Could you think of a better way to bounce back from a tough loss than defeating the next team on your home court? That's what the Auburn men's basketball team hopes to do tonight against Mississippi State.
Auburn (13-12) lost their last three games including a heartbreaker to MSU the last time the two met. State was the No. 22 team in the country at the time, but like Auburn the Bulldogs have taken a dive since February 4th, losing two close games to Georgia and LSU. They held a 17-point lead at LSU before losing in overtime.
Both teams are looking to rebound from those losses and turn things around in their 7p.m. date tonight in the Arena. Mississippi State (19-7) will try to break a two-game losing streak while Auburn is coming off a seven day break; after losing a close one on the road to Ole Miss and suffering a 68-50 shellacking by Alabama in their last home game.
Things looked more encouraging two weeks ago when Auburn went into Starkville appearing to have finally found their offensive game. Frankie Sullivan who had been averaging almost 16 points a game put up 10, Varez Ward scored a career-high 24 and Kenny Gabriel added a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds. But the sudden burst of offense was not enough as the dogs came back to take a 91-88 victory.
The question now is, "What will happen tonight?" MSU hopes to turn around their two game slide while AU is looking to protect their house and try to get another win to move them toward a possible NIT bid.
With five regular season games left, it is a possibility. Fifteen is usually the magic number along with how a team does in the conference tournament. Those five remaining games present a big challenge though. The Tigers have to play the league's No. 2 team Florida (21-6) and Alabama (17-9 ) on the road and Arkansas and LSU at home.
But as for the contest at hand, junior guard Frankie Sullivan feels good about the Tigers' chances. He remarked earlier this week that, "Once we get back to our defensive principles, I think we have a good chance of winning this game."
Mississippi State is hoping that senior guard Dee Bost who has a school-record 581 assists, and went out of the first game with an injury, will be the difference. Barbee said in his meeting with the press that Bost is definitely the Dog's catalyst.
For Auburn the difference should be home court advantage. Despite giving up a discouraging loss to Alabama 10 days ago, the Tigers are 10-2 at home this season and always play State very tough.
Hopefully the Tigers will continue their defensive prowess while bringing the same offensive game they had at Starkville. Besides, there's no better way to bounce back from a tough home loss than defeating the next opponent on your home court.