St. Joseph's will get another shot at a nationally ranked team today when it meets 15th-ranked Auburn in the title game of the Hilton Philadelphia Hawk Classic at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.

The Hawks reached the 4 p.m. championship game with a 68-59 win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology in yesterday's tournament opener.

However, it took nearly all of the second game until Auburn prevailed, 66-59, over a Davidson squad that had never beaten a nationally ranked team.

The Tigers (12-1), who had trailed by eight points late in the first half, forged ahead, 34-32, on Tamela McCorvey's jumper in the opening minutes of the final period. Auburn, however, could not shake off the Wildcats (6-5) until the last minute.

The Hawks (6-6) had to fend off the Highlanders (2-8) several times, but built a 26-point lead with a little less than 10 minutes remaining.

"They always come back; they always make it a game," Hawks coach Cindy Griffin said of the Newark team, which is in its second year of Division I competition.

Timisha Gomez had a team high of 16 points for St. Joseph's, while Brittany Ford, in her second game back from minor knee surgery, added 12.

"I won't say I'm all the way back until I stay out of foul trouble, and then I'll say I'm really back," said Ford, who was assessed two personal fouls in her 16 minutes of action.

Jessica Gerald had 16 points for the Highlanders.

"We did some good things," said their coach, Margaret McKeon, a former St. John's star who had coached at Boston University. "But St. Joseph's is a very good team. They were so good inside.

"Davidson will be another nice challenge for us," McKeon said of today's third-place game, at 2 p.m.

The Tigers weren't ranked when St. Joseph's offered the invitation.

"I thought they were a top-30 team and would be ranked at some point and be consistent with it," Griffin said.

Auburn, however, was anything but consistent for a long time against Davidson.

"We're trying to recover from losing our point guard," Tigers coach Nell Fortner said of Whitney Boddie, who has been suspended by Fortner for academic reasons. "She was a very valuable part of this team."

Alli Smalley stepped into the slot off the bench and scored 15 points for the Tigers. McCorvey added 13 and Sherell Hobbs 12, while DeWanna Bonner grabbed 12 rebounds.

Danielle Hemerka, a graduate of Highland Regional in South Jersey, had a team high of 13 points for Davidson.

"It was almost fabulous - we were close," she said. "Just believe in the system. We know we have nothing to lose when we play the big teams."

La Salle 75, Sacred Heart 70 -

The Explorers (6-6) rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to win in overtime as Carlene Hightower scored 28 points in the nonconference game at Tom Gola Arena. Sacred Heart also is 6-6.

Iowa 67, Penn State 58 - Kam Gissendanner got 17 points and crossed the 1,000-point career plateau, but the Nittany Lions (9-4) dropped their Big Ten Conference opener to the Hawkeyes (8-4) in Iowa City, Iowa.

Middle Tennessee 67, Louisiana State 56 -

Amber Holt had a career high of 41 points and added nine rebounds to help Middle Tennessee (7-5) upset eighth-ranked LSU (9-3) in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Holt finished one shy of the school record for most points in a game, set by Kim Webb against Eastern Kentucky in 1987.

Elsewhere:

Joy Cheek had 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead 13th-ranked

Duke

past

Houston,

84-68, in Houston. . . . Danielle Gant had 22 points and eight rebounds to help 14th-ranked

Texas A&M

beat

Texas-Arlington,

69-55, in College Station. . . . T.J. Jordan scored 22 points to lead 23d-ranked

Old Dominion

past

Kentucky,

71-62, in Lexington, Ky. . . . Danielle Green scored a season high of 22 points, and 24th-ranked

Oklahoma State

beat

Oral Roberts,

83-65, in Stillwater, Okla.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com. Read his blog at go.philly.com/womhoops.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.