NEW ORLEANS – Auburn put together its highest-scoring half in eight years and held off a late rally to earn an 85-80 win over Drake Wednesday afternoon in the opening game of the Tulane Classic.
The Tigers (9-3) scored 62 points in the second half – two points shy of the school record for scoring in a half – to overtime a six-point halftime deficit and earn a hard-fought win. A key to the victory was holding Drake (6-4), one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams, to a season-low four treys.
“Drake was averaging 81 points, and we had to change a lot,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We really came out of who we are. We definitely don’t play that much man-to-man defense, that’s not what we do. But there’s no way we were going to stand out there and let them get 3s off. So I’ll take it. They were 4-for-13; they’re averaging almost 25 3-point attempts per game. We weren’t going to let that happen.
“We turned up our press (in the third quarter) and forced them into a lot of turnovers, and then we stopped turning the ball over. We had eight turnovers at halftime against a team that wasn’t even pressing us.”
Four players scored in double-figures for Auburn, led by 26 from senior Katie Frerking and 25 from sophomore Janiah McKay. Frerking also had six rebounds, a career-high four blocks and three steals, and McKay made 10-of-14 free-throw attempts, both career-highs.
Brandy Montgomery added 12 points, and Jazmine Jones had 10 points along with six rebounds and five steals. Jessica Jones pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds. All 13 players saw action for the Tigers, including junior Sira Toure, who made her Auburn debut.
McKay has now scored 53 points over the last two games after a 28-point effort against Virginia Tech on Sunday. Frerking, meanwhile, has 56 points in two games in the state of Louisiana this season; she scored 30 at Louisiana Tech last week.
Auburn shot 58 percent in the second half to finish at 45.2 percent for the game, a remarkable turnaround after a cold first half that saw the Tigers shoot 32.2 percent and score just 23 points.
The Tigers won despite Drake shooting 52.9 percent, thanks in large part to forcing the Bulldogs into a season-high 24 turnovers, which Auburn turned into 34 points. Auburn also pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, turning that into 17 second-chance points.
After a cold first half that saw Drake take a 29-23 lead to the break, the Tigers opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take its first lead since it was 3-0 to start the game. The Tigers would keep up the pressure, forcing Drake into 13 second-half turnovers.
Auburn finally took the lead for good on a Frerking 3-pointer with 4:54 left in the third quarter, making it 40-37 Tigers. That would become a seven-point advantage at the end of a 31-point third quarter. A 17-4 run over the first four minutes of the fourth quarter gave Auburn its largest lead at 71-53, but Drake would slowly start chipping away, both from long-distance and from the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs – one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams - made just one 3-pointer in the first 34 minutes of the game, but knocked down three over a two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter to cut Auburn’s lead to seven points. The Bulldogs would pull as close as three points in the final minute, but a pair of McKay free throws with 17 seconds left sealed the win for the Tigers.
Lizzy Wendell led Drake with 25 points while Becca Hittner added 13. Auburn held Drake to a season-low four 3-pointers.
Auburn will face the winner of Tulane and Eastern Washington at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Tulane Classic championship game. Andy Burcham will have the call on WTGZ 93.9 FM and online at AuburnTigers.com.