NEW YORK -- Auburn built a 23-point lead early in the second half but had to hold off a late SMU rally for a 56-43 win Sunday afternoon in the consolation game of the St. John's Chartwells Holiday Classic.
Sophomore Khady Dieng led the Tigers (8-3) with a season-high 14 points and was named to the all-tournament team for her effort throughout the weekend. Senior Kiani Parker contributed a career-high 11 points and five rebounds in the winning effort.
Auburn led by 20 with 10:22 to play after a three-point play by Hasina Muhammad gave the Tigers a 47-27 lead. From that point, however, SMU (4-7) tightened down on defense and forced the Tigers into six turnovers the rest of the way and held Auburn to just one field goal for the remainder of the game.
SMU got as close as eight points at 51-43 with just over two minutes to play as foul trouble plagued both teams late in the game - both teams' leading scorers would foul out in the final five minutes. But with Auburn in the double bonus and SMU in a fouling situation, Parker converted 5-of-9 free throws in the final minute to increase the margin back to double-digits and seal the Tigers' eighth victory.
The Tigers sprinted to a huge early lead, holding SMU to just three field goals in the first 14 minutes of the game as Auburn built a 27-7 lead at the 7:43 mark. A 9-0 run pulled the Mustangs within 11 at 27-16, but Auburn finished the half on an 8-2 run to take a 35-18 lead into the break. The 18 SMU points were the fewest allowed by Auburn this season.
Auburn outscored SMU in the paint 28-14, but foul trouble on the Tigers' bigs kept Auburn from pushing the ball inside in the second half. The Tigers forced SMU into 23 turnovers, scoring 24 points on the Mustangs' giveaways.
Despite going cold over the final 10 minutes, Auburn shot 40 percent for the game, holding SMU to 26.3 percent from the field.
SMU's Destynee Hives-McCray had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Alicia Froling led all scorers with 14 points.
Auburn returns to action after the Christmas break next Monday-Tuesday, Dec. 29-30, at the FIU Sun & Fun Classic in Miami, Florida. The Tigers will face host Florida International at 5 p.m. CT on Dec. 29, then either Hampton or Bowling Green at 2:30 p.m. CT on Dec. 30.