If you checked your local forecast tonight, you might've noticed a cold front somewhere in the middle of Lee County.
Auburn started hot behind two quick 3's from KT Harrell, but otherwise, the Tigers played ice cold against a consistent Mississippi State team that played both ends of the court, evaded the press, and hit free-throws. Some late 3's from the Tigers created some late comeback drama, but the Bulldogs were able to close out a tough road win 78-71 in front of another rowdy Auburn Arena home crowd—clad in white for tonight's "white-out."
Having already beaten Vanderbilt earlier this week, Mississippi State is riding some solid SEC momentum as they move to 2-3 in conference play (9-9 overall). They also snap a 22-game road losing streak. The Tigers (10-8, 2-3) will need some solid rest before facing Alabama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday.
Auburn was able to put together some productive possessions throughout the game. Despite Cinmeon Bowers trying to get a bit too fancy with the ball in fast-break situations, the big man earned his 12th double-double of the season (16 pts/17 reb), and he was able to fire up the home crowd several times during the night. KT Harrell was able to hit 3's early and late in the game, but Auburn's shooting was largely inconsistent, and the Bulldogs capitalized on fast breaks and turnovers, scoring 17 points on 10 turnovers in the first half alone.
Gavin Ware had a solid night for Mississippi State, matching Bowers' double-double to the numbers with one of his own.
Here's what we learned tonight after a rather shocking loss to an average SEC West team:
1. Auburn still has one of the best home crowds in SEC basketball.
Pearl made it clear earlier in the week that he wanted the fans to stand up and get loud "for no apparent reason" to start the second half of games. The fans delivered on that tonight, but State was simply too good on the floor for it to make much of a difference. Watching from home, I was pretty stoked to hear the Jungle getting rowdy on my TV, but we still need more energy, and it simply has to come more often than during hot scoring streaks.
Still, I was impressed by the white-out, although like any good Southerner, I don't wear white after Labor Day. That's the rule, right? Aw, HELL WITH THESE RULES.
Everything about the atmosphere at Auburn Arena has changed since last season, and I'm very proud of our fans. I'm also grateful that Pearl is that dedicated to making our home court a tough place to visit for other teams. Keep on shouting, Auburn fans. It's working. Slowly, but surely, it's working.
2. Fast breaks and free-throws still plague us.
Fast-paced was the name of the game for Pearl's squad. The Tigers showed flashes of brilliant basketball tonight on both ends of the court, but we couldn't do it consistently—at least not at the level the Bulldogs could. Cinmeon Bowers was given Pearl's blessing earlier this week to act more like a point guard in fast-break situations, but during several times in the game, Bowers mishandled the ball, giving State the opportunity to score on fast breaks of its own. You can't fault the big man, though, because his emotion, his presence, and his raw power give Auburn an edge we haven't experienced down in the paint since Breadtruck Chuck himself.
State was able to capitalize effectively on fast-break points all night, and, oh yeah—they could hit their free-throws (68%).
In terms of points, nobody is surprised that KT Harrell led Auburn's scoring with 22 points, followed by Bowers at 16. Consistently productive offensive trips down the court need to be part of Auburn's game plan moving forward in order to avoid these late-game antics that cause young freshman fans in the Jungle section to age 5 years without seeing the immediate benefit of a pay-raise upon graduation.
Free-throws. Goodness. Football has its stupid penalties, and basketball has its rim boinks (that's what I'm calling our misses from now on). Auburn could likely build a new public school with the number of bricks we've laid at the free-throw line this season. At some point, we won't be able to call them "free" if we can't even buy one. 57% at the line will not win many games for the Tigers throughout the rest of SEC play, and it only gets more difficult from here.
3. Uh, Charles Barkley has passed into the Great Beyond?
I don't know who tonight's commentators were, but can somebody please explain to Booker that Chuck's golf swing ought to be buried, not the man himself:
Also, Jay Jacobs clapping to Cotton Eye Joe is pretty fantastic:
And, as promised, here are your tweets from the game, which tell the story perhaps even better than any of us here at College and Mag.
AUBURN VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE TWEETS:
KT Harrell trending...
Bruh, KT EATIN!— DYLAN REEVES (@Dylan_Reeves) January 22, 2015
Oh man, KT Harrell opens the game with some sweet, sweet string music on the 3— College & Magnolia (@CollegeAndMag) January 22, 2015
We have an incredible home court advantage here in Auburn Arena.— AUHoopsBlog (@AUHoopsBlog) January 22, 2015
Word to your moms KT came to drop bombs— AU Beards (@AU_Beards) January 22, 2015
KT Harrell: Ready to shoot, jack— Jared (@wardamnjared) January 22, 2015
KT Harrell feels it tonight. #WarEagle— Stephen D. Wadsworth (@SDWesq) January 22, 2015
I had to move over in my chair in South Carolina to let Harell make that last 3.— AuburnChopper (@AuburnChopper) January 22, 2015
Is it good when you force the other team to take a timeout less than 2 minutes into the game? I think that might be good— BoddaGettaBasketball (@BoddaGettaBball) January 22, 2015
KT shot that from Chuck Person land.— Jordan-Hare (@AU_History) January 22, 2015
Then, things start going a little south for the Tigers...
You gotta get the ball to the big man at the top of post against this extended zone. Let the defense collapse then move ball quickly.— Jared (@wardamnjared) January 22, 2015
I'm not sure "cold streak" is a strong enough term for what Auburn goes through in these streaks in games... Cryogenic? More likely term.— AuburnChopper (@AuburnChopper) January 22, 2015
...and...well here's the rest:
Well this basketball game is stupid.— TheTigerTalk.com (@TheTigerTalk) January 22, 2015
It's never good when your own radio broadcaster feels the need to use the words "soul searching at halftime".— Andy (@AndyLCarpenter) January 22, 2015
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy— Chief (@AUChief) January 22, 2015
/bangs head on wall— Jared (@wardamnjared) January 22, 2015
This is pathetic effort. No energy. I'm six feet but I'd atleast try to block somebody out after a shot.— The Juice (@thejuiceisgood) January 22, 2015
Auburn was up 7-0. Since then, MSU has gone on a 46-23 run. That's definitely alarming, especially since Auburn's at home.— Nathan Deal (@NateDawgAU) January 22, 2015
This is usually the point where Auburn gets hot and makes it a game but I'm starting to have doubts about tonight.— Stephen D. Wadsworth (@SDWesq) January 22, 2015
I know MSU will cool off at some point in the second half, I’m just not confident that AU will heat up enough to get back in it.— Brett Mixon (@TrueBlueAU) January 22, 2015
Some good things!
Cinmeon Bowers with 11 pts and 15 rebs gives him his 12th double-double of the year.— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) January 22, 2015
Then the final 5 minutes:
A dog walks another dog on a leash in the circus.— Joey__T (@joey__t) January 22, 2015
(WHOOPS. That was a Ringling Brothers tweet...or was it about our defense?)
Chris Todd is your celebrity "N" tonight.— Blake Ells (@blakeells) January 22, 2015
Word up Chris Todd! #WarEagle— Chief (@AUChief) January 22, 2015
A clutch 3 by Ross-Miller:
DRAAAAINOOOOO— Drunk Aubie (@DrunkAubie) January 22, 2015
K33333333— Dave (@grantbland) January 22, 2015
KT with a HUGE 3:
KT HARR3LL— Drunk Aubie (@DrunkAubie) January 22, 2015
MSU answers back with a three of their own, their lead back to 5, and Auburn gets a dumb foul. Looks like the come back may be too late— College & Magnolia (@CollegeAndMag) January 22, 2015
58% from the line.— Andy (@AndyLCarpenter) January 22, 2015
Too little too late tonight I'm afraid. There is still hope. Come on Auburn! #WDE— Chief (@AUChief) January 22, 2015
These announcers are making my ears bleed.— Jared (@wardamnjared) January 22, 2015
There's your ballgame. War Eagle.— Bobby Barkley (@bobby_barkley) January 22, 2015
MSU had lost 22 in a row on the road. Good fight to come back, but terrible loss to a pretty bad team at home.— Andy (@AndyLCarpenter) January 22, 2015
#Auburn basketball is Flowers for Algernon and we are that damn mouse— Kevin Ives (@AUPPL) January 22, 2015
Guess who made their free-throws tonight and who didn't.— Chief (@AUChief) January 22, 2015
— Chris Fuhrmeister (@ccfuhr) January 22, 2015
White-out became a white-ouch. Probably shouldn't do white-outs in the future.— Nathan Deal (@NateDawgAU) January 22, 2015
Good effort down the stretch, but we lost this game bc of poor fundamentals. If we box out the shooter and hit some free throws, we win.— Andrew McCain (@dragon_mccain) January 22, 2015