AUBURN, Ala. – Senior Whitney Jones scored 17 in the first half on the way to a career high, but it was not enough to stand in the way of destiny for third-ranked Auburn as the Tigers defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks, 94-57.
The win clinched the first Southeastern Conference title for the Auburn, 27-2, 12-2 in SEC play, since 1989.
Arkansas, 17-12, finishes league play at 6-8, the best finish for the Razorbacks since 2003.
“We have to find a way to put this one behind us,” UA head coach Tom Collen said. “We just ran into a buzz saw today and we have to put this one behind us.”
The loss combined with a win by the Georgia Lady Bulldogs makes Arkansas the eighth-seed for next week’s SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in North Little Rock at ALLTEL Arena.
The Razorbacks play Ole Miss at noon on Thursday, March 5, with the winner to face the top-seed Tigers on Friday. The Lady Rebels head into the game 16-13 overall, 5-9 in the SEC, after losing to LSU, 59-48.
“It’s a good matchup for us and a revenge game for them,” Collen said. “Neither team played really well in Fayetteville, so I’m sure they think they can get the win on a neutral court.”
Auburn was flawless in the first half committing zero turnovers and shooting 52.5% to build a 54-32 lead.
“It was a rough day right from the beginning,” Collen said. “I can’t remember us getting a stop in the first half. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stat sheet with 11 assists and zero turnovers. They played near perfection. Hats off to them, they deserve to be the conference champion.”
Jones led Arkansas with 23 to give the Blytheville, Ark., senior a career high, and pulled down 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.
“Whitney came to play,” Collen said. “She was the one bright spot for us heading into the SEC tournament.
Jones opened her career at Arkansas with 22 at SMU, a mark she equaled earlier this season against North Dakota.
Auburn senior DeWanna Bonner became the second all-time leading scorer for the Tigers during the first half, passing Vicki Orr.
Jones did her best to keep Arkansas’ offense moving with 7-of-11 from the field and a near-double by halftime with seven points to go with her 17.
Unfortunately, Auburn would not be denied, taking a 54-32 halftime lead.
A fast 7-1 start to the second half by the Razorbacks cut the Auburn lead to 17, but that was as close as Arkansas could get to the red-hot Tigers.
Arkansas hoped to avoid the slow start that put the Razorbacks into a hole in the first meeting in Fayetteville, but a combination of poor ball handling and a red-hot Auburn resulted in a 9-1 start.
The Razorbacks committed four quick turnovers to fuel a 57% shooting start for Auburn.
Jones scored Arkansas first seven points of the game as the Razorbacks tried to keep pace, but by the second media timeout Auburn had doubled the Razorbacks, 24-12.
Bonner finished the game with 25 points to lead Auburn. Sherrell Hobbs added 18 points with 11 for Chantel Hilliard. Whitney Boddie had 10 points and eight assists for Auburn.
SEC Women’s Basketball TournamentNorth Little Rock, Ark.DAY ONE – Thursday, March 5ARKANSAS vs. Ole Miss, NoonGeorgia vs. Kentucky, 2:30 p.m.Tennessee vs. Alabama, 6:30 p.m.Miss State vs. South Carolina, 9 p.m.DAY TWO – Friday, March 6Winner of Arkansas-Ole Miss vs. Auburn, NoonWinner of UG-UK vs. Vanderbilt, 2:30 p.m.Winner of UT-Bama vs. Florida, 6:30 p.m.Winner of MSU-USC vs. LSU, 9:00 p.m..