Auburn frustrated Mississippi State early, built a big lead, and held on in the end with some late three-point shooting for a gigantic SEC win at Auburn Arena today. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 80-75 to get their 20th win of the season, marking consecutive 20-win seasons for just the fourth time in program history, and first time this millennium.
Additionally, Auburn improved to 9-7 in SEC play, dropped MSU to 9-7, and now stands in a five-way tie for fourth place in the conference standings. With two games left to play, Auburn needs some help to reach the coveted double-bye, but it’s a definite possibility.
The first half was never really out of Auburn’s control, as the Tigers jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead thanks to threes from Malik Dunbar and Anfernee McLemore. Neither team could find much offense, as the score stood at just 23-17 at the five-minute mark of the first half. Jared Harper had a particularly slow game in the scoring department, posting just 2 first half points and missing all of his shots from the floor. He did dish out five assists, however, and the Tigers forced 10 turnovers before halftime as they built a 33-25 edge at the intermission.
In the second half, Auburn quickly got up by double digits on a McLemore three, and built a 69-50 advantage with 6:20 to go in the game thanks to great three-point shooting. To that point, the Tigers had been in full control of the game, but Mississippi State made a huge push. Quinndarry Weatherspoon and Tyson Carter provided the offense with 34 combined points. The two players hit 7 second-half threes and pulled the Bulldogs back within 4 points at 71-67, before a huge Bryce Brown three with 1:09 to go gave Auburn the margin it would need. Mississippi State made a push with a couple of late baskets, but the Tigers hit their foul shots and scored their ninth SEC win.
Bryce Brown led four Auburn players in double digits with 24 points, including 5-8 shooting from downtown. Anfernee Mclemore scored 14 points and hit four threes, while Chuma Okeke added 11 points and Jared Harper had 10. Harper finished the game with 9 assists and 0 turnovers. Overall, Auburn shot 47% from the floor, going 13-30 from three, and hit 19-23 free throws. The Tigers were able to control the game for the most part despite Mississippi State out-rebounding Auburn 41-21 and controlling the paint.
Now, Auburn turns its attention to a Tuesday night matchup against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Tide lost to LSU today at home, and they’ll be looking for revenge from their loss earlier this year in Auburn. The Tigers now join a group of five teams tied for fourth place in the SEC. Along with Auburn at 9-7 in the conference, Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and South Carolina all have identical records. Auburn’s road is tough, with road games at Alabama, and the home finale against Tennessee, and they may need some help due to losses earlier this year against Ole Miss and South Carolina.
Here are the remaining opponents for teams tied with the Tigers:
Florida - vs LSU, @ Kentucky
Ole Miss - vs Kentucky, @ Missouri
Mississippi State - @ Tennessee, vs Texas A&M
South Carolina - @ Texas A&M, vs Georgia
With those schedules, everyone in this five-way tie except for South Carolina has one game against a top three team, and another against a lower-ranked team. If Auburn can go 2-0, they’ll have a great shot to finish fourth, but they’ll need to have a full game edge on Ole Miss and South Carolina to jump them in the standings. It’s going to be a fun week as we wind down the regular season! War Eagle!