Turnovers send Techsters to first loss at Auburn

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AUBURN, Ala. – Janiah McKay scored 29 points and Unique Thompson added 16 points and 14 rebounds to lead Auburn to a 75-59 win over Louisiana Tech before 1879 fans at Auburn Arena Sunday evening.

The Tigers (2-1) took advantage of 29 turnovers by the Lady Techsters (3-1), outscoring Tech 31-13 on points off of turnovers. In the end, it was too much for Tech to overcome in falling for the first time this season.

“You can’t put yourself in that situation,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “We talked the last three days about their length and athleticism, whether it is off a make or a miss, they are going to pick you up and pressure you. When we kept the ball in the middle of the floor like we were supposed to, I thought we did a nice job.

“We got layups, although we missed a ton of layups even though I felt like we got some really good looks. We have to be stronger with the ball, whether we are getting pressured in the half court or full court, we have to be strong with the ball, play with the ball in the middle of the floor and really make people pay. I thought we handled it well at times, but just too many mistakes tonight.”

Tech trailed by 14 at the half and as many as 16 in the second half before fighting back in the third and fourth quarters. Despite the issues with the turnovers, Tech cut the Auburn lead to six at 54-48 on a Taylor Stahly three-pointer at the 8:24 mark of the fourth quarter. Auburn guard Dasia Alexander answered with a three-pointer and McKay added a jumper to push the advantage back out to double figures.

However, the Lady Techsters wouldn’t go away. Kierra Anthony’s layup with 2:06 to play cut the deficit to 66-59. After Anna McLeod came up with a steal on Auburn’s next possession, Tech had a chance to cut the deficit even further but two missed layups and a Stahly three-pointer rattled out. Tech committed turnovers on its final six possessions leading to easy transition layups for the Tigers.

“I felt like we were right there,” said Stoehr. “I thought we defended well in the fourth quarter, but you can’t defend uncontested layups off of turnovers. When you make live ball turnovers that lead to points, those are hard to defend. If you look at what they did in the fourth quarter, 7 of 12, those were all layups. At the end of the game in our last six possessions we just basically gave them the ball and said ‘Hey go lay it up.’ We got it down to two possessions, and we had a three rattle out and we have to be mature enough and strong enough and have some toughness about us to buck up and make a play at that point. We just didn’t tonight.”

Tech opened the game strong. Kierra Anthony scored the first three points and then Stahly hit a pair of three-pointers to give the Lady Techsters a 9-2 advantage. McLeod drilled a three-pointer at the 3:29 mark of the first half as the Tech lead stayed at seven at 14-7. Tech led 16-12 at the end of the quarter.

“We needed to knock down some threes tonight against their zone and against their size,” said Stoehr. “They blocked some shots early on and we had to knock down some shots tonight in order to be successful. We told everybody to get their hands and feet ready and get ready to knock down some shots. I thought (Taylor) got some good looks and was able to hit those.

“The disappointing thing for me was offensively we had so many break-out layups that we just missed. We were soft in our approach to the rim. We have to be stronger with the basketball. We have to be able to go up and score those whether at home or on the road.”

Auburn came alive offensively in the second quarter. The Tigers hit 12-of-20 field goals, including 4-of-6 from the three-point line to outscore Tech 30-12 and take a 42-28 lead into the locker room, forcing Tech to play from behind the entire second half.

Stahly scored a career-high 18 points and five rebounds to lead Louisiana Tech in both categories.

For the game, Tech shot just 34 percent (18-53) from the field, 6-of-17 from the three-point line and 17-of-24 from the free throw line. The Tigers outrebounded Tech 39-36.

The Lady Techsters return to action Friday when they face Penn State in Las Vegas at 7:45 p.m.

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