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GAME RECAP: Auburn 78, Mississippi State 71

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Season over, see y’all in the fall.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn finished this season on a high note, despite the struggles of the youngest team in the country with an us-against-the-world mentality when it came to literally everything facing them.

The NCAA.

Sharife Cooper’s eligibility.

Injuries.

Auburn didn’t exactly have the easiest road this season before all of that, what with losing a ton of experience and becoming literally the youngest team in the country. They were breaking in several new players, many of the them true freshmen, and having to depend on role players from a season ago becoming full-time starters. There were plenty of roadblocks from the start, and the Tigers never got to enjoy a single game with the full roster. Once the season started, Sharife Cooper wasn’t cleared. When he was cleared, Justin Powell went down. It was maddening.

Today, however, they finished the season on a high note, closing it out with a win at home. It also turned out to be Bruce Pearl’s 600th career win.

Auburn beat Mississippi State 78-71 today to end the year. No SEC Tournament or NCAA Tournament coming up, and the final record ends up at 13-14 on the year. The Tigers finish 6-11 in the SEC, and will have to wait to find out what kind of a team they’ll have to start the 2021-2022 season when it kicks back off in November.

Today was a solid way to complete the year, with the win over the Bulldogs, as Allen Flanigan led all scorers with 22 points, and Jaylin Williams added 18. The two most experienced Tigers in the starting lineup carried Auburn in the final game of the season, and the younger players helped out as well. Auburn shot 44% from the field, hit 11-33 threes, and was money from the foul line (13-15), and probably controlled the game despite trailing for a few moments here and there.

Auburn ran out to a 12-6 lead in the first six minutes, with four threes falling early to give the Tigers the advantage. Mississippi State closed the gap to just one possession by the midway point of the first half, but a J.T. Thor fastbreak three-point play pushed the margin back out to 21-16. That bucket opened up a little spurt for the Tigers, and a Jaylin Williams three gave Auburn a 27-18 lead with 6:02 remaining in the half. The lead held up until literally the final moments of the half, when MSU caught a little run and D.J. Stewart banked home a three to give the Bulldogs a 34-32 halftime edge.

After halftime, the game went back and forth. Auburn reclaimed the lead on a Jamal Johnson three in the opening minute of the second half, but MSU answered. An Iverson Molinar three for the Bulldogs pushed the lead to five point — the largest of the game for MSU — but Auburn clawed back and took the lead right back with a pair of J.T. Thor free throws. By the midway point of the half, an Allen Flanigan layup gave Auburn a 54-53 lead, and then Flanigan nailed a three to give the Tigers the lead for good moments after that.

Auburn didn’t give back the lead, and pushed it to 6 points on another Flanigan three at the 4:00 mark, and kept the lead at two possessions or more for the duration after that, finally winning by a touchdown in the end.

Flanigan led the way with 23 points, and Jaylin Williams added 18. For Mississippi State, Tolu Smith led MSU with 20 points, and D.J. Stewart posted 19 points. For Auburn, the year is over, while MSU will participate in the SEC Tournament starting this week.

FINAL STATS