percent of their free throws this season, but have stepped up in the last two games to knock down 70.0 percent on 28-of-40 shooting.

Auburn's post players have stepped up to lead the charge as Jordan Greenleaf has hit 90 percent (9-of-10) in the last two games while KeKe Carrier has hit 81.8 percent (9-of-11).

GOING TO THE POST
In Auburn's 70-64 win over Liberty, the Tiger front court accounted for 47 points, 67.1 percent of the offensive output. It marked the first time since a Feb. 10, 2008 win at Arkansas (73-68) for the Auburn front court to out-score the back court. Against the Razorbacks, the front court accounted for 48 of the 73 points for 65.8 percent.

The Tigers did it again at South Alabama on Dec. 21 as the front court accounted for 44 of the 71 points for 62 percent.

WELCOME BACK
After suffering an ACL injury in July, sophomore guard Morgan Jennings dressed for Auburn's Dec. 20 game at South Alabama. Though she did not play in the game, it marked the first of the season for her to dress out at.

LOGGING THE MINUTES
Senior center KeKe Carrier has been logging the minutes this season and has played more than 20 minutes in the last five games. It marks the first time for Carrier to tally 20 or more minutes in five games in a row since Feb. 19 - March 6, 2006 (20 vs. Florida, 26 at Tennessee, 33 at Georgia, 28 vs. South Carolina, 24 vs. Tennessee) of her freshman season.

SUPER FRESHMAN
Freshman Nicolle Thomas did against Florida State what no Auburn freshman has done in a long time. The Moultrie, Ga., native scored 27 points against the 12th-ranked Seminoles, the highest single-game scoring output by an Auburn freshman since Linda Godby scored 30 against Mercer on Feb. 23, 1987.

DOUBLE DOWN
Senior KeKe Carrier tallied Auburn's first double-double of the season against Florida A&M in the 2009 Seminole Classic. The Lake Charles, La., native put up a season-high 17 points while coming one short of her career high with 12 rebounds.

She followed up in the very next game with another, tallying career-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds in Auburn's 76-63 win at North Carolina A&T.

STARTING FRESHMEN
In the Nov. 19 win over Alabama A&M, Nicolle Thomas made her first career appearance in the starting lineup, joining fellow freshman Morgan Toles. With two freshmen starting, it marked the first time for Auburn to have multiple freshmen in the starting lineup since March 3, 2006 when freshmen Whitney Boddie, DeWanna Bonner and KeKe Carrier started in the SEC Tournament against Tennessee.

BACK IN THE LINEUP
KeKe Carrier, the lone senior on Auburn's roster this season, made her 24th career start on Nov. 19 against Alabama A&M. It marked the first time for Carrier to start a game at Auburn since Feb. 11, 2007 when she started at Vanderbilt.

64 AND COUNTING
Auburn junior guard Alli Smalley earned her first collegiate start on Dec. 29, 2007 at Saint Joseph's, the 14th game of her collegiate career, and has not left. Since then, Smalley has started in 64 consecutive games.

BLOCK PARTY
Auburn tied the single-game school record for blocked shots on Nov. 19, 2009 with 17 against Alabama A&M. Auburn has twice before recorded 17 blocks in a game, first on Dec. 1, 1993 against Lamar and again on Feb. 23, 1994 against South Alabama. In the Alabama A&M game, freshman Pascale West tallied seven blocks while KeKe Carrier added five.

OUTSIDE THE LEAGUE
Nell Fortner has guided the Tigers to a 68-18 ledger in non-conference play. When playing in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, Fortner's teams have posted a 28-4 mark. The only four non-conference losses in BEMC came from Xavier on Dec. 2, 2005 (58-60), No. 2 Duke on Dec. 31, 2004 (61-80), No. 20 George Washington on Jan. 3, 2008 (68-66) and No. 15 Texas A&M on Nov. 22, 2009 (79-59).

OFFENSE WINS GAMES
Auburn is 76-2 when scoring 70 or more points in the Nell Fortner era. The only times Auburn has lost when scoring at least 70 points was on Jan. 20, 2005 vs. No. 7 Tennessee, 71-81 and Feb. 19, 2009 at No. 18 Vanderbilt, 73-70. When scoring less than 70 points, Auburn is 32-58 during the Fortner era.

IN DECEMBER
Auburn is 190-48 all-time in the month of December, including a 31-6 mark under Nell Fortner (records begin in 1978-79 season, not all dates provided prior to or during that season).