Bonner sets mark in Auburn’s 71-65 win

Published 8:51 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — DeWanna Bonner started the game with a 3-pointer and ended it with a pair of crucial free throws. In between, she fought through hard fouls, controlled the lane and — oh, yeah — broke the school scoring record as well.

Bonner scored 32 points to lead No. 6 Auburn to a 71-65 win over Mississippi on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament. Bonner now has 2,084 points for her career. Becky Jackson, who played during the early 1980s, held the previous record at 2,068.

“It’s just a tremendous honor,” Bonner said. “I’m excited, but I’m really not focused on it. I’m just ready to play the next game — and keep adding to those points.”

Bonner tied Jackson’s mark with a soft bank shot early in the second half, then broke it moments later with a contested shot from about 6 feet that gave the Tigers (28-2) a 46-29 lead.

Ole Miss (17-14) rallied to make it 66-63 in the final minute, but Whitney Boddie sank a baseline shot to give top-seeded Auburn a five-point advantage.

“You want to get tested,” Boddie said. “It prepares you for the future.”

Shantell Black’s driving layup made it 68-65, but Bonner was fouled and made two free throws with 19.7 seconds left.

Elizabeth Robertson missed a 3-pointer at the other end for the Rebels.

“We just hung so tough,” Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. “That was the neat thing. I hesitated on calling some timeouts because I do have tremendous confidence in them. I know they know what to do. That’s one of the neat things about coaching this bunch right now.”

Bonner also had 13 rebounds and three blocks. She shot 12-of-19 from the field. Boddie scored 15 points with 10 assists and seven rebounds.

Auburn advanced to play either No. 19 Tennessee or No. 21 Florida on Saturday night.

Ole Miss’ Bianca Thomas, who scored 31 points in Thursday’s win over Arkansas, was held to 12 by Auburn’s defense. She impressed the crowd with a nifty behind-the-back move on a fast break in the second half, but Auburn still led 55-42 after that basket.

“That was the plan — it was to absolutely smother her as best we could,” Fortner said. “She’s just a player that can change a whole game in about two minutes.”

Shawn Goff scored 17 of her 25 points in the first half for Ole Miss.

“She knew going in this game that Bianca Thomas was going to be shut down,” Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. “That either works on your psyche one way or the other, and today she stepped up.”

The Rebels fell behind 10-2 but managed to stay in the game for most of the half against the tournament’s top seed. Auburn led 35-29 at intermission.

Ole Miss never had an answer for the 6-foot-4 Bonner, who opened the scoring by smoothly sinking a 3 from the top of the key. Then she knocked away a pass to start a fast break and, later in the first half, was fouled twice in a row on fast breaks. After the second foul sent her sprawling to the floor next to the Ole Miss cheerleaders, Bonner got up shaking her left hand in a bit of pain.

Fortner came out to midcourt along the sideline to argue when the play was not ruled an intentional foul.

“That was two in a row, and that’s really what bothered me,” Fortner said. “That’s pretty tough to watch as a coach.”

Ladner had her own complaints about the officiating after her team attempted only two free throws in the second half.

“I thought there were some calls that we didn’t get,” Ladner said. “They were very physical. I thought there were times they were over our back. … They’re a good team. We’re smaller. We have to back people up and really, really get them over our back for us to get a call sometimes, but I’m not sure that that was evenly distributed.”