Dec. 22, 2011
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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Auburn freshman Hasina Muhammad scored a game-high 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half, to lead Auburn (7-4) to a 49-40 win over Central Connecticut State (6-5) in the consolation game of the New York Life Holiday Tournament hosted by Hofstra. Muhammad also pulled down eight rebounds along with two blocks and two steals to lead the Tigers.
Auburn relied on its defense to get the victory, collecting 16 steals while forcing 37 CCSU turnovers. Junior Blanche Alverson tallied six steals in the win, a career-high that ties for ninth all-time at Auburn in single-game steals.
The Tigers used the defense to fuel their offense scoring 28 points off turnovers, points that proved to be valuable as Auburn struggled from the field with a 28.6 team field goal percentage.
"We gutted one out. It was definitely a gut-check time for us and the kids really came out pressing and really working hard," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "The tough thing was the points were not coming easy. We were working extremely hard on the defensive end, creating a lot of turnovers, we might have set a record today."
The Tigers closed the first half on a 12-4 run to take a 24-18 lead into the locker room. Auburn then held the Blue Devils scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half, taking a 12-point lead. CCSU would not bow out, however, as it went on a 12-0 run of its own to tie the game up at 30-30 with 11:27 left to play. It was the first of five ties in the next six minutes as the teams traded the lead.
"We knew they would make that run, we saw them do it all day yesterday against Hofstra," said Fortner. "Hofstra would go up 10 or 12 and they would come back and cut it to two. They are a team that does not quit, they are a hard-nosed team. I am just proud that we hung in there and didn't quit, we kept fighting hard."
Leading by just one with less than two minutes left in the game, Muhammad penetrated the lane for a crucial jumper that gave Auburn a three-point lead with 1:46 left to play. Auburn went 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the final 34 seconds, along with a Muhammad breakaway basket, to put the lead at nine and out of reach for the 49-40 win.
Alverson, Morgan Jennings and Tyrese Tanner followed Muhamamd with seven points each. Tanner also pulled down eight rebounds with three steals.
Kirsten Daamen and Jaclyn Babe scored in double figures for Central Connecticut State, tallying 13 and 10 points, respectively. CCSU's only other points came from Jessica Babe (9) and Lauren Arbogast (8). Jessica Babe also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
Auburn will return to action at 7 p.m., Dec. 29 at the Florida International Sun & Fun Classic in Miami, Fla. The Tigers will take on North Carolina-Charlotte in the first round and will face either FIU or Albany in the second round.