STANFORD, Calif. - Janiah McKay scored 19 points and Unique Thompson matched a career-high with 19 rebounds, but Auburn was unable to overcome a tough third quarter in a 73-64 loss to BYU Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers (22-10) trailed by as many as 15 points early in the fourth quarter but rallied to cut that to as few as four with less than two minutes to play. But BYU (26-6) scored on five of its final six possessions and Auburn was unable to get any closer.
"I'm definitely very proud of my young ladies," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We continued to fight all day long like we've done all season long.
"BYU is a very good team. We knew that. We knew they had some very good scorers, some very good guards that could score. But we continued to fight. Not the way we wanted it to end, but I'm proud of what our girls have done this year."
McKay's 19 points tied for the game high along with BYU's Brenna Chase. She also finished with a game-high six assists and five rebounds. Thompson's 19 rebounds matched her career-high from earlier this season at New Mexico, and her 10 points gave her a double-double, the 13th of the season and 20th of her career.
Daisa Alexander scored 14 points and Crystal Primm added 11. Senior Erica Sanders, playing in her final Auburn game, had six points, four rebounds and three steals.
The Tigers struggled from the field, especially early, shooting 32.0 percent for the game (24-75). Auburn attempted 16 more shots than BYU, thanks in large part to 21 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points. For the game, Auburn out-rebounded the Cougars 46-39; the effort tied for Auburn's second-most rebounds this season.
Auburn jumped out to a quick 9-4 lead in the opening minutes, but the Cougars finished the period on a 9-2 run to take a 13-11 lead at the end of one. The Tigers would tie the game twice more but would never retake the lead.
A layup from Kiyae' White with 2:18 to play in the second quarter finished off a 6-0 Auburn run to tie the game at 24-24, and a buzzer-beater from McKay cut a BYU lead to two points at 28-26 at the half. A steal and score from Primm early in the third quarter tied the game at 30-30, but from that point, BYU went on an 11-1 run to take a 41-31 lead at the 5:40 mark, extending that lead to 51-39 at the end of three.
The Cougars then led 64-50 with 4:44 to play, but over the next two minutes, Auburn got a 3-pointer from Alexander, a steal-and-score from Sanders, and another Sanders steal that led to a Primm layup to cut the lead to seven points at 64-57. After Alexander blocked a shot at the other end, Primm hit a baseline jumper to cut it to 64-59.
Primm followed a BYU free throw with another layup to cut the deficit to just four points at 65-61 with 1:57 to play. But the Cougars would score on five of their final six possessions, and the Tigers were unable to make up any more ground.
"We've been taught to never give up," McKay said of the fourth-quarter rally. "We always keep fighting ... no matter if your back is against the wall, you have to continue to push through."
McKay finishes her storied Auburn career with 1,647 points, passing Brandy Montgomery today for seventh all-time on the all-time scoring list. She also finished with 448 assists, eighth in Auburn history, and in a tie for eighth with 223 steals, tying Hasina Muhammad in today's game.
"You hate that this is your last game, but I wanted to leave a legacy of working hard, having character," McKay said. "I'm really excited about the future of this program, and now it's (time for) the next step. The real world is next. I'm very excited for that."