Date: Saturday January 4th
Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Location: Humphrey Coliseum - Starkville, Mississippi
Time: 3:30 PM
Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network
It’s a new year, a new decade and a new season for the Auburn Tigers as league play kicks off this afternoon in Starkville against Mississippi State (9-3). Auburn will look to continue their best start since the 1998-1999 season, when they started the season 17-0.
Get to Know Mississippi State
Gone are Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters from last year’s team that made the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs return big men Abdul Ado and Reggie Perry though and watching the matchup between these guys against Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore is the matchup to watch today. Auburn has played better this year when they’ve made a consistent effort to get the ball inside.
Overall, Mississippi State sits at #52 in KenPom, making this an opportunity for a Q1 win for Auburn. Offensively, they have very contrasting statistical numbers according to KenPom. While the Bulldogs are 327th in Adjusted Tempo (possessions per 40 minutes), they are 20th in offensive efficiency, just ahead of Auburn who is currently 21st. As a team, they average 73.7 PPG while giving up just 63.8 PPG. They shoot 35% from the 3-point line, 70% from the free throw line and average about 15 turnovers a contest.
Sophomore Forward Reggie Perry (#1) - 15.4 PPG, 9.8 RPG
Perry is the SEC’s leading rebounder, just ahead of Austin Wiley. Perry had his best game of the season and career Monday night against Kent State scoring 26 points along with 17 rebounds both career-highs for Perry. At 6’10” 250 pounds, he and Wiley will go toe to toe in the paint this afternoon.
Senior Guard Tyson Carter (#23) - 15.4 PPG
Carter leads the team in assists at a little more than 4 a game. He has more than double the 3-point attempts as the next player on the team with 81 (Perry is 2nd with 31).
Sophomore Guard Robert Woodard (#12) - 11.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG
Woodard is a 51.7% 3-point shooter but has only attempted 29 3s this season, making 15 of them. He’s a big guard at 6’7” and has a 16 rebound game this season.
Freshman Guard Iverson Molinar (#5) - 9.1 PPG
The Panama native started 8 games earlier in the season but with Weatherspoon’s return to the lineup, he will likely come off the bench.
Redshirt Freshman Guard D.J. Stewart Jr. (#3) - 9.1 PPG
Stewart was part of Mississippi State’s outstanding recruiting class from last year but ended up redshirting last year. Expect him as one of the first guys off the bench, but has 2 starts this season.
Junior Guard Nick Weatherspoon (#0) - 9 PPG
The little brother of Quinndary, Nick was suspended for the first 10 games of the season and this will be just his 3rd game back this season.
Junior Forward Abdul Ado (#24) - 5.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG
He and Perry form quite the big man duo as Ado stands at 6’11”. Ado has recorded 7 or more rebounds in each of his last 5 games.
Keys for Auburn
We’ve mentioned this earlier but the battle in the paint will ultimately decide who wins this game. Austin Wiley is 1 of 4 Tigers averaging double digits in scoring at 10.8 PPG, along with 9.5 RPG. He and Anfernee McLemore are to me, the 2 most important players for Auburn in this one. Anfernee has become more of a spot up 3-point shooter on the offensive end this season as 34 of his 60 shots have come from 3-point range. Anfernee also has 3 or more blocked shots in 5 games so far this year.
Danjel Purifoy had a nice bounce back game against Lipscomb on Sunday scoring a season and team high 17 points in the win. Purifoy had struggled to score in several games but had a performance that will surely build his confidence going into SEC play. He, along with Jamal Johnson, are 2 guys Auburn needs to knock down 3s if they’re going to get out of Starkville with a win.
I’ve had this game circled for a while as one where Auburn is going to get a really stiff challenge. Auburn has exceeded expectations starting the season at 12-0. Will they get to 13-0? To me, it’s honestly a toss-up. The Bulldogs big men dominated this matchup last year in Starkville. This year, Auburn brings in a healthy Wiley and a more aggressive McLemore which should make this one of the more anticipated big men matchups of the season for Auburn. Today’s game is the only time Auburn and Mississippi State will play each other. Auburn has been susceptible to slow starts this year and they really can’t afford to keep doing that as they enter league play. Somehow, I think Auburn will do what they have done all year, and find a way to win, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Auburn 76 Mississippi State 74