Syracuse did just that, fouling Smith three consecutive times in the span of three seconds, but the senior made both free throws and the Orangewomen could not get a shot off as the Tigers held on for the victory.
"Our concern at halftime was we could not create offensive scoring opportunities from our defense,"; Coach Joe Ciampi said. "That's a compliment to Syracuse. Carol came out in the second half and got 11 points, showed us the leadership and did the little things to get the job done."
Smith was 1-6 from the field in the first half, but went 4-8 in the second half to finish the game with 13 points. She added a team-high three assists and five rebounds. "In the first half, I hit a wall and couldn't hit a shot to save my life," Smith said. "But I kept shooting the ball and in the second half they dropped for me."
Sophomore Tia Miller led all Tigers with 16 points. The center finished 7-10 from the field. For the game, Auburn shot a season-low 43.6 percent from the field and held the Orangewomen to 44 percent shooting. The Tigers did dominate the boards outrebounding the visitors 41-22.
Willingham scored the first basket of the game to give Auburn quick 2-0 lead, but Syracuse went on an 11-4 run to build a five-point cushion at the 13:41 mark. After trading baskets with the Orangewomen, Auburn went on a 7-0 run sparked by back-to-back baskets from Willingham and a three-pointer from freshman Natasha Brackett to take a 15-13 lead.
Syracuse quickly tied the game at 15 on a layup from Chineze Nwagbo. The Tigers took the lead when Willingham hit a jumper in the lane. A free throw by Syracuse guard Shannon Perry cut the AU lead to one, but Brackett answered with a jumper and senior Brandi Hillman made both free throws to give the Tigers their largest lead of the half.
As the teams were leaving the court for the eight-minute media timeout, Nwagbo collapsed on the floor near the Syracuse foul line. Medical personnel from both teams attended to the six-foot center and carried her off on a stretcher. Nwagbo never lost consciousness and was alert, but was taken to East Alabama Medical Center for treatment.
After the 10-minute stoppage of play, Syracuse guard Jaime James hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to two at 21-19, but the Orangewomen couldn't get any closer. Auburn senior Smith took a long rebound coast-to-coast for a layup with 3:29 remaining in the half to give the Tigers a 27-23 advantage.
That was the last field goal of the half for either time as Auburn went scoreless and Syracuse scored just one point on a free throw by James which cut the Tigers lead to three. The Tigers led at the break 27-24.
The Tigers built a 38-31 lead with 13:55 to go, but the Orangewomen bounced back as they did all night and cut into the lead with a jumper by Rochelle Coleman and a steal and layup by Julie McBride, who was fouled on the play and made her free throw.
AU then answered with back-to-back three pointers by LaKeisha Johnson and Smith. Syracuse clawed back with a 10-0 run and regained the lead for the first time since the 12:16 mark of the first half when Coleman drilled her only three-pointer of the game.
Johnson quickly tied it with a jumper from the free throw line and Auburn took the lead for good on a layup by Miller at 48-46 with 6:57 to play. The Tigers built a six-point lead on back-to-back jumpers by Smith.
AU held the Orangewomen scoreless for 4:34 when James broke the drought with a runner in the lane. McBride, who led the visitors in scoring with 15, then hit a three-pointer on the visitors' next possession to get within a point at 52-51 with 1:44 to play.
Syracuse saw a baseline jumper from Jazmine Wright roll around the rim and fall off the cylinder with 44 seconds remaining that would have given them a 55-54 lead. Instead, the Tigers came down and ran the shot clock all the way down and Smith nailed a 16-footer from the baseline as the clock expired to give AU a 56-53 lead.
Syracuse dropped to 3-2 for the season with the loss.
Auburn will travel to Birmingham Monday night to take on UAB at the Bartow Arena with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The Blazers knocked off Mississippi State 76-56 on Thursday.