Auburn, Ala. - Western Carolina was limited to 20-percent shooting from the floor, including a season-low 16-percent in the second half, as the Lady Catamounts fell to the Auburn Tigers, 79-48, Wednesday night in non-conference action at the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The loss was Western's sixth straight to open the 2005-06 season, tying the 1991-92 squad that also began 0-6 for the slowest start in school history.
"You can't win a basketball game when you shoot 20 percent and your opponent shoots 55 percent; the odds are not going to be in your favor when you do that," said WCU head coach Kellie Harper. "Auburn got a few good looks in transition and a lot of points in the paint. When you look at the stats, though, you have to be excited for us - we had 26 offensive boards. We didn't make a lot of shots, but to get 26 against the size of team we played, we did well."
She added, "We're gaining big time game experience before heading into our conference schedule. I think as long as we stay positive, we're going to have a good year in the conference."
Western Carolina (0-6) was led by sophomore Monique Dawson with 14 points, half of which came from the free throw line. She added six rebounds and three steals on the night for the Lady Catamounts. Harper tinkered with the starting five for the first time this season, putting a trio of freshmen on the floor versus the Tigers for the first collegiate career start. First-year players Amelia Miller, April Parker, and Lauren Powell all earned the starting nod, with Miller leading the three with a career-high nine points in the loss. Parker and Powell combined for 11 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Chevon Keith added seven in the loss, pulling down a team-high nine rebounds which included six on the offensive end.
The game had an auspicious start for Western as Auburn raced out of the gates with an 7-0 run and held the Lady Cats without a field goal until the 16:50 mark of the first half when freshman Teshymia Tillman rolled in a lay-up. One minute later, sophomore Ashley Pellom made one of two free throws to pull WCU to within six, 9-3, but that would prove to be as close as the Lady Catamounts could get the remainder of the game. Auburn pulled out to a double-digit lead and took a 14-point, 38-24, advantage into halftime.
In the second half, Western was able to slice the deficit to 11 on two occasions inside the first three minutes on a Powell and Parker 3-pointer, with the latter being the freshman's first career trey. But a 10-0 spurt by the Tigers over a six minute span transformed a 12-point deficit into a 22-point hole for Western which they never could recover. During the run, the Lady Cats went 0-for-10 from the floor. Auburn would take its largest lead of 32 just inside a minute to play before Miller rattled home her first career 3-pointer to set the final margin, 78-49.
In addition to being held to the lowest scoring output since tallying 43 in the NCAA tournament a year ago, Western was held to seasonal lows in each half as well by scoring just 24 in the first and 25 in the second halves. Accompanying the scoring woes were shooting troubles as the Lady Catamounts only managed 20-percent for the game (15-for-74), 16-percent alone in the second stanza (6-for-37). Western did, however, hold its own on the boards with Auburn holding a slim, 45-42 advantage overall but the Lady Catamounts cleaning the offensive boards better at a 26-to-9 clip.
Auburn (5-4) snapped a two-game losing skid, placing four in double figures, led by 16 points from freshmen DeWanna Bonner and Whitney Boddie. Sophomore Alexis Ogubie and senior Nitasha Brown each scored 10 in the win. Auburn blocked 12 Western shots on the night, led by the 6-7 freshman KeKe Carrier with six and senior Marita Payne with five.
In the final game before breaking for exams, Western returns to action Friday night in the Ramsey Center, hosting the Radford Highlanders at 7:00 pm. The game will mark just the second-time that the Lady Cats will have played in front of the home crowd during this regular season.