AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's women's basketball team came within striking distance of a school record for turnovers, forcing 38 in a season-opening 61-52 victory over Troy at Auburn Arena Friday night.
The Tigers (1-0) struggled to finish on the offensive end at times, shooting 31.9 percent from the floor, but the Auburn defense held the Trojans (0-1) more than 28 points below their season average from a year ago, when they were the seventh-best scoring team in the nation.
""Are we happy for this win? Absolutely," Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "Are we pleased with the play? No. We are an NCAA Tournament team, and we need to look better than what we did today."
The 38 forced turnovers were the most for an Auburn team in 13 years, dating back to Dec. 29, 2003, when the Tigers forced Alabama A&M into 39 giveaways. That game - along with a 2001 game against Tennessee State - are the school records for turnovers by a Division I opponent; Auburn forced 40-plus against a pair of Division II foes.
Auburn also picked up 22 steals, two shy of the school record, led by five from junior Jessica Jones. Four players - Brandy Montgomery, Katie Frerking, Janiah McKay and Erica Sanders - had three apiece.
"We're happy about forcing the 38 turnovers because that's what we do," Montgomery said. "We should have done a better job on the other end, converting them. So that's what we weren't happy about."
Auburn was only able to convert those turnovers into 25 points, letting the Trojans hang around much longer than they might have otherwise. Auburn led by as many as 14 late in the game but were unable to pull away further despite numerous fast-break opportunities.
Montgomery led the Tigers with 22 points, her 18th career game with 20 points or more. Frerking missed a double-double by one rebound, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine boards, along with three assists, three blocks and three steals. McKay contributed a 10-point outing.
Freshman Tyra Johnson and transfers Emari Jones, Ekiya Gray and Tiffany Lewis all saw their first action for the Tigers. Johnson and Jones found the scoresheet for the first time at the free-throw line.
It looked as though Auburn would pull away early, knocking down four 3-pointers in the first quarter. But the Tigers would hit just one long-range attempt - out of 17 - the rest of the night. Numerous missed layups in the second and third quarter prevented the Tigers from putting distance between themselves and the Trojans, despite a stellar defensive effort.
"I think we started off okay," Frerking said. "I know Brandy had a couple in the first half, I did too. But we've got to carry it into the second half. We have to take our time. We have to get our legs under us in the second half and that's just getting in the gym, getting shots when we're tired. That'll come around, so I'm not worried about that."
Troy senior Caitlyn Ramirez led the Trojans with 13 points and 20 rebounds; it's the most rebounds by an Auburn opponent since LSU's Sylvia Fowles had 20 in 2007. The Trojans out-rebounded Auburn 49-40.
Auburn hits the road for its next five contests, beginning next Thursday at North Carolina A&T.