NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senior Janiah McKay led all scorers with 18 points, but the Auburn women’s basketball team could not overcome a slow start in a 50-41 loss to Chattanooga in the final game at the Challenge in Music City.
The Tigers (3-3) found themselves in a 16-point hole midway through the second quarter but were able to cut that deficit to as few as five points in the fourth quarter. But Chattanooga (4-4) took advantage of their opportunities at the free-throw line late to hold off any potential Auburn comeback.
“We dug a hole too deep, and we couldn’t get out,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We have to be able to score. We can’t set up our press if we don’t score. We got steals, but we didn’t convert those. When we force a live-ball turnover, we’ve got to be able to score in transition. The defense is not the problem; we’ve got to fix the offense. We’re playing great defense, holding opponents to 50 points or fewer. But we’ve got to better offensively.”
McKay’s 18 points led all scorers; she was Auburn’s only player in double figures and was named to the all-tournament team. Senior Tiffany Lewis added eight points against her hometown team, and senior Jessica Jones had six points and shared the team lead with five rebounds.
Auburn actually made one more field goal than Chattanooga with the Tigers going 16-for-56 (28.1%) and the Mocs hitting 15-of-34 (44.1%). But UTC got to the free-throw line 20 times, knocking down 16 attempts, while Auburn was just 6-of-9 at the stripe with all nine attempts coming in the fourth quarter.
Chattanooga had 34 rebounds to Auburn’s 28, but Auburn was able to force the Mocs into 23 turnovers while only committing 11 of their own. The Tigers were without leading rebounder Unique Thompson, who was injured in Saturday’s game vs. Northwestern.
A low-scoring first half saw Chattanooga open a 23-15 lead at the break. It took a while for Auburn to get on the board, but the Tigers cut a 16-point deficit in half by making 7-of-10 shots to close out the half.
Chattanooga was led by Keiana Gilbert with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Gilbert was named tournament MVP.
The Tigers are back in action Wednesday night at Auburn Arena, hosting Louisiana-Monroe at 6 p.m. It’s Elementary School Night; every elementary student in Lee County received a voucher for a free ticket to the game.