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Auburn falls to Mississippi State 78-71: Three Things We Learned

Auburn's late-game comeback fell short in front of another rowdy home crowd

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

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.


KT Harrell trending...

Then, things start going a little south for the Tigers...

...and...well here's the rest:

Some good things!

Then the final 5 minutes:

(WHOOPS. That was a Ringling Brothers tweet...or was it about our defense?)

A clutch 3 by Ross-Miller:

KT with a HUGE 3: