Auburn fought back from a 14-point second-quarter deficit and pushed No. 19 West Virginia to the brink, but the Tigers fell just short in a 56-52 loss Thanksgiving night in the Savannah Invitational championship game.
The Tigers (5-1) tied the game at 52-52 with just over a minute to go on a layup from Jessica Jones, then had an opportunity to take the lead in the final minute. Auburn’s shot wouldn’t fall, and the Mountaineers (6-0) answered at the other end with 11 seconds left to take a 54-52 lead.
Auburn tried a 3-pointer with seven seconds left, but WVU got the rebound, and Auburn had to foul three times before the Mountaineers could get to the line with less than a second to play.
“We played hard, we really played hard,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We missed a few shots that we really needed to fall, but we really played hard tonight. I thought Erica Sanders and Tiffany Lewis came in and gave us a lot of energy that we needed on the defensive end. They did a really good job to get us going, especially in transition.
“We’re tough. We know how to compete. We still turned West Virginia over 22 times. We’re still a team where our defense is going to win games for us. But we have to box out, and we have to go through with the game plan. Whatever we call to run, we’ve got to run it the right way.”
Senior Katie Frerking was named to the All-Tournament Team after recording her third double-double in four games with 18 points and 10 rebounds. She knocked down five 3-pointers on the night to tie a career-high, and she also grabbed three steals.
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Sophomore point guard Janiah McKay contributed 15 points to the Auburn effort, including a 5-for-6 night at the free-throw line. Sanders pulled down four rebounds and had a team-high four steals in 17 minutes off the bench.
Auburn again struggled from the field, shooting 27.6 percent for the night (16-of-58) but solid free-throw shooting – 15-for-20 (75%) – kept the Tigers in the game and helped spur the comeback in the second quarter.
During the Savannah Invitational, Auburn shot just 31.3 percent (57-of-182). WVU out-rebounded Auburn 42-39, but Auburn had a season-low 14 turnovers and forced the Mountaineers into a season-high 22.
WVU jumped out to a big early lead, moving ahead 22-13 at the end of one quarter and pushing that advantage to 14 points early in the second. But the Mountaineers got into foul trouble and Auburn was in the bonus for the last seven minutes or so of the quarter. Auburn took advantage, knocking down 7-of-10 free-throw attempts in the period.
Meanwhile, Frerking hit four 3-pointers in the half, and a layup from Montgomery briefly tied the game at 28-28, but the Mountaineers hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to take a 31-28 lead to halftime.
Sophomore standout Tynice Martin led West Virginia with 16 points, and Lanay Montgomery added 13. Teana Muldrow pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
After a long five game road trip, Auburn will return and welcome the Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday, Nov. 27. Game time is 1 p.m. CST, and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.
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