Jan. 20, 2005
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt looked at the statistics and wondered how her team won.
Tye'sha Fluker had the answer.
"Every time they came at us, we came back with something stronger," said Fluker, who scored eight points in the final four minutes to lead a late surge for No. 7 Tennessee in an 81-71 victory over Auburn on Thursday night.
After briefly falling behind, the Lady Vols (13-3, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) made 10 of 11 free throws and stepped up their defense down the stretch to extend their regular-season league winning streak to 37 games.
The Tigers (9-8, 0-4) lost their sixth consecutive game, Auburn's longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row during the 2001-02 season.
Auburn, meanwhile, shot a season-high 58 percent and made 16 of 17 free throws.
"I thought defensively we gave them a lot of open looks early," Summitt said. "They're so good one-on-one, we had trouble defending them and containing penetration. They did a good job of getting into the paint and finding the open players.
"Statistically, you look and you wonder how we won this basketball game."
Auburn, which never led in the first 34 minutes, took a 64-63 lead on Natasha Brackett's pull-up jumper with 4:53 left. But Jackson hit all three free throws after getting fouled on a long 3-point attempt and Tennessee added six more points from the line in the final 44 seconds to thwart any comeback hopes for Auburn.
Brackett led Auburn with 20 points and three steals, making seven of 10 shots and six of seven free throws. Louise Emeagi added 19 points for the Tigers, who shot 61 percent in the second half but faded down the stretch.
"It's depressing and dejecting," Emeagi said. "We've had a couple of games like that. As Coach (Nell) Fortner said, this is the hardest part of our schedule and it's over now. Now it's time to win a few games in the SEC."
Chances are, they'll have to do a better job on the boards after getting outrebounded 32-23, including a 17-3 disadvantage on the offensive side.
"You just can't beat a team like Tennessee giving up 17 offensive boards," Fortner said. "They're physical. They're tall. They're big. They just know how to go to the glass."