Auburn WBB rallies for 86-81 OT win over North Carolina
SOURCE: AUBURN ATHLETICS
Janiah McKay and Unique Thompson both scored 21 points, and the Auburn women’s basketball team fought back from a late deficit to earn an 86-81 overtime victory over North Carolina Thursday night in the Carolinas Challenge.
Trailing for most of the fourth quarter, Auburn hit their final four shots of the half and forced the extra period when McKay found Robyn Benton for a layup with 10 seconds to play to tie the score at 69-69. The Tigers (10-1) never trailed in overtime, getting nine points and a huge late steal from McKay to win their seventh in a row.
“That was a huge gut-check win,” Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “What an unbelievable win. Everybody at some point made a play. It wasn’t just one person. Everybody made up for somebody, we got some defensive stops. … It was a great game. We turned them over 27 times and got 38 points off that. Our kids kept grinding and kept getting after it. This was a great win for us.”
Auburn led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, but the Tar Heels (8-5) chipped away, including a 7-0 run to end the quarter, to bring the deficit down to one point headed to the fourth. UNC took its first lead of the half with 5:26 to play on a 3-pointer to make it 56-54.
Auburn never led again in regulation, but after a missed UNC free throw led to Benton’s layup with 10 seconds left, the Tigers never trailed in overtime. UNC threatened late, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute, but McKay sank five free throws over the final 44 seconds to salt away the win.
Thompson had 18 rebounds to go along with her 21 points, picking up her sixth double-double of the season. Crystal Primm – the Duke transfer playing against her former team’s archrival – scored a career-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting while adding six rebounds and four steals.
Senior Erica Sanders also scored her first two points of the season on a pair of free throws in overtime. She missed the first nine games with an injury but made her presence felt on the defensive end in this game with three rebounds in 11 minutes of action.
Auburn saw its trademark high-intensity defense pay dividends as the Tigers turned 27 North Carolina turnovers into 38 points. None was bigger than a steal by McKay with 47 seconds left that turned into a fast-break layup, plus a foul, to give the Tigers an 80-75 lead.
“I was counting the dribbles,” McKay said of her overtime steal. “I wanted to make a play. Basketball can be a game of chances, but I knew I could get it, and I went with my gut. It paid off.”
After trailing by two at the end of one quarter, the Tigers outscored UNC 16-8 in the second quarter to take a 34-29 lead to the break. The Tar Heels were held to just one 3-pointer in the first half, but finished with nine for the game as they got hot in the second half.
For the game, UNC shot 51.6 percent to Auburn’s 40 percent. But Auburn took 23 more shots than the Tar Heels, thanks in large part to 25 offensive rebounds that led to 24 second-chance points.
It was Auburn’s first overtime win since 2016, a 71-60 victory over Arkansas. The Tigers also snapped a 10-game skid against opponents from the ACC that dated back to 2009.
The Tigers wrap up their week of four games in seven days Saturday when they travel from Myrtle Beach to Elon, N.C. to face the Elon Phoenix. Game time is 1 p.m. CT with the radio broadcast on WQSI 95.9 FM and AuburnTigers.com.