NEW ORLEANS – Auburn fought back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit but came up just short Thursday night in a 61-59 loss to Tulane in the championship game of the Tulane Classic.
After a slow start, the Tigers (9-4) shot 51.8 percent in the second half and made a late charge to within one point midway through the fourth quarter, but Tulane (8-4) hit several clutch shots down the stretch to hold on for the win.
“Very frustrating,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We had so many opportunities to make layups, so many opportunities to get steals, so many opportunities just fell right out of our hands. But we took too long to get started. We’ve got to stop with these slow starts. We’ve got to start with a little more effort; we can’t assume every time that we can make that comeback. That’s a mental thing that tires you out, when you’re constantly playing from behind. You can’t play like that. You use a lot of energy trying to come from behind.”
Auburn was led by Katie Frerking, who scored all 15 of her points in the second half. She also led the Tigers with six rebounds and six steals. Janiah McKay shook off a slow start to finish with 13 points, and Brandy Montgomery added 11. Erica Sanders matched a career-high with four steals; the Tigers had 15 as a team. Frerking and McKay were named to the all-tournament team.
After forcing just four Tulane turnovers in the first half, Auburn came away with 16 in the second half, turning the Green Wave’s 20 turnovers into 27 points. But Tulane was able to control the offensive glass, pulling down 13 offensive rebounds and converting those into 11 points. Both teams made 22 field goals, and both teams made nine 3-pointers – matching a season-high for Auburn.
Auburn started ice-cold, shooting 21 percent in the first quarter and 30 percent in the half as the Green Wave ended the half on an 11-0 run for a 30-20 lead. Tulane would push their advantage to as many as 14 points at 40-26 midway through the third quarter.
But Auburn fought back, ending that quarter on a 14-5 run to cut the deficit to 45-40 after three periods. After Tulane answered a Frerking layup with a basket of its own, Sanders picked up a loose ball at midcourt and took it in for the layup to cut the deficit to one point at 52-51 with 4:08 to play.
Auburn had chances to take the lead on its next two possessions but couldn’t get shots to fall. Tulane then hit back-to-back 3s at the other end to push its lead back to seven at 58-51 with 90 seconds left. Auburn scored five points in the final 40 seconds and benefitted from three missed Tulane free throws and had a chance at a final shot with just over a second to play, but it missed short.
Tulane was led by Kolby Morgan with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Leslie Vorpahl added 10 points and six assists.
The Tigers will break for Christmas over the weekend and return to action Wednesday, Dec. 28, hosting Jacksonville at Auburn Arena. Game time is 6 p.m.