Behind Janiah McKay's season-high 21 points, Auburn was able to hold off a late St. Joseph's rally Thursday night in a 81-70 win.
Auburn currently stands at 7-1, the best start under coach Terri Williams-Flournoy and the program's best since the 2008-09 SEC Championship team that won its first 20 games.
The victory was hard fought as St. Joseph's (3-6) almost erased Auburn's 15-point lead.
"We have a certain type of mentality where it doesn't really bother us," Williams-Flournoy said. "We play the same way whether we're up 20 or up one. Now that's what we've got to work on. But we continued to fight, we made plays when we needed to make plays, and we hit shots when we needed to hit a shot. St. Joe's played hard, they played extremely hard."
McKay led all scorers while scoring nine of her 21 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on six of eight free-throw attempts in the game's final minutes.
"A few times she needed just one more dribble to get a full layup, but we knew they would have trouble with one-on-one containment," Williams-Flournoy said. "We knew that we had to attack them. They like to control the tempo and slow it down a little bit. I think we sped them up and made them score more points."
Five Auburn players finished with double-digit scoring for the second game in a row. Daisa Alexander had 16 points with an 11-point first quarter, Crystal Primm scored 14, Unique Thompson put up 12 and Brooke Moore had a season-high 10. Thompson also led Auburn with six rebounds.
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The Tigers led by as many as 15 in the third quarter at 49-34 but St. Joseph went on a run, hitting its next eight shots while shooting 12-of-14 in a third and fourth quarter run. The Hawks would cut Auburn's lead to one at 65-64 with just over six minutes to play.
Auburn's defense stepped up and got some crucial stops to keep the lead and went on a 9-0 run to take a 74-64 lead with 2:52 left. The run was emphasized by a steal and fast break basket by redshirt freshman Kiyae' White.
St. Joseph stayed in the game following a pair of 3-pointers to cut Auburn's lead to four at 74-70, but Auburn put in work at the free throw line in the final minute to put the game away.
Both teams shot very well and stayed hot throughout the game. Auburn scored on their first eight possessions and shot 75 percent in the first quarter to take a 30-16 lead through ten minutes. The scoring slowed down in the second quarter before the Hawks would heat up from beyond the arc with seven 3-pointers before halftime.
Auburn had a season-high 53.7 shooting percentage from the floor and was 18 of 23 (78.3 percent) from the free-throw line. Opposite Auburn's success, St. Joseph's scored a season-high 70 points, 20 points higher from its season average while making a season-best 13-pointers.
Alyssa Monaghan would lead the hawks in scoring with 18, with all of her points coming from behind the 3-point arc.
Auburn will have a nine-day break because of final exams before returning to host Samford on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. CT.
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