GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Senior Katie Frerking scored her 1,000th career point and picked up her fifth double-double of the season to lead Auburn to an 82-75 win at Florida to open SEC play on New Year’s Day at the O’Connell Center.
The Tigers (11-4, 1-0 SEC) earned their first win in Gainesville since 2007, pushing ahead to as much as a 14-point lead in the third quarter and holding on late for the victory. It was the fourth win in an SEC opener in the last five seasons for Auburn.
“It was a tough one to get," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We did a very good job forcing them into turnovers, but they are tough to defend. They score a lot of points and shoot extremely well from the field, and we really had to play hard to get this one.”
Frerking scored 24 points – 18 in the second half - and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. She also contributed five steals, four assists and a block in 37 minutes of action.
Brandy Montgomery led all scorers with 26 points and was 7-for-8 from 3-point range, a career-high 3-pointers for the Auburn senior. Janiah McKay added 16 points and five assists in her return to her hometown.
The Tigers pulled ahead by as many as 14 points late in the third quarter, thanks in large part to forcing Florida into 26 turnovers and converting those into 28 points. Auburn also pulled down 18 offensive rebounds on the day, scoring 15 second-chance points.
"It really was the difference in the ball game," Williams-Flournoy said of the Tigers forcing turnovers. "And I actually think we probably could have gotten a few more points off of those turnovers. When Janiah got in foul trouble, that really stopped our ability to push the tempo and push the ball up the floor off of turnovers. But we did a great job. We knew that we had to come in and had to bring our defense all the way from Auburn.”
Auburn shot 41.5 percent for the game (27-of-65) but was a blistering 52.4 percent from 3-point range (11-of-21). Free-throw shooting almost became an issue late as the Tigers were 17-of-30 from the line, but Auburn made just enough to hold off the Gator rally.
Florida (9-5, 0-1 SEC) outrebounded the Tigers 38-34 and shot 50 percent (27-54) from the field. But the shorthanded Gators – only eight players dressed – had two players foul out, including leading scorer Ronni Williams (24 points, seven rebounds) and were unable to complete the comeback despite cutting the Auburn lead to as little as four points in the final 15 seconds.
Auburn led 36-34 at halftime after forcing the Gators into 18 first-half turnovers, converting those into 16 points. Montgomery hit all four of her first-half 3-point attempts. The Tigers led by as many as seven points late in the first quarter, but the Gators were able to pull back ahead late in the second quarter with some baskets in transition.
The Tigers extended their advantage with a 28-point third quarter, taking a 64-53 lead with one period remaining. A 15-point third quarter from Frerking saw her score her 1,000th point on a 3-pointer to make it 47-40 with 5:47 left.
Auburn plays its home SEC opener Thursday night as No. 6 South Carolina visits Auburn Arena. Tip is set for 6 p.m., and single-game tickets and mini-plans remain available at AUBTix.com.
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