Date: Saturday March 2nd
Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs: 21-7 (9-6)
Location: Auburn Arena
Network: ESPNU, Auburn Radio Network
For the first time in a month, Auburn’s playing at home on a Saturday! Auburn will look to avenge an 92-84 loss to the Bulldogs on January 26th. That game was the most points Auburn has given up this year and sort of served as a turning point as Auburn’s defensive intensity has been much better since that game in Starkville.
Get to (Re)Know Mississippi State...
Quinndary Weatherspoon (#11) is 2nd in the SEC in scoring at 18.6 points a game. He is 4th in the SEC shooting 42.2% from 3-point range. He has had an outstanding season for Ben Howland’s club and for Auburn to win today, they have to do a better job on Weatherspoon. He’s scored 20 or more in 13 games this year Quinndary had 27 points in the first matchup, was 4-5 from 3, and 11-11 from the free throw line. Weatherspoon is like Jared Harper as he’s the leader of the Bulldogs and plays heavy minutes. Containing him is one thing, but keeping him off the free throw line will be a key thing to watch this afternoon.
Lamar Peters (#2) is 2nd on the team averaging 11.6 points a game but has been scoreless in 2 of his last 3 games. But that hasn’t stopped Peters who recorded 6 steals and 5 assists in their over Missouri on Tuesday night. Peters had 16 points and 10 assists in the team’s first game this year. Peters shoots 38% from 3-point range.
Nick Weatherspoon has missed the last 4 games due to an indefinite suspension and when Ben Howland was asked about it yesterday, he had no news to report so it looks like he’ll be out again today for the Bulldogs. He was averaging 9.6 points a game and scored 12 in the team’s first meeting.
I mentioned that because the next player has benefitted from Weatherspoon’s absence. Guard Tyson Carter (#23) has moved into the starting lineup and his minutes have risen substantially over the past 4 games. He averages 9.8 points a game but he scored a season high 22 points in their win over Missouri last time out. Carter had 9 in the team’s first meeting.
We’ve talked nothing but guards so far now it’s time to remember the big guys. Both of these guys are 6’10” and 235-240 pounds. They gave Auburn fits in the 2nd half of the first matchup after being on fire from 3-point range in the 1st half. We’ll begin with Reggie Perry (#1). The freshmen is tied with Carter averaging 9.8 points a game and also averages 6.7 rebounds a game. Perry nabbed 10 points and 11 rebounds in the first matchup and that game began a stretch where he has scored in double figures in 9 of his last 10 games.
The other forward to be mindful of his Aric Holman (#35), a senior averaging 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game this year. Holman’s numbers have been down in SEC play but the Bulldogs will come into this game with the size advantage in the paint.
What to Look for from Auburn...
Once again, Austin Wiley is doubtful to play. What remains to be seen is whether or not Malik Dunbar will. News to us right before tipoff, but Dunbar is suffering from an ab strain and didn’t play in the Georgia game. Auburn really could have used him in the Georgia game, if for nothing else, his energy, but the fact that he never got into the game means it’s perhaps a bit more serious than we may have first thought. I’d put it at 50-50 he plays today.
Jared Harper loves playing in Athens and he had another spectacular night in his home state, scoring 22 points in the win at Georgia. Harper also had 5 assists and more importantly, only 1 turnover. He’s averaged 18 points a game in his 3 career games in Athens. As for today, Jared will have to do better about not turning the ball over as he tied his season high of 6 turnovers against the Bulldogs in January.
Bryce Brown had just 9 points at Georgia on Wednesday and hasn’t scored in double figures in his last 2 games. But he’s shooting at Auburn Arena for the next to last time so I think this is a game Bryce gets back on track. Brown had 18 in the first game.
Horace Spencer was outstanding on Wednesday with Auburn short on the interior. He had 2 incredible put back dunks and his SEC high 10 points. Despite foul trouble mounting for all the Auburn bigs early in the 2nd half, all of those guys (Spencer, McLemore, Okeke and Purif did well to play the last 15 minutes or so without fouling out.
Lastly, I can’t not mention Chuma Okeke, the hero on Wednesday. Chuma “let it fly” on Wednesday and hit a 3 with about 20 seconds left to lead Auburn to a 3 point win against the hated Dawgs which meant....
Tonight was Auburn’s FIRST 1 possession win this season. And it’s only the 4th this year where the final margin was single digits. I know the 2nd half was rough but my hope is that’s a win that sparks a run because March is here!— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) February 28, 2019
This is a huge game for Auburn. It’s March after all. In addition, the SEC is WIDE OPEN after the top 3.
4 teams: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida, and South Carolina are tied for 4th at 9-6 in the SEC.
2 teams: Auburn and Alabama are a game behind those 4 at 8-7.
If Auburn can today, and get some help, they may put themselves in a position to have a shot at the 4 seed in the SEC Tournament in 2 weeks. But, let’s worry about 1 game at a time as there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.
Going into this weekend, it looked like Auburn was going to have 3 Q1 wins on their resume.
Auburn now has 3 Q1 wins with Florida moving up to 30 in NET today. That along with wins over Washington and Texas A&M. Each of Auburn’s last 3 games are against Q1 opponents. So plenty of opportunities for the Tigers to boost their resume in March.— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) February 28, 2019
Well, Washington decided to lay an egg against 5-22 Cal on Thursday night and Auburn’s win over the Huskies is no longer a Q1 win. Washington surprisingly only dropped to 32 in the NET rankings. That being said, this game now takes on even more significance.
Mississippi State has won 5 straight and sits at 20 in the NET rankings, while Auburn is 23. This is going to be an outstanding game and how it got stuck on ESPNU is a bit baffling but I digress. Auburn’s got to have this game and this would go a long way in improving Auburn’s tournament resume. A win today would also get the Tigers to 20 overall wins, and guarantee at least a .500 record in league play. With those numbers, that would all but lock up a tourney bid. Auburn wins what I think will be a high scoring and fast paced game.
Auburn 87 Mississippi State 82