AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn stole the showdown Sunday afternoon.
In some instances, that was literally the case. Tiger stars DeWanna Bonner and Whitney Boddie took turns feasting on Tennessee cross-court passes. Another time, Auburn defenders swarmed all over Lady Vols guard Angie Bjorklund and pried the basketball loose.
These were a few examples of how the sixth-ranked Tigers laid a smackdown on No. 10 Tennessee, running away in the second half to an 82-68 SEC women's basketball victory before a program-record crowd of 12,067 at Beard-Eaves Coliseum.
Bonner scored a career-high 35 points, the most against Tennessee since Virginia's Monica Wright scored that many in the season's second game. Boddie scored 17 points and dished out nine assists. Alli Smalley added 16 points.
Auburn (20-0, 5-0 SEC) finished with a flourish, scoring 51 second-half points and shooting 58.6 percent from the floor (17-for-29) after halftime in ending a 16-game losing streak against UT.
The Auburn student section serenaded the Tigers in the final minutes with the chant "undefeated". They had cause for a full-throated "underrated" as well.
"It makes people sit up and take notice: 'Maybe they are for real,' " Auburn coach Nell Fortner said.
Tennessee (15-4, 4-2) didn't offer a sufficient argument otherwise. Freshman guard Shekinna Stricklen scored a season-high 26 points, and classmate Glory Johnson had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. UT shot a respectable 47.3 percent from the floor. But that wasn't enough to overcome the Lady Vols' 23 turnovers, which matched a season high, or their defensive struggles.
"Today is not a good day to be wearing the Orange,'' Johnson said. "It's something you have to deal with."
The Lady Vols did well to hang within 31-26 at the break. With Boddie slashing through their man defensive alignment, the Lady Vols shifted into a zone within the first four minutes.
The change drew attention to what turned out to be an insurmountable problem, namely the difference in backcourt play.
"Our guard play was not good,'' said UT coach Pat Summitt, who remained two victories shy of her 1,000th career win. "All you have to do is look at the turnovers we had."
Bjorklund, Tennessee's second-leading scorer, didn't start after forgetting her basketball shoes for practice on Saturday. On Sunday, she couldn't find her jumper, shooting 1-for-7 from the floor and recording more turnovers (four) than points (three).
Point guard Briana Bass matched those totals and was overmatched on defense against Boddie.
It was probably no coincidence that Stricklen's lone break - the final three minutes of the first half - coincided with a six-point swing in Auburn's favor, which wiped out a brief 23-22 Tennessee lead.
The steals stood out the most in enabling Auburn to open a 48-33 lead in the first five-plus minutes of the second half. Boddie swiped an Alicia Manning pass and took off for a layup that became a 3-point play after a Manning foul.
Bonner finished this scoring flourish by stealing Amber Gray's crosscourt pass and converting another layup.
"We made flat passes and those equate to lazy passes as well,'' Summitt said. "Our turnovers were very costly, but we had some upperclassmen turning over the ball, too.
"Ball security has cost us, and today was probably the most we had to pay for it."
Along with revving Auburn's effort, the turnovers also juiced the fans, who not only filled the seats but also were standing along the upper concourse.
"When you've got a turnover . . . that gets the crowd into it and gets (UT) rattled,'' Bonner said, "so you hit them hard again."
The Tigers pounded away until leading by 24 points (73-49) with 4:22 left. A meandering finish cut into their lead but didn't diminish the outcome.
Said Stricklen: "They looked like they wanted it more than we did."
Notebook: Vicki Baugh (left knee sprain) tried to play but lasted just 19 seconds. "She's just not ready,'' Summitt said. ... Both teams wore shooting shirts in warmups that honored former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, who died Saturday.