However, the Tigers ended up shooting a 305, their worst score of the tournament, to drop to 904, 28 shots off the pace set by Duke. The Blue Devils posted a one-under-par 287 to take a 13-stroke lead over Southern Cal, which is in second five shots ahead of Pepperdine.
Auburn finished 17-over-par for the day and is now plus-40 for the tournament with rounds of 301 and 298 the first two days.
Maria Martinez and Nicole Hage paced the Tigers with a 75 on Thursday. Martinez's round included six bogeys and three birdies as the Tigers opened on the back nine in round three. Martinez stayed under par through six holes, but suffered bogeys on 16, 17 and 18 to turn at plus two. She is tied for 24th place at 224.
Hage had five bogeys and two birdies and turned at one over par. She is tied for 89th at 234.
Abigale Schepperle shot a 77 despite a strong start. She was three-under-par after five holes before making a double bogey, par, double bogey and bogey to turn at plus two. Schepperle, who moved up to second place individually on Thursday, slipped to a tie for 17th at 222, which is six over par.
Auburn's final score that counted was a 78 from Margaret Shirley. She finished with seven bogeys and one birdie and is tied for 50th at 228.
The Tigers didn't count the 80 posted by Jessica Lovell, who got off to a rough start with a triple bogey on her second hole. She is tied for 108th at 238.
Auburn, the SEC champion, trails two teams from the league. Florida shot a 302 on Thursday and is tied for seventh with Georgia, which had the second best round of the day at three-over-par 291. They are at 902 along with Washington, one shot behind Cal and six behind Purdue and Arizona State, the day two leader which shot a 310 on Thursday after rounds of 292 and 294.
"We have pretty much been playing catch-up since the first day and today it caught up with us," said Auburn coach Kim Evans. "This course is designed so that teams like us can jump back into it, but we didn't take advantage of the course and it is tough enough to hurt you in the process."
The final round is scheduled for Friday, but could be delayed by rain that is in the forecast.