The Tigers (10-3, 1-0 SEC) overcame a 16-point first-quarter deficit to win their SEC opener for the fifth time in six years, thanks in large part to forcing the Gators (8-6, 0-1) into 28 turnovers, converting those into 33 points.
Meanwhile, Auburn tied a school record for fewest turnovers in a game with five and held the SEC’s top 3-point shooting team to just six treys while tying a season-high with eight 3-pointers of their own.
“I thought our young ladies did a great job of not panicking and understanding what I told them that it’s a game of runs,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. “We knew Florida was going to make its run, so we had to make our run. We didn’t panic when they made their run and we were down by quite a lot in the first quarter. They understand that it’s our defense that will get us back into the game.”
McKay’s 25 points were her most against the Gators for the Gainesville native; she also had a game-high five assists. Alexander topped the 20-point mark for the second time this season with a 21-point performance that included three 3-pointers.
“I get so excited anytime I play Florida,” McKay said. “I take it a little personal and I know I just had to calm it down and I’m not that freshman Janiah, I’m a junior now, so I knew I had to relax because my team was counting on me to lead them.”
Junior Emari Jones provided a first-half spark and scored a career-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, and finished with five rebounds and two steals. Freshman Unique Thompson had eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and senior Jazmine Jones scored nine points with seven rebounds.
Auburn matched its record-high for points in a quarter in an SEC game, outscoring the Gators 30-4 in the final period; Florida made its last field goal with 8:19 to play. From the point where Auburn trailed 18-2 in the first quarter, the Tigers outscored Florida 82-37 over the final 33 minutes.
The Tigers found themselves in a 16-point hole midway through the first quarter as Auburn missed its first 17 field goal attempts. But Abigayle Jackson hit a 3-pointer to stop the ski, Emari Jones and Alexander found a way to get some shots to fall late in the period, and it was a 7-point game through 10 minutes.
Auburn was able to even things up early in the second quarter but saw the Gators pull back ahead by as many as eight as the Tigers went cold again. But a 7-0 run to end the quarter cut the halftime deficit to just one at 36-35.
The Tigers’ scoring run carried over to the third quarter as Auburn scored the first six points of the period to take a 41-36 lead; the first lead came on a McKay layup off a Tiffany Lewis steal. Florida fought back to pull back ahead by two, but after Emari Jones’ third 3-pointer of the game that put Auburn back ahead 44-43, the Gators never led again.
Auburn shot 38.6 percent for the day, but after missing the first 17 shots, the Tigers were 32-of-66 (48.4%). The Tigers hit 20-of-39 shots (51.3%) in the second half while holding the Gators to just 6-of-20 (30%) in the final 20 minutes. Auburn was 32-of-83 on the day while Florida was 18-of-45.
Funda Nakkasoglu led Florida with 15 points and Paulina Hersler had 12.
Auburn hits the road for the first time in more than a month Thursday when the Tigers travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to face the seventh-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols. Game time is 6 p.m. CT with the broadcast on SEC Network +.