AUBURN, Ala. – Junior Janiah McKay matched a career-high with 29 points and freshman Unique Thompson had her first career double-double as Auburn pulled away late for a 75-59 win over Louisiana Tech Sunday night at Auburn Arena.
The Tigers (2-1) used their trademark suffocating defense to force Louisiana Tech (3-1) into 29 turnovers, leading to 31 Auburn points. Strong shooting in the second and fourth quarters helped the Tigers overcome struggles in the first and third.
“We knew Louisiana Tech would be a very good team and that they would battle,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “It was a tough game against them when we played there last year, so we knew they would continue to fight. Even when we had a large lead, we knew they would continue to come back, especially because they have good 3-point shooters.”
McKay made 10-of-19 attempts from the field, including three 3-pointers, and was 6-of-8 at the free-throw line to hit 29 points for the third time in her career, along with games against Virginia Tech and Tennessee last season. She also contributed five assists and five steals in the winning effort.
“It feels good,” McKay said. “I give all credit to my teammates and our defense. I just shot the ball when I was open, but Coach Flo told me I wasn’t being aggressive enough. I became more aggressive after that and just upped the tempo to help my teammates flow better into the offense.”
Thompson finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds for Auburn’s first double-double of the year and the first of her career. She had 10 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, becoming the first Auburn player with a double-double by halftime since DeWanna Bonner in 2009. She also had a season-high six blocks, the most by an Auburn player since 2011 (Jassany Williams, 7 vs. Duke).
“She was playing big, and it was helping us a lot,” McKay said of Thompson. “When we get our inside game going, it helps makes our outside game a lot easier. Anytime she’s on the glass, we have a second opportunity. We always want those second-chance points, so she really helps.”
A slow start in the first quarter gave way to a scoring outburst in the second as the Tigers scored 30 points on 60-percent shooting (12-of-20) to sprint ahead to a 42-28 halftime advantage. Tech cut the lead to 11 points at 54-43 after three quarters and got as close as six midway through the fourth, but the Tigers kept up the pressure, forcing 11 fourth-quarter turnovers and shooting 58.3% to secure the victory.
Auburn out-rebounded the Lady Techsters 39-36 and shot a season-best 44.6 percent from the field, holding LA Tech to 34.0 percent. Auburn also scored 32 points in the paint, and the Tigers’ 21 steals tied for the 10th-most in program history.
Taylor Stahly led Louisiana Tech with 18 points, 12 of which came on four 3-pointers.
The Tigers hit the road for their next three games as they will play in the Challenge in Music City, which runs Friday-Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. Auburn will face Georgetown, Northwestern and UT-Chattanooga in the three-day event at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.