Auburn had to wait a long 10 days to discover its fate in the NCAA Tournament. After slipping into the field of 64 teams, it took less than a half for the Tigers to prove they belonged.
Auburn used a strong first half and a career-high 24 points from freshman Janiah McKay to defeat St. John's, 68-57, on Friday and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I can't even begin to tell you how excited and proud I am of my young ladies to come out and play defense as impressive as they did," said Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. "It goes to show you how much they have bought into our defense and how they've continued to play it day in, day out and how we knew we had to get after St. John's today."
McKay's 24 points tied for the most in Auburn (20-12) history by a freshman in an NCAA Tournament game. Jazmine Jones and Brandy Montgomery added 13 and 11 points for the Tigers, respectively.
The Tigers raced out to a 25-6 lead in the first half behind the same stifling press defense that led them to the tournament.
St. John's (23-10) cut its deficit to as little as three in the second half but never reclaimed the lead.
The win gave Williams-Flournoy her first NCAA Tournament win in her four season on the Plains. It was the 30th NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
Auburn will now face Baylor, a No. 1 seed, on the Bears' home court in the Round of 32. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday at 6 p.m.
"I don't think we have to do anything special besides be who we are," Williams-Flournoy said. "You don't have enough time to put in these magical tricks to beat Baylor. We have to go out and play Auburn women's basketball. We have to continue to be who we are. We have to let our defense do the work and hopefully everything else will click back in place."