GREENVILLE, N.C. – Auburn built a double-digit lead in the middle portion of Sunday afternoon's non-conference showdown with East Carolina and eventually held off the Pirates 61-52 inside Minges Coliseum.
Redshirt senior forward Bre McDonald paced ECU with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting while redshirt junior forward Gabrielle Holston added nine points a team-leading six rebounds. Redshirt senior guard Khadidja Toure collected a squad-best five assists to go along with five assists, two blocks and two steals.
Janiah McKay was the top scorer in the contest, pouring in 17 points as well as tallying three steals. Katie Frerking notched a double-double to the tune of 10 points and 13 rebounds.
East Carolina shot the ball at 46.2 percent as a team while limiting the Tigers to 33.9 percent efficiency. Auburn held a slight 37-31 edge in rebounds, but racked up 17 offensive boards that led to 16 second- chance points. The Tigers also forced 30 Pirate turnovers and turned those into 32 points.
Team Records: East Carolina (3-1) | Auburn (3-0)
HEAD COACH HEATHER MACY QUOTE
"I thought the last quarter was our best one. I was very pleased with the finish, not pleased with the outcome. We had some live ball turnovers that were really, really tough. I like that we shot the ball well, but the issue is we just didn't get enough shot attempts. When you look at it and the opposing team takes 20 more shot attempts that you've taken, you see the score and you think it would be way more lopsided. I just thought that we competed, but the execution of valuing the ball wasn't what we wanted it to be."
Both squads started the game out at a fast pace, running up and down the floor and matching each other point for point. A three-point field goal by Brady Montgomery afforded Auburn a 9-4 advantage with 4:46 on the clock, but the Pirates answered right back with a McDonald jumper and Toure triple to knot the score at nine with 3:23 left in the stanza. The Tigers led 13-9 with under a minute to go, but an old fashioned three point play converted by Holston left Auburn with just a one-point edge heading to the second quarter.
The Tigers came out hot in the second quarter, building a 21-12 advantage and forcing an ECU timeout at the 6:44 mark. East Carolina turned up the defense from there, holding Auburn scoreless for nearly four minutes while netting four points during the stretch to pull within 21-16 with 3:52 on the clock. Frerking hit a three-pointer at 1:29 to give her team a 10-point cushion, but graduate forward Kristen Gaffney notched four of the final six points of the half to slice the Tiger lead to eight at the break.
East Carolina shot 8-for-18 (.444) overall, 1-for-5 (.200) from three-point range and 3-for-3 (1.000) at the free throw line in the first half, while Auburn went 12-for-35 (.343) from the field, 2-for-9 (.222) beyond the arc and 2-for-2 (1.000) at the charity stripe.
The teams traded threes in the first two minutes of the period before the Tigers started to pull away a little. Tiffany Lewis hit a triple to make it 40-25, but senior forward Fanni Csutoras responded with a three of her own at the 4:22 mark. A free throw by Emari Jones put Auburn in its biggest lead at 46-28 with 2:08 to play. However, sophomore guard Alex Frazier had the last word of the quarter, hitting a jumper with 14 seconds showing on the clock to leave the Tiger advantage at 16.
A layup by Frerking at the 6:43 mark saw Auburn keep its 18-point lead, but East Carolina began to push back and used a 7-0 run over the next four and a half minutes to shrink its deficit to 56-45. The Tigers went up by 13 thanks to a McKay free throw with 1:08 left to play before Holston knocked home a layup with nine seconds on the clock to provide the final margin.
East Carolina hits the road for the first time this season next week, traveling to Savannah, Ga., for the Savannah Invitational. The Pirates face off against Marist Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the tournament opener. ECU will also battle No. 21 West Virginia Wednesday (4:30 p.m.) and Ball State Thursday (4:30 p.m.).