NEW YORK -- Junior Tra'Cee Tanner had her second double-double of the season, but the Auburn women's basketball team's rally from a big early deficit came up short in a 56-49 loss at 25th-ranked St. John's on Saturday.
The Tigers (7-3) trailed by as much as 17 late in the first half but put together a second-half rally that saw them get within three points on two occasions. However, Auburn could not quite get over the hump despite putting major pressure on the Red Storm (10-0) throughout the second half.
"We tried to box them in just a little bit, didn't want to pressure them too hard (in the first half)," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "Once we upped the pressure a little bit, it definitely worked in our favor. We kept telling them that (St. John's) was getting tired. The press was starting to get to them a little bit, and we knew their bench production wasn't that great. Our press was pushing them further and further back."
Tanner led Auburn with 12 points and 10 rebounds, including seven boards on the offensive end. It was her second double-double of the year to go along with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the season-opener against Troy. Sophomore Khady Dieng matched Tanner's scoring output with 12 points of her own on 5-of-8 shooting.
Kiani Parker had a strong day at the point guard position, scoring eight points along with five assists. She was key in the second-half defensive effort, recording three steals and putting constant pressure on the ball in the backcourt.
Twice in the second half, Auburn cut the deficit to as little as three points. Auburn came out of the gate strong and cut the lead to 40-37 with 13:04 to play. After St. John's moved back ahead by 10 points late in the half, the Tigers ramped up the pressure and forced several turnovers to cut the lead to three points again at 52-49 with just over a minute to play. However, St. John's Aliyyah Handford hit a clutch baseline jumper with 50 seconds to play to make it a five-point game, and then two late free throws sealed the deal for the Red Storm.
The Tigers hit their first three shots and opened the game with a 6-0 lead, but the Red Storm would go on a 23-4 run from that point to take a 23-10 lead. After making their first three attempts, the Tigers would only connect on two of their next 16 shots. Despite trailing by as many as 17, Auburn would cut the deficit to 10 at the half at 32-22.
Handford led St. John's with 22 points, including an 8-of-8 showing at the free throw line. Danaejah Grant added 19.
Auburn forced 13 St. John's turnovers on the day - the fewest of the season by a Tiger opponent - but 10 of those came in the second half. The Tigers out-rebounded the Red Storm 35-27, including a 16-9 advantage on the offensive glass.
Auburn will face SMU at 11 a.m. CT Sunday in the consolation game of the St. John's Chartwells Holiday Classic. Live stats and live audio will be available through AuburnTigers.com, and ESPN3 will carry an online broadcast as well.