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#16 Auburn at #22 Mississippi State Game Preview and Open Thread

Tonight’s a MUST win for Auburn!

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday January 26th

Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Location: Humphrey Coliseum - Starkville, Mississippi

Time: 7:30PM

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

I can’t stress enough how important tonight’s game is for Auburn. There’s a huge difference in being 3-3 and 2-4 in the league. In addition, Auburn needs a Q1 win and tonight’s an opportunity to get one. While Auburn’s win over Washington continues to look better, they’re going to need to beat some good teams on their schedule to bolster their tournament resume.

Get to Know Mississippi State...

The Bulldogs (14-4) and Tigers (13-5) have a lot of similarities. Both teams are full of upperclassmen. They’re both 2-3 in the SEC so far and each team’s 3 losses have come against Ole Miss, Kentucky and South Carolina. According to the KenPom rankings though, the Bulldogs have the better overall resume as they have wins over Florida (26), Cincinnati (27). and Wofford (41), while Auburn’s best win is against Washington (43). A win for either tonight would make this their best win so far as Auburn sits 18th in KenPom while the Bulldogs sit 28th.

The Bulldogs come into tonight’s matchup averaging 77.7 points a game while giving up just 68.6 points per game. Senior guard (#11) Quinndary Weatherspoon is the Bulldogs leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, while also averaging 5.7 rebounds a game. He’s not a high volume 3-point shooter, only averaging 1 make a game but we all know how people shoot the 3 against Auburn so far this year.

Next up is junior guard (#2) Lamar Peters, who is 2nd on the team in scoring with 12,8 points a game, along with 5.7 assists a game. Peters is one of the Bulldogs to be aware of shooting the 3 as he’s a 40.6% 3-point shooter (52-128) and while he’s struggled going a combined 2-9 in his last 2 games from that range, he has 2 games this year where he’s made 8 in a game and on averages, makes about 3 3-pointers a game.

Senior forward (#35) Aric Holman has a size advantage in the paint for the Bulldogs. The 6’10” forward averages 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game so far this year. He’s also an excellent 3-point shooter, especially for a big guy, shooting 43.1% (31-72) from that range this year. Holman was scoreless against Kentucky and fouled out in 20 minutes of action. Chris Silva had a similar stat line in the game prior to playing Auburn and had a career night so Holman is the player I would fear the most if I was an Auburn fan.

Mississippi State’s 4th double-figure scorer is Quinndary Weatherspoon’s little brother, Nick Weathersppon. The sophomore guard (#0) averages 10.2 points a game this season and is a 45.2% 3-point shooter (19-42). Also keep an eye on junior guard (#23) Tyson Carter who is averaging 9.7 points a game and has scored in double figures his last 3 games.

What to Look for from Auburn...

Auburn knows what they’re gonna get from their guards but what kind of production will they get from Anfernee McLemore, Chuma Okeke and Horace Spencer? Okeke played well at South Carolina but both McLemore and Spencer dealt with foul trouble and both fouled out with over 5 minutes left in the game Tuesday night. We’ve seen how tightly games have been called in the SEC so far this year and Auburn has got to a better job of not fouling and whether some of the foul calls are warranted or not, they can’t put themselves in a position to be called for a foul. That’s where Auburn misses Austin Wiley the most right now, by not having him to put in the paint to up against the likes of a P.J. Washington and Chris Silva that we saw in the last 2 games.

As for Auburn’s guards, they have been consistent in their scoring so far in SEC play. Harper has scored 17 in 3 consecutive games and is averaging 16.4 points a game in SEC play. Bryce Brown has even better numbers in SEC play. Through 5 games, Brown is averaging 21 points a game. Auburn will need good games from Brown and Harper once again to have a chance to come out of Starkville with a road win.

Score Prediction

Auburn has struggled on the road and this is their 4th road game in their first 6 SEC games. After tonight, the Tigers come home for 3 straight games but as I alluded to in the open, this is a game the Tigers need badly. They’re coming off 2 losses by a combined 5 points when they’ve held the lead in the final minute of play. Auburn’s a possession or two from being at 4-1 in the SEC an many people’s perceptions of this team are completely different. Auburn got destroyed in the paint on Tuesday by Chris Silva and I’m afraid this could be a big night for Aric Holman and the Bulldogs big guys. It’s a gut-check game for Auburn but given its road play so far this year, I don’t have a great feeling about this game. I’m gonna take the home team here and hope I’m wrong.

Mississippi State 78 Auburn 72