COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Auburn used an 8-0 spurt midway in the second half to claim just enough control in a tight ball game and the Tigers held on in a hostile environment to claim a 68-54 victory over Tennessee Tech Thursday night in a Women's National Invitation Tournament contest in Eblen Center.
The Tigers (16-15) advance in the WNIT to play at Toledo
Saturday afternoon, while the Golden Eagles wrap up their season
with a 23-8 record.
Junior Tacarra Hayes paced Tech with 20 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while freshman Briana Jordan added 12 points and four rebounds. Tech got seven points and seven rebounds from junior Brittany Darling, while Rachel Glidden and Kylie Cook scored six each.
Alli Smalley topped Auburn with 17 points, five rebounds and seven assists, on of four Tiger to score in double figures. Chantel Hilliard added 13 points, Morgan Jennings netted 11 points and added five rebounds and five assists, and Tyrese Tanner chipped in with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Blanche Alverson had a game-best nine rebounds.
Tech appeared to be taking over early in the second half with an 8-0 run of its own to surge on top, 38-31, with 17 minutes left. Tech was still on top by seven, 40-33, following a layup by Jordan with 15:50 remaining, but the Tigers scored the next seven points, including a 3-pointer by Alverson, that seemed to ignite Auburn.
The Golden Eagles survived that stretch and regained the lead on three free throws by Hayes, making it a 43-40 Tech lead.
But the Golden Eagles went three minutes without scoring and Auburn used an 8-0 stretch to move ahead for good, breaking a 43-43 tie and finishing the run with a 48-43 lead. Jennings and Jassany Williams each hit driving layups to cap the run.
From there, Tech battled from behind, and three times got crucial 3-pointers to pull close. Glidden's bomb with 6:21 left made it 48-46, and twice Kylie Cook hit from outside the arc, first from the right corner and then from the top of the key. The second made it a 55-53 contest with 3:28 to play.
A reverse layup by Smalley put the Tigers ahead 59-54 and the visitors forced a turnover. Smalley got a shooter's bounce on the rim with a 10-footer jumper in the lane with 1:42 to play, making it a 61-54 Auburn lead.
After that, the Tigers made all seven free throws in the final 1:06 to wedge the difference to the final 14-point spread.
Auburn held a lead for most of the first 10 minutes, then Tech was on top for the next 10 minutes before heading into halftime with the Golden Eagles holding a slim 30-29 lead. Auburn's largest lead of the first half was four points at 4-0. Likewise, Tech's largest first-half edge was four points, a margin they owned three times.
Tech finished the game shooting 31.3 percent from the field
(20-for-64) and 26.3 percent (5-for-19) from long range. Auburn
Shot 43.9 percent (25-for-57) overall and 18.2 percent (2-for-11)
from 3-point range.
The Tigers held a 47-36 edge in rebounds and blocked eight shots.