BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sophomore Daisa Alexander scored a career-high 19 points and freshman Unique Thompson pulled down 16 rebounds in her collegiate debut, but Auburn could not hold onto a halftime lead in a 72-63 loss at Virginia Tech Monday night.
The Tigers (0-1) led 32-28 at the half and were lights-out from the field in the first 10 minutes, but poor free-throw shooting and missed layups proved to be the Tigers’ downfall in the season opener.
“You can look at the free-throw line first,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We’re a much better free-throw shooting team than that. But we never gave up. The third quarter is what hurt us. You can’t let them score 20 and have us only score nine. That gave them the momentum here at home.”
A four-point halftime lead evaporated in the third quarter as the Hokies opened the period on an 8-0 run to take a 36-34 lead and push that to a 48-41 advantage after three quarters. Auburn had ample opportunities at the free-throw line to keep the game within reach, but the Tigers were 12-for-26 (46.2%) at the charity stripe for the game while Virginia Tech (2-0) knocked down 15-of-22 attempts at the line.
Much like last year’s win at Auburn, Virginia Tech was hot from beyond the arc, making nine 3-pointers with seven of those coming in the second half. The Hokies shot 37.5 percent from the field while Auburn was 31.9 percent.
Alexander’s 19-point night off the bench smashed her previous career-high of 7 points, which came in the Tigers’ win over Jacksonville last season. She hit three 3-pointers and was 7-of-16 from the field.
“Throughout the offseason and the start of practice, we talked to Daisa and we knew she would have to step in,” Williams-Flournoy said. “She played behind Brandy (Montgomery) last year, so pretty much she’s getting Brandy’s shots. I thought Daisa came in and did a great job for us attacking the basket.”
Thompson missed a double-double in her Auburn debut by one point with nine points and 16 rebounds. Her rebounding total was the highest by an Auburn player since Tra’Cee Tanner had 19 at Florida Gulf Coast during the 2015-16 season. Janiah McKay had 15 points and a team-high five assists.
Auburn led 22-20 after a high-energy first quarter that saw the Tigers shoot 56.3 percent from the field and keep pace with a Hokie offense that scored 99 points its first game. The second quarter was nearly the exact opposite as the teams combined for 18 points, leading to a 32-28 halftime lead for the Tigers.
Taylor Emery led Virginia Tech with 20 points, and Chanette Hicks had 14.
The Tigers return to action in their home opener Thursday night as North Carolina A&T visits Auburn Arena. Game time is 6 p.m. CT, and tickets are available at AUBTix.com.