AUBURN — Less than two minutes into the game, Al Giannone didn't like what he saw and called a timeout.
After his team gave up three offensive rebounds, the Auburn girls basketball coach believed the Maroons were being outhustled just like in their last loss.
Giannone's quick timeout got Auburn going. The Maroons went on an eight-point run to take the lead and their defense held the Purple Tigers to single digits in each quarter, as Auburn beat Cortland 47-31 at Auburn High School Wednesday.
"Effort is huge for us," Giannone said. "When we bring effort consistently, we're pretty darn good. When we don't, we can be easily beaten. That's the barometer where we gauge how good we're going to be. If we're outworking people we're going to have a good night. If we don't, we're very beatable."
Jania Freeman led the way for the Maroons with 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
"She was playing fantastic tonight," Giannone said of Freeman. "She was finishing inside. She was playing great defense. She always passes the ball extremely well. She led us in rebounds. ... Jania played a fantastic game."
Marlee Solomon and Grace Baranick each added six points and six rebounds. Stef Gera, Auburn's leading scorer who joined the 1,000 point club last week, was shadowed throughout most of the game and was held to two points, two assists and four rebounds.
The Maroons got off to a slow start and gave up the first five points, but after Giannone's timeout they scored the next eight points and led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The lead changed hands multiple times in the second quarter, but Auburn finished the frame with the last six points to take a 22-17 lead into the break and then netted the first six points of the second half.
"Most of the things that we do start at the defensive end," Giannone said. "When we make stops, then we get out and run a little bit. We get free a little easier, and then we get better shots. We always talk about the first three or four minutes out of the locker room. We were up five but we wanted to build on that lead and put it away. We were able to do that tonight. It was huge."
The Maroons outscored the Purple Tigers 16-6 in the third quarter to pull away, and cruised through the fourth quarter.
Auburn's defense held Cortland to nine or less points in each of the four quarters.
"When we bring effort and we really get after teams, we can lock down and play good defense," Giannone said. "When we don't, then again, teams are able to score more easily on us and we don't get out and score as much."
Auburn (7-3) hosts Central Square on Friday. The Maroons beat the RedHawks 65-57 when the teams met last month.
"Big game. Certainly a rival since they were in our old league (CNYCL)," Giannone said. "We beat them down there in a good game."