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RECAP: Auburn can't overcome Mississippi State, falls 79-66

Mississippi State just kept hitting threes, and Auburn couldn't complete a comeback. The Tigers will face Tennessee in the SEC Tourney on Wednesday night.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Sigh...stop me if you've heard this one before:

Auburn starts out strong in the first half, watches a lead slip away, and can't put a complete game together to make the comeback.

Yep.

It's not fun to watch, and I take no joy in recounting it, but it happened again today. A game that started with two TJ Lang threes and an 8-0 Auburn run ended with a 39-20 first half for Mississippi State and eventually a Bulldog victory to the tune of 79-66.

Mississippi State was led by Malik Newman, who finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Quinndary Weatherspoon and Craig Sword contributed 16 and 11 points, respectively. Big man Gavin Ware had 10 points and led the Bulldogs in rebounding with 12 boards.

TJ Lang scored a team-leading 16 points. Cinmeon Bowers had another double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Tyler Harris and Horace Spencer had matching stats with 13 points and 5 rebounds each.

What happened?

First Half:

Auburn went on a nice 8-0 run to start the first half, but it was a short-lived lead. Mississippi State got the lead back and began hitting threes like they were going out of style. Auburn completely lacked perimeter defense, and the Bulldogs took full advantage. See below:

Yep. It wasn't pretty.

For the record, I'm sorry for jinxing us in the preview this morning. These were actual words that I actually typed:

Yeah. This is on me, y'all.

This half got ugly fast for Auburn. It became especially difficult when Horace Spencer went to the bench with three fouls inside five minutes. Long story short? State went into the half leading Auburn 37-20, and that was before the officials went back and checked Gavin Ware's one-handed alley-oop dunk to confirm it went in, so it was actually 39-20. Basically, State was scoring points even when the half was over.

For State, it was the Malik Newman show in the first half. He scored 14 points and went 2/2 behind the arc. Quinndary Weatherspoon added 11 points in the first half, as well. Auburn was led by Horace Spencer with 7 points, followed by Tyler Harris and TJ Lang, who both had 6 points each.

Second Half:

The second half was actually not bad...initially. Mississippi State hit a jumper, but Auburn then went on an 8-0 run before Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland called a timeout to stem the Tigers' run. Horace Spencer got back in the game to open the half, got a block, and earned a charge. It was a good boost given the first half performance (or lack thereof) for Auburn.

After the timeout, Mississippi State hit two threes to get right back to it, but Auburn found little ways to answer and even got close to cutting the lead down to single digits late in the second half. Still, despite some flashes of good shooting and ball movement, Auburn couldn't overcome the deficit. Senior Day just went the Bulldogs' way, and there wasn't much of a game plan by the Tigers to stop that.

On to Nashville, though! Today's game ended the regular season, but there's still some ball left to be played at Bridgestone Arena this week. First, here's what we learned today...

Three Things We Learned

1. Yeah, so Mississippi State can shoot the trey. I was totally wrong about this.

I already mentioned it earlier, but goodness gracious—the Bulldogs hardly missed a shot in the first half. Malik Newman went 2/2 for 6 points behind the line, Quinndary Weatherspoon went 3/5 for 9 points, and even Fred Thomas hit a three. It was threes everywhere. Oprah Winfrey couldn't give away from free threes than Mississippi State dished out in that first half. The second half was more of the same—State hitting open three point shots and Auburn not being able to defend them.

Auburn needs to work on perimeter defense. Big time. But hey—when you're hot, you're hot. Auburn was once again on the receiving end of a bad scoring run. Credit State for hitting the shots they needed to overcome their opening first-half deficit.

2. "Bryce Cold" Brown was mostly... just cold today, and it made me :(

Bryce is usually a "Bryce Cold" killer from behind the arc, but today, he didn't hit his first three until the 14-minute mark in the second half. It seems like he's either hot all game or scarce from behind the arc—rarely a consistent performance. Nevertheless, when he's hot, it bodes well for Auburn. On the flip side, when he's not hitting threes, Auburn struggles immensely, and he tends to get very down on himself (which Bruce Pearl and the coaching staff will help him overcome—he's just a freshman, after all). TJ Lang offered some support of his own with three point shooting, but for a long time now, Auburn has lived and died by the three. When you're down on the roster because of injuries and missing players, the stakes just get much higher.

The good news about Brown is that he's a freshman, so he is going to be very good for us down the stretch of his Auburn career. Let's hope he can contribute to a miraculous run in the SEC Tournament. Lord knows, we'll need him to catch fire for us to have a chance at success in Nashville this week.

3. The Horace HookTM is a beautiful thing to behold.

He's getting so good at it. The problem Auburn's been faced with all season, though, is keeping him out of foul trouble. When he's on the floor, he's a dynamite difference for the Tigers, and thanks to that hook shot he's been working on recently, he will be a deadly force in the paint next season.

What's next?

The SEC Tournament begins this week (March 9th) in Nashville. Cross your fingers for another miraculous run like the one we were blessed with last season. Auburn will open play against Tennessee at 7:00 pm CST Wednesday night.

War Damn Eagle.