Saturday March 6, 2021
Mississippi State Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers
Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network
Well.... the time has come. And for one of my favorite lines from the movie The Waterboy:
(Completely off topic but I really hope our colleague Ryan Sterritt gets this reference and has seen this movie or I’m going to feel really old).
I want to start this off by thanking each player, coach, manager, staff member and everyone that made this Auburn Basketball season possible. For awhile, we weren’t sure we were going to have a season and not only did we have a season, we got through the entire 27 game schedule and today’s game is the only one on the schedule that had to be moved from its original date. And ironically enough, it wasn’t even because of COVID. Thank you all for your sacrifices, your dedication and following safety protocols in order for us, the Auburn family, to enjoy watching you play the game of basketball the last few months.
Bruce Pearl said the fact that Auburn basketball has gone through the whole season without a single positive COVID-19 test "says a lot" about the commitment from players and the effort put forth by Auburn's medical staff.— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) March 5, 2021
Today’s game is a makeup from the originally scheduled game on February 16th due to the winter weather that crippled the south that week and wiped out a large portion of the SEC slate that week. One thing that we likely won’t have today that we would have had that night is the availability of Sharife Cooper who appears to be doubtful but not completely ruled out for today’s game.
Get to Know Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are in the running for a 7 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament but need a win and for LSU to beat Missouri for that to happen. Otherwise, they will be in the 8-9 game and on Alabama’s side of the bracket.
The Bulldogs (14-12, 8-9) are averaging 69.4 PPG this season. As a team, they shoot 35.3% from 3 but just 64.2% from the free throw line.
Sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. (#3) leads the way for the Bulldogs this season averaging 16.4 PPG. Stewart Jr. shoots 35.7% from 3 and is about an 80% free throw shooter.
Sophomore guard Iverson Molinar (#1) is right behind Stewart as he’s averaging 16.3 PPG this season. While he hasn’t shot as many 3s as Stewart, Molinar is knocking down 45.1% of his 3-point attempts this season. He is also shooting 80% from the free throw line.
Sophomore forward Tolu Smith (#35) will be a tough matchup in the paint as the 6-10, 245 pounder is averaging 12.4 PPG and 8.5 RPG this season. He began his career at Western Kentucky under former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury and is finishing his first year playing in Starkville.
In addition to Smith, Auburn has to deal with senior forward Abdul Ado (#24) one more time. Ado had 9 blocked shots the last time these two teams met on January 4th, 2020. This season, he is averaging 5.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 2 blocks per game this season.
Thoughts on Auburn
It’s the last chance to see this group until November and despite not having any postseason to play for, this team has battled all season long and should be commended for the effort they’ve put in. They’ve certainly had some moments that have frustrated you but being one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the country were a big reason why. They beat some teams you will see in the NCAA Tournament like Missouri and Tennessee and were one of just two teams in the country to face both Baylor and Gonzaga this season. This was a rebuilding season for Auburn and the experiences from this year will prove invaluable for this team going into next season where the expectations will be high once again.
Allen Flanigan arguably took the biggest step from Year 1 to Year 2. Last season, he averaged 3.2 PPG last season for Auburn. This season, he’s averaging 14 PPG and 5.6 RPG. He’s been asked to do a lot this season like playing out of position more often than not as he has ran the point with Sharife Cooper in and out of the lineup. Here’s another impressive stat from Flanigan this season:
Jaylin Williams, Devan Cambridge, Jamal Johnson also made strides forward this season as did J.T. Thor who I’m really excited to see next season on this team after a full offseason in Auburn. Pun intended but the sky is certainly the limit for Thor and he’s shown glimpses of that this season.
Well as I alluded to at the top, it’s the last game of the year so no holding back anything today. I think this team wants nothing more than to go out on top this season and build some momentum going into the offseason. This team could have folded up the tents weeks ago but they’ve kept battling despite all the adversity they have faced this season. With one more chance to play at home, I have a feeling Auburn is going to get the job done today.