Auburn women's basketball falls to rival Alabama, 59-51

AUBURN – Auburn sophomore Morgan Toles scored a team-high 13 points, but it was not enough as the Auburn women's basketball team (14-12, 7-6 SEC) fell to Alabama (14-12, 3-10 SEC), 59-51 Thursday night at the Auburn Arena.

Auburn was outscored 41-24 in the second half after taking a nine-point lead at halftime.

Behind Toles' 13 points was sophomore Blanche Alverson with nine. Freshman Jassany Williams scored eight points along with a team-high 12 rebounds.

"I thought we just did not come out and play with the type of intensity we needed to in the second half," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "You cannot win ball games like that. Alabama just came out and played a lot tougher in the second half and we couldn't match that intensity at all. We did not shoot the ball well, either."

The Tigers owned the first half, shooting 42 percent from the field and carrying a 27-18 lead into the locker room. Alabama finished the first half shooting only 5-of-32 from the field.

"Just going to the half with a nine-point lead after Alabama did not score from the 11:30 mark, we should have been able to take more advantage of it and we did not," said Fortner. "I was very concerned about that."

The Crimson Tide, who shot only 15.6 percent from the floor in the first half, was good for 58 percent in the second. Auburn's lead was chipped away over the opening nine minutes of the second half, led by back-to-back Alabama 3-pointers from Varisia Raffington.

"Varisia Raffington got really hot and that kind of sparked it for them," said Toles. "We had a lot of missed assignments of defense. They got a lot of good shots off and knocked them down."

An Alabama layup from Alicia Mitchum at the 11:17 mark tied the game at 41-41. The Tigers never regained their lead as they were outscored 13-4 over the next five minutes.

Auburn was able to cut the Alabama lead to five with 3:54 remaining, but were unable to find any points for the remainder of the contest.

Auburn finished the game 21-of-59 from the field for 35.6 percent, 7-of-18 from the line and 2-of-13 from 3-point range. Alverson tied her career high with five assists.

"I thought it was a hard-fought basketball game," said Alabama head coach Wendell Hudson. "It was a tale of two halves. In the second half, we got the ball to the basket, especially early against the zone. Then, once Auburn went to a man-to-man defense we really got the ball where we wanted to."

As a team, Alabama was 19-of-56 from the field for 34 percent, 14-of-17 from the line and 7-of-14 from outside the arc. Raffington led Alabama in scoring with 18 points while Tierney Jenkins and Ericka Russell each posted 12. Jenkins led the team in rebounding with 13.

Auburn will return to action at 1 p.m. CT, Sunday as the Tigers travel to Columbia, S.C., for a meeting with South Carolina (15-11, 7-6 SEC). The Gamecocks fell, 82-60, Thursday night to the fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols.