Bonner scores 26 as Auburn beats Lehigh 85-49

Published 2:01 pm Saturday, March 21, 2009

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Southeastern Conference player of the year DeWanna Bonner and Auburn made Lehigh’s second trip to the NCAA tournament just as short as the first one.

Bonner scored 26 points and led an early 21-3 spurt that carried the second-seeded Tigers to an 85-49 victory over 15th-seeded Lehigh in a first-round game in the Oklahoma City regional.

Whitney Boddie had eight points and nine assists in becoming the career assists leader at Auburn (30-3). Trevesha Jackson added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers, who opened an 18-point lead in the first eight minutes and never looked back.

Erica Prosser had 14 points and Alex Ross 10 for Lehigh (26-7), the regular-season and tournament champion of the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks were crushed by Connecticut 103-35 in their other NCAA tournament appearance in 1997.

The Tigers will face the winner of the game between seventh-seeded Rutgers (19-12), the host school, and Virginia Commonwealth (26-6) on Monday night for a trip to the regional.

Auburn, the regular-season SEC champions, had just too much talent for Lehigh, which came into the game riding a nine-game winning streak.

The Tigers also shot well this year. In a dropping a 66-56 decision to George Washington in the opening round a year ago, they shot 35 percent from the field playing without Boddie, who was academically ineligible.

Auburn riddled Lehigh’s defense, hitting 10 of its first 17 shots from the field against a team that was holding opponents to 36 percent shooting. Bonner had 10 points in the run that Boddie ignited with a shot in the lane, reserve Chantel Hilliard had four of her 10 points, Alli Smalley added a 3-pointer and Sherell Hobbs had a layup.

The Mountain Hawks rely on defense and shooting to succeed, and they struggled in both areas. The Tigers shot 53 percent from the field and limited Lehigh to a season-low 30 percent, including four of 22 from 3-point range.

The 85 points were the most surrendered by Lehigh this season, topping the 75 scored by Sacred Heart, another NCAA tournament team. The Mountain Hawks did not allow more than 56 points in three games in the recent Patriot League tournament.

Boddie, who led the nation with 8.1 assists per game this season, now has 600 for her career, breaking the old school mark of 593 set by Renae Halbrooks between 1978-82.

Auburn, which is making its 18th NCAA tournament appearance, led by 15 at the half and never allowed Lehigh to get closer than 13. It forced 19 turnovers and outscored Lehigh 42-18 in the paint.