Janiah McKay (above) was impressive in her college debut.
Auburn, Ala.-- Auburn turned up the heat in the second half and took control of the women’s basketball season opener to defeat UAB 85-71 on Friday night at Auburn Arena.
Junior guard Brandy Montgomery scored 24 points while newcomer Janiah McKay was impressive in her debut, scoring 20 points while dishing out seven assists with just one turnover. She hit 7-11 field goals and 5-7 free throws coming off the bench to play 29 minutes.
The freshman’s performance was timely because the team opened the season without its projected starter at point guard. “Neydja Petithomme has decided to pursue other opportunities,” Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “That is her decision. It is not our decision, but as the Auburn women’s basketball team we just deal with it and move on.”
Senior center Tra’Cee Tanner chipped in with a double-double as he scored 18 points while adding a team-high 10 rebounds. Junior guard Katie Frerking scored 12 points for the Tigers.
The Tigers trailed 36-35 at halftime, but outscored the Blazers 21-13 in the third quarter and 29-22 in the fourth period as the Tigers made 61.1 percent of their field goals after intermission.
For the game the Tigers shot 53.1 percent from the field and made 7-12 free throws while hitting 10-30 threes. UAB hit 47.3 percent of hits shots, including 12-28 threes and 7-14 free throws.
Auburn held a 32-31 advantage in rebounds while forcing 17 points and committing just nine.
“I thought in the second half the energy level was much better,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It was to be expected in the first game. They had to get the jitters out. The older players hadn’t played in a while and the freshmen had to get used to being on the floor.”
The coach also said that Tanner went into “beast mode” in the second half to help spark the Tigers.
Commenting on the freshman McKay, Coach Flo said, “I thought she did a good job of penetrating and getting to the basket, which was what we needed from her.”
Tanner said the team is in good conditiiong to start the season. “I think for us,it works well because we can go harder than we did last year because we have that media timeout at five minutes.," she said. "We know that if we go hard for the first five minutes- we started out 7-0 in the first minute, minute-half, so we know we can go hard, make them turn the ball over, make our runs and then we’ll get that break and we can go again. We have a good rotation for us to be able to do that because everybody can play on our team. I think it is a good thing for us, no mercy on our competitors, so I think it is a good thing for our team. We have adjusted to it pretty well."