Originally created 01/16/04

No. 20 Auburn topples No. 11 Georgia



AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn took Kara Braxton and Christi Thomas out of the game, and Georgia was never in it.

Le'Coe Willingham had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the 20th-ranked Tigers shut down the 11th-ranked Lady Bulldogs' stars in a 72-54 victory Thursday night.

Nicole Louden added a career-high 17 points for the Tigers (13-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference), who shot 53 percent.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-3, 2-1) made just 18 of 63 shots and never threatened in the second half, with Thomas and Braxton combining for just two field goals and eight points.

"I felt they were the best team in the SEC right now," Auburn coach Joe Ciampi said. "We took that challenge. This is as close as you can get to a complete game.

"Defensively, we played as good as any team, I believe, can."

He would get little argument from the Lady Bulldogs.

Thomas missed all eight of her shots and scored just two points, 12 below her average. Braxton, the team's leading scorer, was just two of six for 6 points. Reserve Jessica Pierce scored 15 points.

Georgia coach Andy Landers was as disgusted as Ciampi was elated.

"Auburn came out with a certain intent, and lived it and did it," said Landers, whose team had its six-game winning streak snapped. "We looked like a team with no intent, basically.

"I'm appalled, really. We didn't establish anything inside. We didn't shoot particularly well from the perimeter, but we were almost in a position where we were having to shoot it."

Natasha Brackett had 12 points for Auburn to reach 1,000 for her career, and Louise Emeagi added 10. The 6-foot Willingham made eight of 11 shots, including only her second 3-pointer of the season, to outplay the 6-5 Thomas and 6-6 Braxton.

Auburn led by as many as 25 points late and Georgia never got closer than 14 in the second half. The Tigers had been 0-for-3 against ranked teams this season.

"This is the best game we've played all year," Willingham said.

The Lady Bulldogs had won 10 of the past 11 meetings. But the league's top scoring team never got into an offensive rhythm against the No. 1 defense.

"You have to give it to them, they played a great game," Thomas said. "They had the fight, they had the fire. They sprung out on us early and they never let go."

The Tigers scored the final 13 points of the first half to build a 40-25 lead, hitting 16 of 25 shots. Louden capped the run with a jump shot from the free-throw line with 49 seconds left and hit one of Auburn's three 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Lady Bulldogs didn't get a basket in the final 5:32.

Willingham summed up Auburn's defensive strategy.

"Basically just collapse on them. Don't give them any room to make a move or to get a shot off," she said. "We just wanted to frustrate them, and I think we accomplished that.

"Once we got off to that great start, it was like a domino effect. Everybody caught fire."

The Tigers had only nine players dress out, with reserves Tia Miller and Tanesheia Thompson declared academically ineligible on Tuesday.