For the first time this season, Auburn was tested all the way to the finish line. Against an unlikely opponent, the Tigers held on and withstood a 3-point barrage from Marist and defeated the Red Wolves 52-51 to remain undefeated Wednesday night.
The Tigers (5-0) saw Marist (0-6) knock down 10 3-pointers – 10 of the Red Foxes 13 field goals on the night were from long-range – and have a chance to tie the game on the last shot as Auburn led 52-49 with five seconds to play.
Marist’s Maura Fitzpatrick drove to the basket and banked in a layup with 0.4 seconds left to cut the lead to one point, but the Red Foxes were unable to stop the clock as Auburn ran out the final ticks.
“I don’t think that we played as hard as we are capable of playing,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We knew going into the game, we had to defend the 3-point line. But we had to defend it honestly, not leaving the middle wide open. You have to be able to go out and contest. But it wasn’t our defense tonight, it was our offense. We get 65 shots and we make 20. We’ve got to shoot the ball a lot better than that.”
Auburn forced Marist into 30 turnovers – the third opponent in five games with at least 30 – turning those into 21 points. The Tigers have forced at least 27 turnovers in all five of their games thus far. Auburn scored 20 points in the paint to Marist’s two.
“The biggest positive we take out of this game is that again our defense saved us,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We have to continue to understand that it’s our defense that will win games for us. It’s definitely not our shooting. We had 17 steals, but we’ve got to do a better job of converting off those turnovers we’re forcing.”
Senior Brandy Montgomery led Auburn in scoring once again, scoring 16 points and was one of four Tigers with three steals. She joined all three Joneses – Jazmine, Jessica and Emari – with three swipes on the night as the Tigers totaled 17 steals.
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Jazmine Jones and Katie Frerking had eight points each, and Jones pulled down a season-high 10 rebounds. Frerking had seven boards and Jessica Jones had six. Tiffany Lewis also contributed eight points off the bench.
Despite only making three 2-point field goals, Marist out-shot Auburn 31.0 percent to 30.8 percent. The Tigers were 20-of-65 from the field, including a 26.7-percent mark in the second half. Auburn did out-rebound Marist, 39-37. The Red Foxes were lights-out at the free-throw line, knocking down 15-of-16 attempts while Auburn was 8-of-14 at the charity stripe.
Several times it seemed as if Auburn would pull away, pushing the lead to as much as 10 in the second quarter. But every time Auburn had a seemingly comfortable lead, Marist answered with a 3-pointer. Marist briefly moved ahead 34-33 with 2:41 left in the third after making its first 2-point basket of the night. But Montgomery scored four straight, then Lewis added a jumper to push Auburn’s lead back to five.
A four-point Auburn lead with less than a minute to go led Marist to start fouling. Frerking made one of two to push the lead to five, but Marist’s Lovi Henningsdottir hit her first three of the night to cut the lead to two. Montgomery then went to the line and made one to push Auburn’s lead back to three at 52-49, leading to the Marist layup just before the final horn.
The Tigers led 29-20 at halftime after a cold-shooting first half for both teams. Marist did not make a 2-point field goal – they had four 3s – but the Red Foxes were 8-for-8 at the free-throw line as the Tigers had some early foul trouble.
Janiah McKay picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and did not play the rest of the half, and Lewis and Jessica Jones were also on the bench by halftime with two fouls.
Auburn will take on No. 19 West Virginia tomorrow night who is led by last season’s Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tynice Martin who is averaging 21.4 points per game. The sophomore is also 27-27 from the free throw line this season. The stifling Auburn defense will face a tough challenge tomorrow, as the Mountaineers have scored 80 and 79 points in their two wins the last two days. West Virginia defeated East Carolina 79-47 earlier Wednesday afternoon.
Tip-off between the Tigers and Mountaineers is set for 6 p.m. CST Thursday night.
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