Feb. 19, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)--Merideth Marsh hit two free throws with 11 seconds left, and No. 18 Vanderbilt held off third-ranked Auburn 73-70 Thursday night and tied the Tigers atop the Southeastern Conference with two games left in the regular season.

Auburn (25-2, 10-2) snapped a five-game winning streak and missed a chance to clinch at least a share of its first SEC regular season title since 1999.

The Tigers led only once at 3-0 on DeWanna Bonner's opening 3-pointer but pulled to 71-70 on a bucket underneath by Trevesha Jackson with 11.6 seconds left. Sherell Hobbs' 3-pointer from the right corner was well short, and Vandy rebounded just before the buzzer.

Vanderbilt (21-6, 10-2) beat Auburn for the 14th straight time in this series. The Commodores have won five straight, including upsets of two Top 10 teams within eight days.

Jence Rhoads had a career-high 16 points for Vanderbilt. Christina Wirth and fellow senior Jennifer Risper had 14 apiece.

Hobbs led Auburn with 19 points. Alli Smalley had 15, Bonner finished with 13, and Whitney Boddie 10.

Auburn came in as the SEC's top scoring offense and best shooting team, and the Tigers had been beating opponents by an average of 17.5 points. This time, the Tigers started slowly, missing six straight shots after Bonner's opening 3. Vandy, the nation's seventh-best shooters, hit four of its first five.

Wirth's layup put Vandy ahead to stay as part of eight straight points, and the Commodores led by as much as 18 with 7:25 left in the first half before going into halftime up 40-24.

Bonner opened the second half with a putback that gave her 2,001 points for her career to start a 9-2 spurt. Auburn kept whittling away at Vandy's lead until Jackson scored underneath to pull the Tigers within 71-70 with 11.6 seconds left, then Auburn fouled quickly.

But Marsh had hit 19 straight free throws coming into this game, and she didn't miss with a chance to pad the lead. Vandy then fouled with 3.1 seconds left with a couple to give, forcing Auburn into a quick scramble and a late shot that came nowhere near the basket.