Auburn, Ala.--Senior Day for Auburn’s lone senior couldn’t have gone much better as Coach Nell Fortner’s Tigers upset Kentucky in the final women’s basketball game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.
Senior Keke Carrier, a 6-7 senior center, scored 13 points and added seven rebounds plus four blocked shots as Auburn upset 14th-ranked Kentucky 65-53. Carrier also passed the 1,000 points mark for scoring in her collegiate career.
Auburn’s defense held Kentucky to just 36.1 percent shooting and Carrier helped shut down UK standout Victoria Dunlap, who made just 2-15 field goals while scoring four points in 32 minutes of action.
The co-star of Senior Day was junior guard Alli Smalley, who led all scorers with 26 points. She hit 10-18 field goals and added six rebounds plus four steals for Auburn. Smalley's points total was one off her collegiate high.
“There was a lot on the plate today,” said Smalley, who hit a series of key shots in the closing minutes when Kentucky was try to rally for a victory. Smalley made long-range, mid-range and acrobatic layups to score her points.
The junior guard said it was important to her to make sure that Carrier went out a winner, but added there was additional motivation. “The alumni were here and it was the last game in the coliseum and Keke’s last game at Auburn period,” she noted.
Next season the Tigers will move across the street to the new Auburn Arena, which is scheduled to open this summer.
Carrier, who was joined by her mother and other family members for a post-game ceremony to honor her, said, “This being my last game, I just wanted to be real big. My focus was going hard and being the player I can be.”
Keke Carrier shoots vs. the Wildcats.
Commenting on what it meant to win the game, she said, “It is absolutely huge because we have had some struggles throughout the season. We have done real well picking it up and getting ourselves together as a team.”
With the victory the Tigers clinched the 10th seed for the SEC Tournament.
“I am so proud of the effort,” Coach Nell Fortner said. “I think the team came out very focused and very hungry. We talked the last couple of days about this being the last game at Beard-Eaves.”
Fortner added, “We were representing a lot of people.”
Auburn improved its record to 14-15 overall and 5-11 in the SEC as a season-high crowd of 4,614 watched the action. Kentucky finished the regular season with a 23-6 overall record and is 11-5 in the conference.
Auburn won the game by out-rebounding Kentucky 43-27 and out-shooting the visitors 44.4 percent to 36.1 percent from the field.
Auburn hit 2-9 threes while UK made 6-17.
The Tigers, who have been on and off at the foul line this season, were on making 15-18 while UK hit 3-5 free throws.
Commenting on her team’s defense, Fortner said, “I thought we played very well. We played a majority of zone defense and I thought it was very effective.”
After struggling on the boards in a loss at Ole Miss on Thursday, Fortner said it was good to see the Tigers enjoy a big edge on the boards. “I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “We definitely worked on rebounding this week.”
The coach said she was happy that Carrier finished her home career with a victory on Sunday. Commenting on coaching the big center, Fortner said, “It has been a delight. She is a delightful young woman. She has so much more in her life than basketball. Probably everybody on campus knows who Keke is and she is a star, a celebrity.”
Fortner said she was really pleased with Smalley’s performance. “I wanted to sit back and have some popcorn and watch,” Fortner said. “When she is feeling it like today, you just want to sit back and enjoy the show.”
Former Auburn players were recognized at halftime of the game, including several who were on the first Auburn women's team to play at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
“All week Coach Fortner was stressing the importance of the game,” Smalley said. “We weren’t just playing for ourselves, we were playing for a whole history of people who had played in the gym.”
Mathies, A'dia 9-14 1-1 20; Smith, Amber 7-10 1-2 17; Gray, Rebecca 3-7 0-0 8; Dunlap, Victoria 2-15 0-0 4; Snowden, Keyla 1-7 0-0 3; Franklin, Amani 0-6 1-2 1; Henderson, Brittany 0-1 0-0 0; Morrow, Carly 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-61 3-5 53.
Smalley, Alli 10-18 4-4 26; Carrier, KeKe 6-9 1-2 13; Greenleaf, Jordan 3-6 4-5 10; Toles, Morgan 3-10 1-2 7; Simmons, Parrisha 2-4 1-1 5; Alverson, Blanche 0-5 4-4 4; West, Pascale 0-0 0-0 0; Jennings, Morgan 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 15-18 65.
Kentucky 21 32 53
Auburn 27 38 65
3-point goals--Kentucky 6-17 (Smith, Amber 2-2; Gray, Rebecca 2-6; Mathies, A'dia 1-1; Snowden, Keyla 1-5; Morrow, Carly 0-1; Franklin, Amani 0-2), Auburn 2-9 (Smalley, Alli 2-6; Alverson, Blanche 0-3).
Fouled out--Kentucky-None, Auburn-None.
Rebounds--Kentucky 27 (Franklin, Amani 6), Auburn 43 (Greenleaf, Jordan 8).
Assists--Kentucky 12 (Smith, Amber 4), Auburn 15 (Toles, Morgan 4). Total fouls--Kentucky 17, Auburn 10.
Technical fouls--Kentucky-None, Auburn-None.
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